Even though most of the focus right now is on the final promotional push for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it's hard to have a conversation about Marvel Studios without thinking about the future. This is a company well known for its long-term planning at this point. Kevin Feige's master plan for various "phases" of the MCU has been dissected time and time again, to the point that even when we're talking about the studio's current hits, we can't help but wonder what's next.
Right now, the biggest thing on the horizon is the two-part Avengers adventure that begins with Infinity War next year and continues with a still-untitled fourth film in May of 2019. By the time the credits roll on Avengers 4, we'll have seen seven years of Avengers films, 11 years of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and a showdown with Thanos that concludes a story which first began with the arrival of Infinity Stones (though we weren't calling them that then) back in Captain America: The First Avenger. That's a hell of a climax to more than a decade of storytellng, but where do you go from there?
Right now, only two MCU films are officially on Marvel's schedule following Avengers 4: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel. Beyond that, we don't know exactly where the studio will head next. Speaking with Collider this week, Feige revealed that even he doesn't know all the details yet, and that a post-Avengers 4 world might put an end to Marvel's "Phase" structure of film scheduling.
“We’ve been lucky that [contract expirations] haven’t factored in too much. We’ve had people under contract for certain films, then we’ve had new ideas and new directions like Civil War like we wanted to do, and we’ve been lucky enough to make new contracts. Or Spider-Man: Homecoming, the cast has been awesome in their enthusiasm for the direction and the storylines that we’ve been telling. So it really does, right now, all start with where we wanna take the stories. Certainly as we get to 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.”
Now, that quote doesn't appear to mean Feige has no plans for the MCU after 2019. This is Disney we're talking about, so there's no way the future isn't being laid out right now, but what's interesting to consider is that it might not have the same shape that the MCU we know now has. The overall arc of these films has been establishing individual franchise building and testing teams, and then uniting them with an overarching threat. It's a very common comic book structure, but eventually that wave crests and then breaks. By the time we hit Avengers 4, everyone knows who The Avengers are, and even if the team roster changes dramatically, moviegoers will all know the basic drill. That means a different approach. Of course, Marvel can keep launching solo hero adventures or as long as people want to go see them, and by 2025 we could be seeing things like solo films starring Scarlet Witch or even the adventures of new characters like Kamala Khan or (pretty please) Karnak. The big difference may be in how Marvel approaches the bigger meta-narratives, which could put an end to phases in favor of something a little more loose.
What do you think? Where should Marvel take the MCU when the Avengers vs. Thanos saga finally concludes?