The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was a genuine first for Hollywood. No other film series before it had ever attempted anything like this before – a vast interconnected movie world where characters and storylines would hop from one film to the other. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 out this week, that means they’re 15 movies down now. That’s some achievement.
It was quite early on that Marvel announced that the MCU would be made up of ‘phases’. In Marvel terms, ‘phases’ are collections of movies within the wider series that are usually released within two to three years of each other and share a common timeline. Phase 1 started with Iron Man and ended with Avengers Assemble. Phase 2 stretched from Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man, and we’re now three films into Phase 3, which is due to climax with Avengers 4 in 2019.
What Phase 4 will look like has been a question on fans’ minds for while. Well, it turns out there might not be even be one. According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, “as we get to Avengers: Infinity War there is a sense of a climax if not a conclusion to, by the time we’re at untitled Avengers 4, the 22 movies that will have encompassed the first three phases of the MCU. And what happens after that will be very different. I don’t know if it’s Phase 4, it might be a new thing.”
A new thing? What can he mean? So what will happen after the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers film drops in 2019? Here’s what might happen…
A new beginning
Every Marvel film from 2008’s Iron Man to this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has taken part in the same fictional universe. But would the movies AFTER Avengers 4 hit the reset button? Could we have a recast Tony Stark? A facelifted Steve Rogers? A newly-minted Thor? That might mean new origin stories and a different coming together of the Avengers. It would also give Marvel a chance – should they want to – to change the tone of their movies. So far they’ve worked hard to create a definite house style - funny, colourful, dramatic, cheeky even. Each successive movie has had to stay consistent to that style. A rebooted series would allow Marvel to shift the house style to the left or to the right.
It could be that Marvel go with a Phase 4, but with new faces replacing the ones that are either growing too old (Robert Downey Jr will be 55 in 2020) or whose contracts are coming to an end. The comic book universe is full of characters who inherit the superhero mantle – so it could be that Tony Stark bestows the Iron Man name and suit to a protege. Ditto Captain America. And Thor. And maybe Bruce Banner passes on his DNA to someone else… That would allow Marvel to, if they wanted to, bring back stars like Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans for cameos in future movies.
End it there
We can’t imagine they’d ever do this, but Marvel could – COULD! – decide to call it a day after Avengers 4. They would have made 22 movies by 2019 and they could think, “Well, we’ve had a good run. Thank you and goodnight.” (It won’t happen though, don't worry.)
Do standalone movies
Might Marvel reboot their superhero series and eschew the overt movie-linking that characterised the MCU? A decade ago, having characters guest in other characters’ movies was a novelty - now lots of studios are doing it. Marvel could decide that standalone movies, each with their own distinct tone and story, might be an appealingly radical way to go.
Make the B-team the A-team
Marvel could, once Downey Jr., Hemsworth and Evans’ contracts expire, simply decide to upgrade their other superheroes - Dr Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther etc – to the front bench, and not do any more Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies. The end of Captain America: Civil War pointed to a different lineup of The Avengers, so it looks as though the newbies are already being lined up to succeed the veterans.
If Marvel did decide to close the MCU down after 2019, well, that’s hardly fair on Brie Larson, for instance, whose Captain Marvel will be opening only a few months before Avengers 4. Ditto Benedict Cumberbatch who will have only had one dedicated Doctor Strange film. Pensioning off the old guard will allow the newbies to properly shine.
Until then, we’ve got seven great Marvel movies to come. Phase 4 kicks off in July with Spider-Man: Homecoming and encompasses Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Captain Marvel (2019) and the as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers film (2019). After that… who knows?
What do you want to see once Phase 4 comes to an end? Let us know @Cineworld
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 opens at Cineworld this Friday.