In a recent interview, Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, discussed the future of the Iron Man franchise once its star Robert Downey Jr. decides to bow out. In the interview he references the character who has gone through the most plastic surgery in 50 years, James Bond:
"I think Bond is a good example. Let’s put it this way: I hope Downey makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it."
Now, the whole idea of superhero franchies going down the James Bond route has been brought up before on the internet and thinking about it, I really like this idea of superhero franchises having a long running continuity like the James Bond franchise has, or had pre Daniel Craig. In fact, the James Bond film franchise has been like a comic book in that James Bond doesn't really age, and if he does, he gets a little younger once a new actor comes in.
A James Bond continuity would also benefit these franchises by allowing characters to develop over a long period of time and, unlike superhero trilogies like Spider-Man and X-Men, not feel like they're only scratching the surface of these characters' universes condensing every villain in to three movies.
I wouldn't nessecarily want this approach taken with the Iron Man franchise though. I'm not familar enough witity h the Iron Man comics to be attached to that particular part of the Marvel Universe. That, and I think it'd be really hard to recast Tony Stark when the time comes. I don't know how close Downey is to the Tony Stark of the comics but for me, he is Tony Stark. There's also the problem of the continuity set us as a lead in to The Avengers- if there's more Avengers movies after the inevitable sequel, it'll be a jarring casting change, particularly for one of the lead actors.
For me, I'd most like to see a James Bond like continuty with the post Christopher Nolan Batman series and the new Spider-Man series. Those two universes I think deserve to develop over time. I want to see Peter Parker move past being a teenager and a college student. I want to see him fall in love with Mary Jane after the death of Gwen Stacy and eventually marry her. Now, to be fair, I'm not ready for a Batman reboot quite yet, and may not even be ready by 2015. I do really wish Warner Bros. would just let the Nolan Batman films be the Batman films for another ten years or so. But when the new franchise comes, I think the James Bond route would be ideal.
Of course, theres's a problem with re-casting Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne. The pre-Craig Bond films, despite a loose continuty, are self contained adventures, with Bond always sort of being Bond. If Peter were to lose Gwen in a third Spider-Man film and then Andrew Garfield leaves the role, only to have a new actor mourn her in a fourth film, it'd be jarring. If we're to really grow to love these characters, an actor has to be committed to the role for a while.
It's a little exhausting thinking about the future of superhero franchises but also fascinating. With a long form continuity within films, which we've already begun to see in the years leading up to The Avengers, comic book movies genuinely seem to becoming more like the comics that spawned them.