Now that Avengers: Endgame is out and certain players are off the Marvel board (presumably for good), what will the makeup of the Avengers themselves and the Marvel Cinematic Universe look like going forward?
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow!**
The truth of the matter is that, to some degree, the future of the MCU won't be in the hands of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Galactus, or anything that springs from the mythology itself. A lot of it comes down to business: how many more movies certain stars are signed for, and how much Marvel is willing to pay to keep them around — if they're even interested in staying in their capes or armor.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, most of the original Avengers signed five-picture deals that were renegotiated as their presence was requested in more movies. In the case of someone like Robert Downey Jr., the first and still biggest star in the Marvel pantheon, his appearances as the now-deceased Iron Man expanded to include two more Avengers pictures (Infinity War and Endgame), as well as sizable roles in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
But since Iron Man is dead and Captain America is an elderly retiree (with Chris Evans also cutting a deal to extend his contract for these last two Avengers films), who will take center stage in the MCU now?
One likely bet is Chris Hemsworth's Thor. Like his fellow stars, the Australian actor renegotiated his deal to appear in Infinity War and Endgame. But THR also notes that Hemsworth is "ready for the next phase of films." With the character being reinvented in Thor: Ragnarok and rumors of Thor 4 floating around, the God of Thunder's decision to hitch a ride back to space with the Guardians of the Galaxy at the close of Endgame may lead to a whole new string of cosmic escapades (Beta Ray Bill, anyone??).
Also returning are Chadwick Boseman and Benedict Cumberbatch, who each have one more solo movie on their contracts. After those, it will be up to Marvel to entice them back for more — if they want to keep going, of course. THR doesn't mention Brie Larson, but it's reasonable to assume she's signed to return as Captain Marvel for at least two more movies as well.
Should renegotiations be necessary, what is Marvel willing to shell out to keep its heroes happy? Hemsworth and Evans both got between $15 million and $20 million apiece for the last two Avengers outings, while Scarlett Johansson is earning approximately $20 million for the upcoming Black Widow solo movie (likely a prequel and her last outing as the Russian spy, who was also killed off in Endgame). Both Boseman and Cumberbatch could probably ask for that same amount to be dumped on their front lawns as well.
The king of paychecks, of course, is Downey, who reportedly negotiated a deal that paid him a piece of the profits from his Marvel movies — which, in the case of Infinity War alone, allegedly netted the actor some $75 million (he also got $5 million a day for three days' work on Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Other Marvel stars get bonuses as well (which reportedly start when the movies hit $700 million or more), and there are also deals being hammered out for actors like Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) to appear in Disney+ streaming shows. So yes, let's dream and speculate about what stories we'd like to see from Marvel Studios in the next 10 years ... but keep in mind that the most powerful beings of all in the MCU may be agents and lawyers.