Rich HeldenfelsBeacon Journal popular culture writer


So what are you doing in five years? Or six?



And what are you doing Thursday? We’ll come back to that.



I have trouble figuring out what I’m doing a couple of days from now. But the folks making movies are ever more intent on making me mark my calendar way ahead.



I’m not talking just about the next installment of Marvel’s The Avengers, which is due in May 2015. Or the seventh Star Wars, in December 2015. Or even the face-off of Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman, coming in March 2016.



Earlier this week, Marvel announced nine movies in the so-called Phase 3 of its massive, overlapping narrative, with premieres spread from 2016 to 2019.



The announcements were reason for some excitement. They include the 2016 arrival of the third Captain America film, directed by Cleveland’s own Joe and Anthony Russo (who also did the second Captain America), which will pit Cap (Chris Evans) against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) while introducing the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). Boseman, whom you should know from 42 and Get On Up, will then get his own Black Panther movie in 2017.



Another big item of note is the third Avengers tale, which will be split into two films, one for 2018 and another for 2019.



Then there are Doctor Strange (2016, rumored to star Benedict Cumberbatch); two more 2017 movies, Guardians of the Galaxy 2; and a third Thor. And in 2018 the new Captain Marvel (who will be the first female superhero with her own Marvel movie) and The Inhumans.



Looking only at the discussion that followed the announcement, I began to feel tired of some of these films sight unseen. And, when we’ve had years of chat and speculation, will there be any excitement left when we actually see the movie?



Not that Marvel is alone in trumpeting distant screen adventures. Warner Bros. not long ago announced release dates for new movies starring DC Comics characters, looking ahead six years.



They include not only the Affleck-Cavill Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but two Justice League movies (2017 and 2019) and new versions of Wonder Woman (2017), The Flash and Aquaman (both 2018) and Green Lantern (2020).



Anyone remember the last version of Green Lantern? If you don’t, there’s the cautionary part of this big-screen tale. Ryan Reynolds starred. It came out in 2011. It proved an expensive failure.



Even when studios launch series of movies with great certainty, there’s still the risk of people not showing up, or other roadblocks appearing. Seven years ago, The Golden Compass was supposed to launch a series of book-based films; while it took in hundreds of millions worldwide, controversy about its content and fan dissatisfaction have kept a second movie from being made.



It has been four years since the third Chronicles of Narnia movie premiered; even with seven books to draw on, disappointing box-office returns and problems with rights to C.S. Lewis’s books stalled further production. (In late 2013, a new deal was made, and the fourth movie may arrive in 2016.)



And I should not have to remind you of all the serialized TV shows which never get to finish their story — or end a season with a cliffhanger, only to discover they won’t be back.



So should we be wary of all these Marvel and DC movies getting made? Not necessarily. Marvel in particular has had a knack for weaving together these various movie strands into a larger narrative that keeps people coming to the multiplexes. The two highest-grossing movies of 2014 are Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In addition, audiences and critics have been calling for diversity among costumed crimefighters, which makes the case for Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman.



But I wouldn’t hold off on sending out save-the-date cards for a big event two years from now, just because a movie might be opening. And even if it’s still opening, you don’t have to see it on the first day.



Except Star Wars, of course. Gotta see Star Wars.



Coming a lot sooner … As you may know, Saturday Night Live alumni Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider and Jon Lovitz will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Akron Civic Theatre. And I have tickets to give away.



You can win one of two pairs of tickets to the show by answering this question: What was the favorite drink of Meadows’ character The Ladies Man? Send an email with the header SNL Stars to rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.



From all correct answers received by 5 p.m. Sunday I will choose two at random to receive a set of tickets. Be sure to include your name, address and a daytime phone number.



Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.