The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to reign supreme over the movie landscape, but after 2019, things will be different. After three “phases” of its theatrical releases, Marvel approaches the dark unknown of “Phase Four,” or whatever its next batch of films will be coined. Even Marvel Studios’ boss Kevin Feige isn’t sure what to call it. “I don’t even know if it will be called Phase Four,” Feige said in a recent interview. Needless to say, things will change — perhaps drastically — in a few short years.
It’s been nine years since the MCU’s big bang in 2008’s Iron Man. Next year, on the MCU’s tenth anniversary, fans will witness the war to end all wars in Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Infinity War will be big, but what comes after that? Phases One to Three created a vividly diverse yet cohesive tapestry of stories, which means fans may be in for a fresh start for Phase Four.
Part wish-list and part speculating on evidence, here are five crackpot ideas about the shape of the MCU’s future.
1. Finally, a Black Widow Movie
Although Ghost in the Shell bombed, Scarlett Johansson is among Hollywood’s highest-profile, leading actresses. Capable of both drama and action, Johansson is more than suited to star in a solo Black Widow movie (which comes with the neat perk of being free of whitewashing). Fans want it, Captain America wants it, and even Kevin Feige seems to want it. It’s money on the table for Marvel.
But, will it happen? Marvel keeps playing coy with a Black Widow movie, even though the demand seems high. Unfortunately, the narrow thinking that only other female superhero movies can decide the prospect of something like Black Widow is pervasive. Marvel may be waiting to see the performance of rival DC’s Wonder Woman and its own Captain Marvel in 2018 before Black Widow. (Which is dumb.)
2. Wolverine and the Fantastic Four Join the MCU
Let’s get this out of the way: Mutants aren’t going anywhere. Even Kevin Feige said so. Between the monster success of Logan, Deadpool, FX’s Legion, and the dozen other X-Men-related projects in development, 20th Century Fox has a profitable hostage situation with Marvel’s mutant superheroes.
But Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, have languished in two breezy but forgotten popcorn movies, and one painfully dull dud. Meanwhile, Hugh Jackman has called it quits on Wolverine in his spectacular swan song Logan. While a Wolverine “reboot” would be money for Fox to incorporate into their budding Deadpool empire, it would be quite something if Fox surrendered Wolverine (a character they’ve exhausted) and the Fantastic Four (characters they can’t seem to do anything with) back to Marvel Studios.
But, will it happen? Pfft. Fox would never give up the world’s most famous X-Man, even if it can make ten other mutants just as famous. As for the Fantastic Four, it’s more likely Fox has even forgotten all about them.
3. New Avengers vs. Secret Avengers
Everyone will unite in Avengers: Infinity War, so this is probably a wash. But in the fallout of Captain America: Civil War, there could be two factions of Avengers, and fans seem to be picking up on it.
At the end of Civil War, a retired Steve Rogers broke his loyal Avengers colleagues out of General Ross’s supermax prison. While Tony Stark barely has a “team” at the moment, Steve Rogers is on the run with his own group of rogue heroes.
They may not be going to war anymore, but just like in comics, there could be two Avengers to headline two separate ensemble films: Stark’s New Avengers and Rogers’s Secret Avengers. Sure, it’s not exactly like the comics, but nothing in the MCU is.
But, will it happen? Again, Infinity War may put the kibosh on this idea, and the concept of two Avengers groups fighting each other is redundant. And even if they stay out of each other’s way, it’s a tough sell for the mass audience to accept there are two groups named “Avengers.” Even in comics this shit can get confusing. But if Marvel could orchestrate a way to sell two Avengers features, at the same time, then it’s not that crazy.
4. Bucky Becomes Captain America
It can get boring talking about actor contracts, but here’s the reality: Chris Evans has two movies out of six left to fulfill, and both account for Infinity War and Avengers 4. Sebastian Stan, who plays his ol’ pal Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier) has a whopping NINE movies in total, and he’s only finished three. In the comics, Bucky Barnes takes up the Captain America mantle after Steve’s assassination by Crossbones. For a time, fans speculated whether or not Crossbones would kill Cap in Civil War. (It wound up being the other way around, by accident.)
Another has also taken up the mantle: Sam Wilson, also known as the Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie). Unfortunately, Mackie’s contract is similar to Evans in that he only has two movies left, and both are for the next Avengers movies in Phase Three. Seems there’s only one candidate able to pick up the star-spangled shield.
But, will this happen? It’s more than likely.
5. Blade, Ghost Rider, and Other Supernatural Heroes Join the MCU
Marvel touted Doctor Strange as a gateway into a new realm of the MCU. Scott Derrickson’s movie didn’t feature cameos from demonic folk like Ghost Rider or the vampire-hunting Blade, but now that magic is in the MCU, it may be only a matter of time.
Since last fall, Ghost Rider has been a part of the universe, but he’s been relegated to TV on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But Blade, whose cinematic rights have belonged to Marvel since 2013, may be arriving sooner than anyone thinks.
But will this happen? Hard to say. Unfortunately, Marvel’s TV shows exist on their own island, in spite of all the nods it pays to the movies. Even though Robbie Reyes inherited his powers from Johnny Blaze, neither Ghost Rider seems ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Avengers.
As for Blade, there were murmurs (from Kate Beckinsale, of all people) that Marvel was “doing something” with the character. But this was shot down by Feige, who said there were no immediate plans but didn’t rule out anything completely.
“We think he’s a great character, a really fun character,” Feige said. “You know, this movie [Doctor Strange] going into a different side of the universe has fun potential for him to pop up, and between the movies, the Netflix shows, the ABC shows, there’s so many opportunities for the characters to show up.”
The latest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, is in theaters now.