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What The MCU Will Look Like After Endgame

Avengers: Endgame represents a huge milestone for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The blockbuster crossover is the second half of the Infinity War story, the culmination of over ten years of cinematic storytelling, and the end of Marvel's Phase 3 slate, all wrapped into one highly anticipated package. While the film is certain to pack a punch all on its own, the narrative implications that the feature has for the future of the MCU are profound.

With three rather earth-centric Phases behind us, the next wave of Marvel's big-screen adventures seems to promise a lot more faces, galactic new places, and a general shift in tone that heralds a new era for the universe's mightiest superheroes. From changes to the Avengers lineup to a Guardians movie that's back on with James Gunn directing and a batch of new potential baddies, here are some of the major changes that we can expect to see as Phase 4 of the MCU dawns.

Out with the old?

One of the biggest question marks that has haunted the waning days of Phase 3 has been who exactly will be standing after the war over the Infinity Stones wraps up. After all, it's easy to keep a comic character's story going literally forever, but when you're dealing with human actors, there's an expiration date on the entire deal from the day the contracts are signed.

And speaking of contracts, most of the original Avenger lineup is reportedly facing the end of their Marvel deals as of Avengers: Endgame. In other words, the MCU fates of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Clint Barton, and Black Widow are all in the balance. While the odds of losing all six Avengers in a single film may seem slim (Black Widow is getting her own movie at this point, at the least) it's certainly possible — even likely — that we could be saying farewell to some familiar faces as Marvel's new onscreen era begins.

Growing pains

Remember way back in Phase 1 when Thor commuted to and from Earth to help with the Avengers, the Red Skull was sent packing by the Tesseract to a mysterious location, and Iron Man caught a glimpse of Thanos' space armada and it gave him PTSD? The MCU seemed so much simpler then, didn't it?

Of course, the following two Phases saw the MCU blow up (and shrink down) rather quickly. Phase two took to the far reaches of the cosmos with the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and shrunk down to the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man. It also introduced us to sibling directorial duo Anthony and Joe Russo, who made their Marvel debut with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Not to be outdone by its predecessor, the much longer Phase 3 saw Doctor Strange introduce magic and time manipulation, more galactic adventures in Guardians Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, and Captain Marvel, and a lot more Quantum fun with Ant-Man and the Wasp. It also brought us Thanos, Infinity War, and Endgame. The boundaries of the MCU have expanded considerably over the last decade-plus, and it leaves the Phase 4 slate open to go in practically any direction.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel's domination of the box office showed that the world was ready and waiting to receive Marvel's first female superhero lead with open arms. While studio chief Kevin Feige and director Joss Whedon had originally tossed around the idea of introducing the super-warrior during Avengers: Age of Ultron, the decision to hold off and give her her own solo film proved to be the right call.

While Captain Marvel spent a good deal of time looking backward (the film is set in the '90s, after all) another impact that Carol Danvers had upon her arrival was the promise of the future. Captain Marvel is an Avenger in the comics, and with so many original Avengers looking like they're out, it's fairly clear that Danvers will be picking up the Avengers mantle going forward. Feige himself implied that Captain Marvel "is about to take the lead and be at the forefront of the entire Cinematic Universe," where he's also confirmed that she "will be the most powerful character." Add to that the fact that Brie Larson has reportedly signed a whopping seven-picture deal, and we can all count on seeing a lot more of the new Cap right through Phase 4 and maybe even beyond.

Toning things down

While the MCU is certainly a big place these days, one interesting thing we already know about Phase 4 is that it's going to kick off with a story that's much more down to earth. The only Marvel movie that's been officially announced on the heels of Endgame is the much less galactic Spider-Man: Far from Home. Spidey's second solo foray is reported to be taking place just minutes after the fourth Avengers film closes up the Thanos saga.

