With the premiere of Black Panther just two weeks away, my excitement couldn’t be higher! I have fallen in love with the character through Ta-Nehisi Coates genre-defining run on the title and my anticipation of seeing the world of Wakanda on the big screen has legitimately surpassed – by far (and for real!) – my excitement for Avengers: Infinity War. And now Black Panther has taken the record for the largest ticket presale for any superhero movie ever!! As I get ready for Black Panther, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will look like. Who lives?!? Who dies?!? What movies will we see down the line?!? Here are my guesses…
Joanna Robinson’s recent cover story in Vanity Fair celebrated the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ten year run and looked ahead to what lies in store after Avengers 4. In the interview, Kevin Feige said with Avengers 4 they will be, “22 movies in, and we’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before—intentionally.” The piece also assured fans, “Disney promises that Marvel has at least another 20 years’ worth of characters and worlds to explore.” Robinson cast the future of the MCU as follows:
While Feige refused to reveal any details about the characters and stories Marvel has yet to introduce, he did promise a definitive end to the franchise that built Marvel. Avengers 4, he said, will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.” This may mean a lot of dead Avengers at the hands of the villain Thanos, who has appeared sporadically and tantalizingly since the first Avengers movie back in 2012. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe will live on. “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting,” Feige teased.
With Black Panther on the horizon and quotes like this in the air, how could you not engage in some speculation!
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do :). Let’s start with the heavy part first…who is going to die? Arrgh! I know! No one wants to think about this. But I can’t help thinking about it. Plus should I manage to be right with any one of these guesses I can come back to this piece in a year and be all, “Hey, look at this! I totally called it!” And that, while most likely somewhat insufferable for my family and friends, sounds like it would be a lot of fun for me.
The MCU heroes I count going into Avengers 4 are: Iron Man, the Hulk, Black Widow, War Machine, Thor, Loki (yes I’m counting him as a good guy! I believe he’s redeemed), Captain America, Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Star Lord, Gamorra, Drax, Groot, Rocket, Nebula (yep! her too!), Scarlet Witch, Vision, Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Wong, Mantis, Valkyrie, and Captain Marvel. Am I missing anyone? If so, you’ll have to tell me in the comment section and I can feel horrible at their exclusion later.
I wrote a piece a while ago saying I expected Thor to fall in this Avengers swan song. I felt Chris Hemsworth’s contract was up. He can’t want to do the workouts forever. And I HOPED WITH ALL MY HEART they’d let Natalie Portman pick up the hammer and have her Jane Foster become Thor in the MCU as she has in the comics books. But now, in the wake of Thor: Ragnarök, Chris Hemsworth has said he’d be up for returning. He and writer/director Taiki Waititi have even kicked around ideas for where a Thor 4 could go, provided he survives Thanos’ attack. So, with Thor: Ragnarök being a HUGE hit and both Chris Hemsworth and Taiki Waititi up for returning, I can’t imagine Marvel would stop that train. I’m guessing that means Tom Holland’s Loki and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie hang around too.
Scarlett Johansson has been saying she’d be up for a Black Widow solo movie for years and Marvel Studios has finally decided to run with that (YAY!!!!!) so it seems unlikely that we’ll lose Natasha either (EQUALLY BIG YAY!!!!!).
While I shudder to think of it – and at one time would have never thought it possible – I think we may be losing the two major tentpoles of the Avengers. I’m going big here and beating both Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America step away. Whether they die or retire, who knows? I see Cap falling in battle. I can’t imagine a world where he stops fighting for those who need his protection. Plus, we have Sebastian Stan’s Bucky and Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson waiting in the wings to take up the shield and become Captain American like they have in the comics. And while I’d like to see Tony and Pepper marry and sit back to raise a family/enjoy their love/fund the Avengers, I don’t think any of us are going to be that lucky… But I hope I’m wrong! And, if we lose Tony I’m betting we lose Don Cheadle’s War Machine too. With Iron Man gone, it doesn’t make any sense for Rhodey and Pepper to hang around. Plus, cynically, if Marvel Studios loses Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle that has to save them a lot of money.
Then, with the core of the Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe gone, this allows Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel to move to the center of the MCU and the Avengers. This just seems logical. They’re each portraying high profile characters from big comics. They’re each in highly anticipated movies. And I bet they each get a trilogy too. It’s their time to shine.
Returning to the sadder side, I’m betting Jeremey Renner’s Hawkeye dies because well, as much as I like him as an actor I’ve never seen a Marvel movie where I’ve really felt Clint Barton was essential. Even in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, where they tried to make him important, I still feel like any character could have performed his role in addition to their story arc too.
It’s possible we could lose Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Paul Betteny’s the Vision but I feel we’ve seen so little of them it would be a waste. We’re not losing Tom Holland’s Spidey as Marvel Studios have just gotten him back and have promised us lots of tales of a high school Spider-Man. And with one more volume (at least) in James Gunn’s epically entertaining Guardians Of The Galaxy series, I can’t imagine we’d lose any of them. Will they all survive Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3? I don’t know and frankly can’t bare to think about it yet.
