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As Avengers: Endgame fast approaches its wide theatrical release, Marvel Studios is looking toward the future, particularly since it's very likely that the final assault on Thanos (Josh Brolin) may drastically reshape the MCU, and perhaps even kill off major heroes who have carried the MCU for the last decade. (Fans are already widely speculating on that.)
With the end of Phase 3 looming on the horizon, Kevin Feige teased Phase 4 during a lengthy Marvel Studios profile in Variety. Of course, Disney has a stacked slate of sequels and standalones that can carry the shared universe once the Mad Titan is (hopefully) lying six feet under. Those include projects like Shang-Chi, Black Widow, The Eternals, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Black Panther 2, and Doctor Strange 2.
"Some of these films will feature characters that you already know. Some supporting characters will assume leading roles, while some new characters will be introduced," Feige said. "The reward for all of these films working is that we get to try to do it again and do it differently and learn from our mistakes and try something we haven’t tried before."
Disney+ will also be handy in building out the MCU thanks to all the live-action tie-in shows coming to the platform, which launches in November. Last week, it was announced that an in-development Hawkeye miniseries (with Jeremy Renner) would find Clint Barton training Kate Bishop to take over the title of Hawkeye. It's very likely that the next few phases are to be led by a younger/newer generation of heroes like Bishop, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
“These episodes will intersect with the movies in a very big way,” Feige added. “It’s a totally new form of storytelling that we get to play with and explore.”
And with the introduction of new and fresh characters comes the rich possibilities of diversifying the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For instance, Shang-Chi, which is being helmed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), is expected to feature an all-Asian cast, as Marvel Studios reups its commitment to showcase a cinematic universe that contains heroes of all shapes, colors, and creeds. In other words, anyone can save the world, no matter who they are.
“The future of these movies will be an inclusive one,” Endgame co-director Joe Russo told Variety. “Diversity, both in front of and behind the camera, will be its gold standard.”
Moreover, building movies around lesser-known characters has paid off not just for the MCU (see: Guardians of the Galaxy), but for the DCEU as well (see: Shazam!). By embracing more obscure heroes and storylines, studios can skirt lofty expectations and baggage, and allow the content to speak for itself and endear itself to mainstream fans.
“[Kevin's] earned the right to bring us things about which we might be 100% unfamiliar,” said Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. “How many people out of 100 were familiar with Doctor Strange or the Guardians of the Galaxy before we made the movies? Maybe five.”
Avengers: Endgame hits theaters on April 26.