According to Marvel chief Kevin Feige, the film is a tonal departure that initially finds Peter Parker in the midst of an effort to return to normal life. Calling the hero "one of us," Feige added, "He is, quote-unquote, a normal person, lives a normal life, with a normal environment, who, you know, got these powers, and who is exposed to these extraordinary things." While Phase 4 promises to deliver a boatload of high-energy action, it's definitely going to be a nice change of pace to start with a film that keeps the scope somewhat narrow.

The rise of the Panther

One of the high points of Phase 3 came with the wildly successful arrival of the Black Panther into the MCU. He made a handful of brief appearances throughout Captain America: Civil War, but when T'Challa made his grand re-entrance in his first solo film, it turned heads — and may have even lured some non-comics fans into the Marvel Cinematic Universe along the way.

Of course, Black Panther also came out just months before Infinity War hit theaters, with Wakanda playing a key role in the battle to protect Vision and the Mind Stone he carried. With the runaway success of both his solo film and his appearance in other MCU crossovers, it's no surprise that a sequel was confirmed before the end of 2018. While Marvel has nine unassigned dates for upcoming movies heading into Phase 4, chances are Black Panther will show up again pretty quickly as fans look for more adventures from the new ensemble of Wakandan superstars.

From Infinity to Eternity

The MCU really has become a big place with giant personalities like Ego, the Supreme Intelligence, and everyone's favorite universe-snapping Mad Titan already on the board. A few more cosmic entities being thrown into the mix shouldn't upset the apple cart, right? Get ready for the incoming Eternals.

Rumors of a film about the Eternals gained steam in April of 2018, just in time for Infinity War to make universe-shattering power the norm. Since then they've hired screenwriters, and the project seems to officially be getting off the ground. While a return to films featuring Spider-Man and Black Panther may help keep things at least a little bit grounded as we go along, a jump to the Eternals is sure to keep the galactic super-power struggles raging in the MCU. The incorporation of the Eternals in the fabric of this blockbuster canvas has the potential to set the stage for some staggeringly overpowered galactic business as things move forward.

Foxy business

The news that Disney would be absorbing portions of Fox in a historic merger broke back in December of 2017. For fans of the MCU, the deal represents much more than a sideshow — it's an event that could change the MCU forever. Once Disney gains access to Fox's intellectual property, they'll also be regaining the film rights to several long-awaited superheroes. For a while now, Fox has retained the rights to a handful of beloved Marvel characters, including the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, Deadpool, and, of course, the X-Men. The arrival of any of these franchises into the MCU, let alone all of them at once, should be incredibly impactful. The question is, with the merger still fresh, how long will it take for any of these characters to find their way into the action?

Quantum leap

Coming out on the heels of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp's literally small scope was a drastic difference from the universe-wide events surrounding Thanos. But Scott Lang's second full-length MCU adventure was actually packed with some pretty huge implications that had to do with more than just Lang and the Pyms.

In an interview with Ryan Seacrest (via CBR), Hank Pym actor Michael Douglas made it abundantly clear that the Quantum Realm, which was a huge part of the Ant-Man sequel, will play a pivotal role in Phase 4. "I mean, all of them. I mean, the Quantum Realm, that's the key. That's the key," Douglas explained, following this up with the prediction that "the Quantum Realm plays an important part in all the next chapters, I think, of the Marvel films." Couple that with the juicy little tidbit Janet Van Dyne dropped in the end credits scene about time vortexes, along with rumors that the Black Knight might be joining the MCU via that otherworldly portal, and the Quantum Realm seems poised to impact Phase 4 in more ways than one.

More Guardians?

The Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best things to ever happen to the MCU, but the future of the franchise was thrown into doubt when writer-director James Gunn was abruptly fired in mid-2018. The situation played out embarrassingly in public, with actors and fans venting their anger over the firing and Disney digging in its heels for quite some time.

It was eventually confirmed that Gunn's script would be used for the then-postponed third installment, which was at least a small relief to fans following the spectacle. Finally, in March of 2019, Disney relented and rehired Gunn. The revelation that they hadn't even met with a single director in search of a replacement indicated that the studio never seriously considered moving on with the franchise without him, and now that Gunn's back at the helm of the Guardians, it's restored hope that perhaps we'll see that third film from the team sooner than later.

