If, like Empire, you have a calendar on your wall, you may have a red circle ringed around November 8, 2013, and April 4, 2014. Those dates mark the release of two major Marvel sequels. You may have even noted their titles on the calendar – Thor 2 and Captain America 2, respectively.
Well, get out the Tipp-Ex, walk up to your calendar, and replace those with, again respectively, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The move away from a simple numbered sequel, given that Marvel are hard at work on Iron Man 3, is certainly intriguing, and helps foster the idea that these movies are part of a richer, grander universe filled with continuing stories and not just numbered instalments.
The Thor title change tallies with suggestions made recently to Empire by Feige, indicating that the sequel will explore the seedier side of Asgard. The Dark World certainly hints at a new direction for the character and the series. The first film had its melodramatic moments, but by and large it was a romp. It will be interesting to see Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder grappling with darkness from within and without.
The title of the Captain America sequel, currently being prepped by directors the Brothers Russo is also intriguing. It’s a clear reference to a recent arc in the comic books, in which Cap’s dear old supposedly dead chum, Bucky (played by Sebastian Stan in the movie), returns as a brainwashed Russian assassin called The Winter Soldier.
The questions thrown up by the title change are many: will we see the return of Bucky, last seen plummeting off a train hurtling along a snow-covered mountain? If so, how? How can he show up in the present day? Is the idea of a Russian-controlled bad guy somewhat out of date? Are Marvel beginning to plan ahead for any eventualities, or a Chris Evans-free future, given that Bucky is currently Captain America in the comics (just as Rhodes has donned the suit occasionally in Iron Man)?
We have no answers at this point – only questions - but we’re going to have a lot of fun finding out.