The danger with announcing a movie plan that stretches years into the future is that any change can set off a round of paranoid speculation.

Image provided by Marvel

Marvel Studios had a strong 2014. Both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy emerged as huge global hits. Riding that high, Marvel announced a movie plan that laid out releases into mid-2019.

Perhaps some fans viewed that movie plan as set in stone. They read any change as some sign of trouble.

The first major alteration to the Marvel movie plan occurred earlier this year. After Marvel struck a deal with Sony to co-produce the next Spider-Man movie and to finally bring the web crawler into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it had a domino effect on several already announced movies. Slotting the Spider-Man reboot into Summer 2017 knocked back the release dates of Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

Many fans especially bemoaned the delays of Black Panther and Captain Marvel, the first Marvel movies intended to have non-white and female leads, respectively. But the addition of Spider-Man to Marvel’s movie world is a huge win for the company. Re-jiggering their announced movie plan to add a new film starring Marvel’s flagship character was a no-brainer.

A new round of handwringing attended the announcement that Captain Marvel, already pushed back from Summer 2018 to November 2018, would be further delayed to March 2019. That’s to accommodate slotting Ant-Man and the Wasp into Summer 2018.

Cap fans were almost beside themselves. A delay for Spider-Man was one thing. But a second delay surely had to betoken trouble.

But why does it? Captain Marvel has been a high-profile part of Marvel’s movie plan since its announcement. Carol Danvers is arguably the most prominent female hero in the Marvel comic book line and actually bears the company’s name. Unlike some of the other projects in Marvel’s movie plan, Captain Marvel has screenwriters who are already working on ideas for the film. Fan speculation about who will fill the starring role has been intense. Several well-known actresses are already lobbying for the job.

To date, fans have seen no concrete evidence of “trouble” surrounding Captain Marvel. It’s all speculation based on two delays for a movie that has no script, cast, director or other completed pre-production work. It’s hard to be in trouble when a film is basically embryonic.

In reality Marvel’s movie plan was never intended to be set in stone. No studio’s slate ever is. Movies, including big, crucial tentpoles, move around the schedule all the time for a variety of reasons. Troubled production is one reason, but hardly the only one.

In this case, Marvel was motivated to greenlight an Ant-Man sequel. To date, the movie has grossed more than $400 million globally (on a reported budget of $130 million). And that’s before the film has opened in the lucrative Chinese market. Ant-Man enjoyed strong critical reception and good word-of-mouth. Fans especially responded to the character Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, and the post-credits scene that set her up to become much-loved heroine Wasp.

Marvel could have waited four years to slot an Ant-Man sequel into late 2019. Instead it altered its announced movie plan to bring out Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018. With strong fan reaction to both the first movie and the future Wasp, it makes good business sense to adjust the movie plan to bring out the sequel earlier.

Regardless of Marvel’s track record in breaking new characters to a mass audience, sequels will always be an easier sell. Ant-Man and the Wasp lets Marvel put a female character in a title role with less risk. This allows Marvel to a) make money, b) spotlight a breakout character and c) put a female hero in a starring role in a way that maximizes her odds for success.

It’s unfortunate that the changes to Marvel’s movie plan push Captain Marvel back a few more months. There are no indications, however, that Marvel has any intention of dumping the movie.

That’s the risk of publicizing a movie plan so far in advance. Changes are inevitable. More are likely before 2019. Fans need to keep a calm head when changes do occur.

Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on October 14, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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