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MCU Characters Who Probably Won't Survive Phase 4

The COVID-19 pandemic did its best to delay it, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phase 4 is here — and with Disney+'s original Marvel series now part of the mix, there will be more stories than ever. Audiences are meeting new heroes and villains, already established ones are being redefined, and — like it or not — a lot of characters introduced in earlier phases probably won't be around for much longer.

While Marvel comics characters can hang around forever because they live and die by the whims of their creators, things are more complicated in live-action productions. The question of whether or not a character survives can have a lot less to do with what the audience wants than real-life necessity. Even if Marvel's films were to remain American cinema's dominating blockbusters for decades, for example, that doesn't mean the actors playing the heroes and villains want to spend that long inhabiting the same role. In other cases, the actor might be more than willing to play their super-powered champions for as long as they're invited to, but the character in question just doesn't serve the overall story anymore.

Based on all the MCU has in store for us — known, rumored and strongly-suspected, and in some cases what we've heard from the actors themselves — here's who we're guessing isn't going to survive the MCU's Phase 4.

The Ancient One is heading for retirement after Phase 4

No, we haven't forgotten that the Ancient One bit the magic bullet way back in 2016's "Doctor Strange." That said, since when has a character's death really kept them from coming back, especially when that character is played by the inimitable Tilda Swinton? As we saw in "Avengers: Endgame" when the Hulk ran into a past version of the Ancient One, Swinton seems very game to reprise her role whenever possible. Add in the fact that Doctor Strange is one character for whom the laws of reality rarely seem to apply, and it's easy to imagine Swinton making yet another appearance in "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness."

There are plenty of opportunities to bring back the Ancient One to interact with Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange. For example, Nightmare has been rumored to be the villain, and the hallucination-causing supervillain could manifest some terrifying version of the Ancient One to tell Strange all the ways he's failed to live up to her expectations. Or, with other rumors hinting that the sequel will feature dimension hopping, Strange could run into an alternate universe version of his former mystic master, giving Swinton a chance to reinvent the character she's played twice already. 

Either way, it seems likely that we'll see some sort of cathartic confrontation between the two masters of the mystic arts, but that doesn't mean we can expect a full resurrection for the Ancient One. Cameos aside, her death in the first "Doctor Strange" was an integral emotional beat for everyone involved, and bringing her back over and over again past Phase 4 would retroactively damage the film. If Tilda Swinton appears in "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness," you can expect it to be her swan song.

Black Widow's sacrifice is inevitable

Technically, Black Widow died in Phase 3 of the MCU, sacrificing her life to manifest the Soul Stone so the surviving Avengers could resurrect half the population of the universe. It was a sacrifice that her character had been building toward ever since 2012's "The Avengers" saw her tell Loki that she had red in her ledger. 

That said, she's still in Phase 4 of the MCU, as her long-awaited solo film was simultaneously released in theaters and on Disney+. The film takes place during the events of "Captain America: Civil War," while the post-credits scene is set after "Avengers: Endgame."

Normally it would likely be tempting to theorize that Black Widow could return. After all, this is superhero fiction, where death is often a revolving door. Who can say, while watching the post-credits scene for "Black Widow," that they weren't at least hoping a little bit that Yelena would get a response to her whistle at Natasha's grave? But if there are any doubts about the hero's final rest, the lawsuit Scarlett Johansson filed against Disney over the simultaneous "Black Widow" release should dismiss those doubts for good.

Not all the Eternals will live up to their name

Despite their name, in most likelihood at least one of the Eternals isn't making it out of their upcoming film, and this is likely the case because, well ... there's just so many of them. There will be at least ten Eternals in the film, and that's a lot compared to other groups like the Avengers or the Guardians. The writers have a little bit more elbow room, so to speak.

As far as which Eternals will bite the dust, that's a tougher call to make. One candidate could be Druig (Barry Koeghan). If he proves to be anything like his comic book counterpart, he may wind up being a turncoat. In the source material, Druig is one of the most morally shaky Eternals evidenced by, among other things, the fact that he worked for a time for the KGB. Not to mention that in the "Eternals" series that launched in 2021, he wound up working with Thanos behind his family's back. 

Depending on how close the film is to the source material, there could be a reason to not trust this guess for betting pools. The current "Eternals" volume establishes that the Celestials left behind a Resurrection Machine for the Eternals, which automatically begins the process of bringing them back to life when they die. In fact, even Eternals deemed to be criminals or otherwise unworthy are still resurrected, but kept in a prison called the Exclusion. 

Gorr won't be butchering gods indefinitely

In December 2020 fans learned that in the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder," Christian Bale will star as the villain Gorr the God Butcher. In the comics, Gorr proves to be a near-unbeatable opponent, slaughtering gods all across space and time, and being the main reason the Odinson temporarily loses his worthiness to wield Mjolnir, leading to him being replaced by Jane Foster as Thor.

