What to expect for Marvel Phase 4

Marvel's been building up for the ultimate showdown with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. While it's set to be one of the most epic movies ever, it also begs the question "what's next?" Everything's been building towards Thanos, which will conclude Marvel's third phase of movies. What will happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the fight with Thanos is finished and it moves into its fourth phase?

A changing of the guard

One of the hardest aspects of building a movie franchise like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is keeping the actors around. Before Marvel even got started on the third phase of its Avengers series, rumors started circulating that not every actor would be sticking around for Infinity War. Contracts expire, actors start demanding more money, and others simply just want to move on. The earliest the fourth phase could start is in 2019, with 2020 being a much more likely start date. While some of the actors will probably be sticking around, we doubt Marvel will be able to get everybody back.

Luckily, the comics have already solved this problem. Main heroes, such as Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, have been replaced multiple times throughout their comic careers. So, movie audiences should get ready for new faces replacing familiar roles. Even if some of the characters themselves don't change, the actors probably will. It's hard to think of anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, but people said the same thing about James Bond and Sean Connery. Just think of it like a comic book series changing its main artist. Marvel will probably try to cast younger actors so they don't have to worry about recasting for a while, so this might be a good time for someone like Asa Butterfield to start growing a goatee.

More team-up movies

The first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced many of its characters, and then finally brought them together in The Avengers. The biggest complaint about phase 2 was that everyone went back to working on their own. Audiences walked out of Iron Man 3 asking where the rest of the Avengers were. Whether or not this is a valid complaint, Marvel seems to have taken notice. All of the phase 3 movies are either introducing new characters (Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Captain Marvel) or are teaming up multiple characters. Captain America: Civil War is basically another Avengers movie, and Thor: Ragnarok includes the Hulk. Even the Ant-Man sequel is called Ant-Man and the Wasp. For the fourth phase, expect way more team-ups. The team-ups are probably going to start making less sense, based on whoever is available to film. We wouldn't be surprised seeing Doctor Strange team up with Happy Hogan from the Iron Man movies, or for Black Panther to hire Foggy from Daredevil to be his personal lawyer.

Secret Invasion

It's clear that the Marvel movies are drawing inspiration from major comic events. Civil War, Infinity War, and The Winter Soldier all adapted comic stories, and Age of Ultron was inspired by a major comic crossover event as well. Without the X-Men or Fantastic Four, it's going to be hard for Marvel to do Secret Wars or the Avengers vs. X-Men, because of the movie licensing issues. The next logical crossover to do is Secret Invasion, where the heroes find out that shapeshifting aliens have been infiltrating their ranks for years.

Granted, Fox has the rights to the Skrulls, who are the villains of the story. That's an easy fix, because they can just name the movie aliens something different or swap them out for a different kind of invasion. This would be a great storyline for phase 4 because each movie could drop subtle hints as to who's been replaced. Also, it'd be an easy way to explain away any recastings. Just say that Steve Rogers looks different because of the alien shapeshifters.

More movie style variety

Marvel phase 1's films all generally fit into the same genre. Sure, Thor was a little bit more fantasy-filled while Captain America: The First Avenger was a period piece, but they all fit under the superhero action-adventure umbrella. Marvel branched out in the second phase with Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man. Both movies could be considered comedies to an extent, and definitely changed up the tone and setting. Since they both worked quite well, expect Marvel to keep mixing things up. By expanding into new genres, the studio will really open the number of characters they can introduce. The studio might try its first horror movie or go even crazier and make a teen romance movie set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe, after the rights are settled, we'll get a Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde movie.

A new shadowy villain

The whole reason why The Avengers worked was because each of the previous movies helped build up the eventual crossover. The biggest complaint about Age of Ultron was that it felt like it ignored most of the films in that phase. It seemed like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World could have been skipped and it wouldn't have hurt the plot to Ultron. The third phase is clearly setting up Thanos, so Infinity War won't have that problem, but Marvel's going to need to start setting up a new ultimate villain for their next round.

Basically, Marvel needs a new bad guy to tease in their post-credit scenes. There aren't that many people they can use to replace Thanos, but maybe they could start having the Beyonder show up and make vague references about building a battle world. Better yet, maybe it's time to start casting for Annihilus or Kang.

Characters coming home

Since Marvel started producing their own movies, they've regained the rights to several of their characters. Unfortunately, it wasn't worth changing plans to force a new Ghost Rider movie into production. Now that it's time to start a new plan. However, it's pretty likely that we'll see some of these characters returning to the big screen. Daredevil on Netflix is reintroducing the Punisher. If he's popular enough, he might be a good character to promote to his own movie. Marvel's also got the rights to Blade, so it could be a good time for him to return, especially since Wesley Snipes is out of jail. It's really unlikely that Fox is going to try to and get another Fantastic Four into production any time soon. By the time the fourth phase is getting started, it could be possible for Marvel to get the rights back. Then, they could make a good Fantastic Four movie just to rub it in Fox's face.