So the shape of the Avengers team I see after Avengers 4 would be Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Falcon and/or the Winter Soldier (we might lose one of those guys? maybe?), Scarlet Witch, the Vision, Ant-Man, and the Wasp. I see the Guardians doing their thing in space and I bet Thor, Loki, and Valkyrie will be bouncing around as a solo act under Taiki Waititi’s care too. The Hulk may continue to show up in other characters’ films but, conversely, I see him being the big surprise and dying at Thanos’ hands. Nothing could illustrate the Mad Titan’s power like killing the Hulk. Lastly Spider-Man and Dr. Strange will be handling their corners of the MCU too, crossing over when needed. Is that everyone? I think so.
Okay, so now we’ve got twenty movies coming our way after Avengers 4 right? So what new and different corners of the Marvel Universe will Phase Four be exploring? Or, rather, what would I most like to see them explore?
First, and most obvious, if the proposed Disney/Fox deal goes through, I think the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will revolve around the Fantastic Four. The FF were always the cornerstone of the Marvel Universe and they should be in the MCU too, especially a vision of the Fantastic Four guided by Kevin Feige with all his brilliant comic-minded awareness. Gone will be the days of a director and cast bragging about not reading any comics to offer a completely new take (*cough* Fantastic 4 *cough*). I can’t imagine a world where this isn’t the case if the deal goes through. And nothing could excite me more than the Fantastic Four coming home to the MCU!
Second, as a more outside the box choice, I think it would be interesting to see the MCU adapt Spirits of Vengeance. Fox has me super excited with their impending superhero/horror mash-up New Mutants and, if done right, the Spirits of Vengeance could bring legitimate horror into the MCU. We could have Ghost Rider, Morbius the Living Vampire, Satana, Daimon Hellstrom, Blade, and all manner of demon hunters doing their thing. They could also crossover with Dr. Strange! In fact, Dr. Strange could be the perfect character to go back and forth between the more “classic superhero” world of the Avengers and the horror world of ghosts, devils, and demons. This would also be a brand new dimension/genre the MCI hasn’t touched yet too.
Third (and I grant this is the most unlikely one of my hopes as the MCU and Marvel Television clearly hate each other and need to break up) I’d love to see a film of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current incarnation of the Crew. We already have Black Panther and seeing him alongside Mike Coulter’s Luke Cage and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight from Netflix’s Luke Cage would be INCREDIBLE. Plus, plus, if the Disney/Fox deal goes through they’d have access to the X-Men so they could include Storm! This would be a great crossover film and could allow them to tell a gritty, street level, noir type of story.
I’m sad Squirrel Girl is already tied up in the New Warriors TV show because I’d love to see her on the big screen. But, if done right, a TV series could be a great way to really dig into her world. I worry though, as it’s a team show, we won’t get what we see in the comic… However, I’d love to see Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel! It would fit perfect with Brie Larson coming in as Captain Marvel, as her inspiration, and it would allow for crossovers between the two heroes. And it would be another option for a very local, neighborhood-oriented type of story. It wouldn’t be as noir-y as the Crew nor would it be as light as Spider-Man. It would be a bright story, but one with real depth and awareness to it too. Best of all, Kamala’s not just a superhero but a huge superhero nerd. She writes fanfic. She quotes Star Wars. She ships the heroes. She would be the perfect character to allow viewers to see themselves alongside their heroes because she loves the Avengers as much as we do!
Fifth I’d love to see a Silver Surfer movie. If Disney gets Fox, they get the Fantastic Four. If they get the Fantastic Four, they get the Silver Surfer. The cosmic side of the MCU is just beginning to get developed – through the Guardians and Thor films – but there’s soooo much more they could do! Silver Surfer opens the door to crossovers with Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and OF COURSE the Fantastic Four! There’s so much material to pull from too. I still have fond memories of the Silver Surfer comics I read as a kid and I’ve heard nothing but great things about Dan Slott’s run.
Finally, I’d love to see Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur get the cinematic treatment! To have a nine-year-old anchoring a superhero story would certainly be brand new territory for the MCU and can you imagine how amazing Devil Dinosaur would look on the big screen?!? Also, Lunella Lafayette’s place as “the smartest one there is” in the Marvel Universe would set up an interesting dynamic in crossover pieces to see her opposite the big brains of the MCU. Her age would also open the door for so many layers in those crossover stories. Peter Parker is no longer the youngest hero in the crowd! But how do the other heroes react to her? How do they let her on the field of battle? Her interactions with Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang – a man who is a devoted father before all else – would have the potential to be particularly poignant. And, if we start adding younger heroes like Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, we’d have the potential to start setting up a Champions film!
All these films open the door to play with different genres than are normally featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. They are also all films that would, by their nature, feature multiple heroes or easily allow for a variety of crossovers which seems to be where the Marvel movies have been heading for a long time. And I would love to see the stories these films could tell! I think there’s so much potential here.
So, what do you think? Again, I’m not normally one to end posts with questions but I’m really curious. Who do you think will meet their end in Avengers 4 as the first age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to a close? And what comics would you love to see help inaugurate Phase Four? I mean, don’t feel pressured to answer. I’m not here to give you reading anxiety :). I’m not that guy! But if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it!