Less Spidey?

One very open-ended question is the role that everyone's favorite neighborhood Spider-Man could play post-Endgame. As Marvel fans are well aware, Spidey is one of the characters whose film rights were sold prior to Marvel Studios getting control of its own cinematic destiny — and although Sony thrilled Marvel fans by entering into a sort of creative timeshare that allows Tom Holland's Spider-Man to make team and solo appearances in the MCU, it may be too good to last. Sony made bank with the Spidey-adjacent Venom in 2018, and looks ready to expand its own universe of Spider-properties with its upcoming sequel — and don't forget Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The original, unique Sony/Disney/Marvel arrangement has Holland's Spidey on the hook for five MCU appearances, which at this point would include his own two films, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame. But just because that contract is ending doesn't mean Sony wants to end Spider-Man's MCU presence. On the contrary, they're very interested in keeping things going. Here's hoping Parker sticks around for the long haul heading into Phase 4.

Hulk or no Hulk? That is the question

With Marvel, sometimes the third time's the charm. Tom Holland's Spider-Man is adored by fans... and happens to be the third big-screen version of the character in less than 20 years. The Fantastic Four has had two shots at cinematic glory thus far, with their entry into the MCU promising to revitalize their onscreen presence. The same trifecta of tries seems promising when it comes to the X-Men getting their third shot after the Disney/Fox merger. But nowhere has the "third time pays for all" message been felt more clearly than with the Hulk.

Mark Ruffalo's Hulk is the third film version of the Green Goliath that we've seen since the turn of the century. Sure, technically it's the same character that Edward Norton played, but he went through a pretty dramatic change once Ruffalo took the role. According to Den of Geek, Ruffalo's contract is for six movies (not including cameos) with Endgame figuring to be his fifth major film. In theory, we could see Ruffalo's Banner making at least one more appearance in Phase 4. But with Universal controlling the film rights to the character, the details of if, how, and when Hulk could factor in remain a mystery.

Television and the silver screen

One event that will coincide neatly with the early days of Phase 4 is the arrival of Disney's new streaming service, Disney+. Scheduled to be released in late 2019, the service promises to bring a new infusion of MCU content courtesy of multiple shows that center around characters like Vision and Scarlet Witch and Loki, all played by their respective actors from the films.

While the news is great all on its own, the impact this will have on the MCU is likely to be far greater than what we've seen from series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Netflix's Marvel series. Kevin Feige has made it clear in multiple interviews that the Disney+ series will be essential to the Marvel world in the aftermath of Endgame. While we're used to having interesting tangential events take place on MCU television, it appears that Phase 4 is going to have a major infusion of TV content that will directly impact the movies in ways we haven't seen before.

Bigger and badder

While some of the MCU's major villains have been one-off characters like Whiplash or Malekith, others have been intricately woven into storylines that developed their own story arcs as well as those around them. Perhaps the best example is Thanos, who made a multi-year entrance that culminated in a character that completely stole the show in Infinity War. Tom Hiddleston's Loki was also spectacular, and a tragic loss during Infinity War (if he really died, that is). But with Endgame wrapping up so many loose ends, even if old villains like Abomination or Red Skull may be hanging around, one looming question is who's going to be introduced as the MCU's next big bad.

We're already aware of Mysterio's arrival in Far from Home, but there are a few other big shots that fans have been hoping to see for some time. Thanos' granddad, Kronos, could be a good addition to the MCU. There's also the newly introduced Supreme Intelligence of the Kree. The Disney/Fox merger brings potential candidates like Kang the Conqueror, Annihilus, Galactus, Magneto, and even Doctor Doom — the latter of whom, in particular, seems like a great way to balance the Earth-based stories with the potential to "go galactic." Whoever ends up stepping up to face Marvel's heroes, they'll have some pretty big boots (and one heavy gauntlet) to fill.