The Avengers has finally opened in the United States this past weekend. Hopefully everyone has had a chance to see the characters we've been watching in separate movies come together to defeat the enormous threat to Earth. By joining forces, they showed the world that they are indeed Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Now that the team has been established, that doesn't mean they will necessarily continue fighting side-by-side at all times. This is a world that is just beginning to see super-powered individuals. While there may be threats to innocent lives, they most likely won't all be at the magnitude of what was seen in the movie.
Because of everything they went through and the eventual success, it's clear that the team will gather once again. And because of the success at the box office, you know a sequel is bound to happen as well. What could be the event or driving force that causes the Avengers to assemble once again? (There will be some minor spoilers below).== TEASER ==
What is clear is the team will be taking some time for themselves. We know Iron Man 3 is about to begin filming and so far there are no signs of any other Avengers showing up (Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow was attached but it was recently stated she would not play a role in the film). Thor 2 is set for 2013 and Captain America 2 hits theaters in April 2014. The members will fight their smaller battles on their own until some huge crisis brings them back together.
The obvious threat could be Thanos. If Thanos arrived on Earth with the Infinity Gauntlet, that would be enough of a reason for the team to get back together. They would probably even want to bring in some new members as well. Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet would be extremely tricky to pull off in this cinematic universe. It's one thing to accept alien invaders coming through a portal in the sky and even gods from Asgard. The idea of yet another alien with an all-powerful weapon could be pushing it for the non-comic book reading audience.
There's also the fact that the Infinity Gauntlet is way too powerful. Sure the heroes won against it in the comics but trying to translate the miniseries into a single movie might be a bit much. Yet we have already seen a live action Infinity Gauntlet. It's said to have been locked away in Odin's vault (which could barely be seen in the actual movie) and a replica was on display at San Diego Comic Con last year a couple years ago.
A better fit for Thanos would be in the possible Guardians of the Galaxy movie being planned by Marvel Studios. Perhaps Thanos will be the connection between the current Avengers/Marvel movies and the galactic part of the cinematic universe. The Avengers 2 would be too soon and he doesn't exactly have a quick way to get to Earth. Establishing him in a Guardians movie would be a way to show audiences who he is and, again, tie these franchises together.
If not Thanos and/or the Infinity Gauntlet, what else would be possible?
Early on, there was a rumor that Cobie Smulders would not only be playing Maria Hill but also "Skrull Queen" (who we know as Queen Veranke). The idea of Skrulls infiltrating the planet and replacing some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes could have been a fascinating story to see. Unfortunately, again, we've already had an alien invasion. It would be too much for the team to only assemble whenever aliens arrive. How come the aliens have all decided to start visiting Earth now? We've also already seen members of the team at odds with each other. The mistrust and suspicion of members possibly being replaced by Skrulls could lead to some epic hero vs. hero fighting but we've already seen that.
Rather than try to create another threat to Earth or come up with a team of supervillains for the Avengers to face, it might be easier to have them fight each other in the Civil War story. Part of the trick to these movies is making the characters that appear on screen believable. While we would all love to see the Masters of Evil or other Avengers enemies, trying to put them all on screen runs the risk of comic book overload. There needs to be a balance between the two.
With this sudden appearance of multiple super-powered individuals and Nick Fury not being able to fully keep them in line or even together, the government (or mysterious "Council") might want them all to come forward and register. The problem with this idea is we don't have a big enough superhero community to really capture the essence of the story. Trying to introduce a large number of new characters just to have them choose sides might be too much.
Atlantis Attacks was a big event in the Avengers history (but I can't say it was one of my favorites). In 1989, this story was a major crossover that took place in the annuals of several characters' titles. It may be another invasion but one coming from below might be different enough than another invasion from above.
Who owns the rights to Namor these days? I believe it was Universal at one point but nothing was ever done with the character. He could be locked in at Fox with the Fantastic Four rights or maybe they've reverted back to Marvel.
Having Atlantis attack could go along with the introduction of Namor. It's unfortunate that we didn't see any mention of him in Captain America: The First Avenger as part of the Invaders. I'm sure Marvel/Disney wouldn't mind another potential spin-off movie they could have on their hands.
Is Atlantis attacking enough of a story? The existence of Atlantis should be believable after seeing The Avengers and Thor. It just seems that we need something other than a large scale invasion to set the sequel apart from the first film.
What about Red Skull?
Hugo Weaving's performance of Red Skull was one of the good things about the Cap movie. Have we really seen the end of him? I'd love to see the return of Red Skull and have him initiate an Acts of Vengeance storyline. Unfortunately the cinematic universe isn't quiet large enough to have enough villains with grudges for that story arc. I'm not sure if even the return of the Red Skull would be enough to bring the team back together. He'd have to be working with some other big guns to make it really work.
It seems odd that HYDRA simply disappeared and hasn't been heard of since. Maybe they've been secretly rebuilding their organization and are about to strike. This could give the sequel a more grounded nemesis to deal with. But then again, fighting HYDRA might not be flashy enough.
Perhaps a new story?
Just because the Avengers are rooted in comic books doesn't mean the story for the next movie has to be inspired from an actual comic book arc. It would help to add some credibility to the story among comic book readers but it's not as if the first movie was a straight forward adaptation.
Basically what the next movie needs is a giant threat. An alien invasion shouldn't be used again. We can't really have a team of supervillains trying to take over the world. That might be a little hard to swallow.
The idea that did start forming in my mind would be for someone like Red Skull to infiltrate the government (as he did in the Red Zone arc). The Avengers would be branded as traitors and hunted down while they fight to clear their name and defeat the Red Skull. The problem is, I think this is the plot for G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
These are just some ideas so far. A lot of people are leaning towards Thanos but I think he'd be better for a third movie rather than the next sequel (or better yet, in Guardians of the Galaxy first). There are many other threats like Ultron or Kang that could work. They would just require more set up in characters and story and could be too much for a single movie. Perhaps we'll have to wait and see what the next batch of solo movies has to offer and possibly set up for the sequel.