SAN DIEGO -- Marvel's master plan for world domination would do Dr. Doom proud.
Now bolstered by that movie's $585-million worldwide windfall, the fledgling studio is plotting to bring much of the remaining Marvel universe to multiplexes.
Next May's Iron Man 2, with Robert Downey Jr. and Mickey Rourke, has wrapped.
Director Kenneth Branagh is prepping the lavish fantasy Thor, which will star Chris Hemsworth (best known for playing Capt. Kirk's doomed father in Star Trek) as the hammer-wielding god of thunder. It's due out May 2011. And director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3) will helm The First Avenger: Captain America for a July 2011 debut.
"The origin of Captain America (during the Second World War) is the origin of the Marvel universe," explains Kevin Feige, president of production at Marvel Studios. "It's about that time in Marvel history when the idea of the superhero began to emerge."
Who will play Captain America in the film that's been described in some circles as "Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The Rocketeer meets Saving Private Ryan?"
Feige says a casting announcement could come by the end of the year.
It's no small decision since in May 2012 Marvel will release The Avengers, a massive cross-over set to team Iron Man, Thor and Captain America alongside Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Don Cheadle's War Machine, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and possibly Edward Norton's Hulk. If you want a window into the scope of Marvel's ambitions, consider this: Jackson is signed to a nine-picture deal.
And beyond The Avengers, there are plans to launch such lesser-known second-stringers as Antman (Shaun of the Dead creator Edgar Wright has long been attached), Iron Fist, Black Panther, Vision, Nighthawk, Doctor Strange into A-list movie stardom. Worked for Tony Stark, didn't it?
But is it too much, too soon? No, says Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man and its sequel.
"Marvel is doing it the right way. They're not rushing it. If Thor turns out well and Cap turns out, well, then I think you can have a killer Avengers movie."
Favreau has long been viewed as the obvious candidate to direct The Avengers, but when asked about it, he is noncommittal.
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