Written by Tom G. Wolf
It’s been almost 10 years since Iron Man hit cinemas, and since then comic fans have had an embarrassment of Marvel riches onscreen via the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But it’s come at something of a price; unlike previous cinematic sagas, the MCU has explicitly been designed to be open-ended, with no known finale in sight. The movies are divided only by “Phases”, and the impact one Phase ending and a new one beginning has tended to be pretty minimal. The status quo is maintained, sometimes at the expense of storytelling.
But that might be about to change. With numerous major actor contracts set to expire, and the recent acquisition of Fox by Disney, the upcoming Phase Four of the MCU may be its most exciting yet. Here’s three key things we might see in the new-look MCU.
New fan favourites joining the MCU
For years, Marvel has had numerous restrictions on the characters it could include in the MCU, due to old film rights deals. The most notable of these was Spider-Man, who was stuck in limbo at Sony until a deal could be worked out for the aptly-named Spider-Man: Homecoming. This might have set a precedent for similar rights-share arrangements – but now that Disney has purchased Fox’s film assets, many will no longer be necessary.
Intense speculation about which characters might make the jump to the MCU has already begun. It’s unlikely any of them will be onscreen in 2018 or 2019, just due to the logistics of film development, but it can be safely assumed that many long-time fan favourites will have a major role in Phase Four.
Better-integrated TV series
The MCU has given us some fantastic TV in recent years, but a long-standing criticism is their apparent detachment from events in the movies (with the possible exception of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Granted, this may make for a more “realistic” approach – but it seems a shame to bring everything under the one umbrella in name only. Still, with a new Phase kicking off, it’s possible that we’ll see a more holistic plan at work in future.
Given Disney’s acquisition of Fox’s film assets, the most obvious fit for such an approach could be the X-Men and their sprawling associated cast. The current scattered continuity at Fox means that it’s ripe for a TV and film crossover-friendly reboot – possibly even integrating upcoming instalments such as The New Mutants.
Actor departures – and possible character deaths
Avengers: Infinity War is just around the corner, and it’s set to be the biggest film in the MCU yet. Details are still sparse, but we do know that at least 30 characters from previous films in the franchise are set to return. However, we can also guess that it will be the last appearance of at least some of these characters. Main villain Thanos is known for being particularly kill-happy in the comics, and a number of the big actors have contracts coming to an end – it’s not hard to do the math.
Still, long-time fans may not need to fret too much. Marvel has proven hesitant to permanently kill off characters even when it might have made more sense for the story (e.g. War Machine in Captain America: Civil War). After Avengers: Infinity War, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see some of the surviving major players transition to some kind of retirement, but pop up in cameos in future films.
Avengers: Infinity War will be arriving in Australian cinemas on April 25, 2018.
Pic: Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War