It's not totally uncommon for supervillains to survive the film that introduces them. After all, villains (at least likely) still alive in the MCU include Yon-Rogg, the Kree's Supreme Intelligence, Grandmaster, Abomination, Sonny Burch, Ayesha, Vulture, Zemo, Mordo, Dormammu, and even the Red Skull. But it's difficult to imagine Gorr surviving for more movies after "Love and Thunder" because of his nature. If he's anything like his comic book counterpart, Christian Bale's Gorr will thrive solely on getting vengeance upon the universe's gods. Someone with the ability to murder multiple gods won't be imprisoned, and he won't relent until either Thor — or Gorr himself — is dead.  

Drax's quest is over

Perhaps the most obvious reason why Drax may not survive Phase 4 is that Dave Bautista isn't planning on playing him anymore. In May 2021, Bautista told Digital Spy he's pretty sure the upcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" will be the last time we see him play Drax. Along with other reasons he's mentioned, later that month on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (via ScreenRant), he said that "the shirtless thing is getting harder and harder." In response to a similar comment by Bautista, "Guardians" writer/director James Gunn responded, "There's no Drax for me without you, buddy! You ARE the MCU's Drax the Destroyer." 

But the truth is that Bautista's feelings on the situation aren't the only reason he may not survive to see the end of the next "Guardians" film. As defined by the warrior since his first appearance in the MCU, Drax's purpose in life ended with the final battle of "Endgame." Both Ronan and Thanos are dead and there are no more targets for his vengeance. It's the perfect opportunity to give Drax a heroic warrior's death, dying to save the found family of the Guardians.

Plenty of heroes and villains from across the multiverse

The animated Disney+ series "What If...?" is based on a comic book series first released in 1977 that has since been revived a number of times. Read enough issues of the comic and something you will quickly learn is how often the writers of "What If...?" would use the non-canonical nature of the stories to have fun in ways they couldn't in other Marvel Comics, like killing off major characters at every opportunity. For example, one issue of the original series, 1984's "What If" #45, ends with the Hulk, his sidekick Rick Jones, Iron Man, Human Torch, and the Thing all dead. 

We've already seen this kind of carnage in Episode 3 of the animated "What If...?" series, with the entire founding Avengers line-up — except for Captain America and Nick Fury — murdered by a vengeful, grief-stricken Hank Pym. You can expect to see a lot more otherwise-surviving heroes and villains meeting their ends in "What If...?" before it's finished.

Kraglin has a target on his head

Of all the good guys who survive to see the end of 2017's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," there's a good chance the late Yondu's righthand man Kraglin won't make it to the end of "Guardians Vol. 3."

Kraglin isn't the most visible character in the first "Guardians," but he gets a lot more screen time in the sequel as the only Ravager who expresses any regret over what happens after Taser Face's mutiny. Kraglin wins a lot of points with the audience not only when he helps Yondu and Rocket escape, but later with the emotion he shows when Star-Lord gives him Yondu's arrow. Not only do we see him still traveling with the heroes in one of the mid-credits scenes, but James Gunn confirmed in May 2020 that fans can bet on seeing the Ravager return in the third film.

Gunn is likely going to want some big, emotional moments in his final "Guardians" chapter and sadly, Kraglin is the perfect victim for a sad character death. He's popular enough that his death would have emotional weight and meaning with the audience, but he's not so popular that killing him would make the audience hate the movie. Put another way, he could potentially be for "Guardians Vol. 3" what Agent Coulson was for "Avengers" (though, probably without the subsequent ABC series that resurrects him).

Zeus will fall by Gorr's hand

After plenty of speculation about who he'd be playing in the film, in April 2021 Russell Crowe revealed that for the upcoming "Thor: Love and Thunder," he would be playing the Greco-Roman god Zeus. The powerful king of this particular pantheon of gods has been both a villain and more of a neutral character in Marvel's comics, and his demigod son Hercules is a loyal, beloved member of the Avengers. But whether or not his son shows up for "Love and Thunder," we don't think Big Daddy Zeus is going to make it out alive for one very specific reason: Gorr the God Butcher.

Christian Bale will play the villain of "Love and Thunder," an alien obsessed with murdering every god he can find. If a guy calls himself a "god butcher" and you want him to seem like a threat to your story's hero, sooner or later you're going to have to show him killing some gods. A depiction of Gorr killing Zeus — power-wise, the Greco-Roman pantheon's answer to Odin — would go a long way to beefing up Gorr as an antagonist to be feared, which is probably the only reason Zeus will be appearing at all.