A Spoiler-Free Future For The MCU

The Russo brothers are ready to unleash Avengers: Infinity War on the world, but have bad news internet theorists. The brothers, who filmed the follow-up Untitled Avengers back-to-back with Infinity War, say that the dust will have to settle before an official title is revealed. The future of the MCU is uncertain.

Is This Really That Big Of  A Deal?

Originally Avengers: Infinity War had a Part 1and 2. The story was just too large and packed with characters to tell in one film. Somewhere during production plans changed and the studio decided the “Part 2” subtitle wasn’t indicative of the storyline. “Part 2” signifies a thematic continuation culmination of a storyline instead of telling its own unique tale. Removing the sub-title invites enough speculation on its own, and being extra cagey is only ramping up conversations. Fans are left wondering if the lack of title signifies major casualties, or if Thanos is replaced with a greater threat. The Infinity War subtitle was thought to distract from Age Of Ultron anticipation. Now it seems a lack of title for Avengers 4 has them in even more of a tizzy.

Kevin Feige has doubled-down on the secrecy as well, letting the world know that Marvel would skip Hall H at San Diego Comic Con this year. Marvel has been a mainstay at SDCC’s Hall H and traditionally laid out the timeline for projects well into the future. Feige says that there will likely be no announcements for Phase 4 until after the fifth Untitled Avengers movie releases. Marvel has not been shy about listing projects way into the future before, so does this signify game-changing story elements?

Real-world Perspective

As mentioned Marvel has laid out some lofty plans in the past. In late 2014 the studio revealed titles and dates for all Phase 3 entries through to next year. Dates have shifted, and only one movie ceased to exist entirely (Inhumans was replaced with Ant-Man And The Wasp). The roadmap has been generally solid, so why the sudden change? It’s not as if they have a history of cancelling projects.

This is the first phase of the MCU that Marvel hadn’t fully prepared for from the start. The entire MCU gamble had one of two impending conflicts: either the films would flop and major story threads would be unfinished, or the popularity would allow them to carry-on and contracts would be up. The latter presents a unique dilemma in deciding whether to soft-reboot the universe or to continue adding onto existing stories. Luckily for them, they hit the latter. The issue lies in the general audience accepting these movies without the expected star-power.

Contracts And Commitments

What happens when Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth have concluded their contractual agreement? Hemsworth may have had interest in re-signing invigorated with Ragnorok’s success, and RDJ may sign for appearances, but Evans has expressed that he’s hanging up the shield when This round is complete. The question is whether Marvel can keep popularity and success without their flagship stars along for the ride.

Perhaps the lack of detailed filmography moving forward is to avoid setting the losses in stone, both for fan-service and financial reasons. The shift is likely to be substantial. Despite almost certainly getting another Black Panther and Guardians, there’s still a very large unknown. Marvel has not had the most success in the comics when it comes to replacing its most enduring heroes. It will be interesting to see how moviegoers, especially the superfans, react to the changes. Should the actor playing Iron Man get replaced, or is Iron Man left out entirely? Should someone else take up the mantle entirely to put a new man in the iron mask?

This impending conflict first became apparent when later additions gained major popularity. Movies like Doctor Strange could have been relatively one-and-done without much concern. However, Spider-Man and Black Panther have proven way too much of a hit to not consider continuing their narratives while stories of their superhero-peers sunset.

Patiently Awaiting The Future

At this point, the greatest trick Kevin Feige can pull is making the same formula work with entirely new ingredients. RDJ’s Iron Man has been a narrative core throughout all of the MCU  since the beginning. Chris Hemsworth and Thor have just hit a stride with Ragnarok. Every Captain America sequel acted like an Avengers-mini, allowing the overall MCU to move forward at a breakneck pace. The future is uncertain. Sony is already spinning-off characters from Spider-Man, as Marvel doesn’t have total cinematic control of that character. James Gun’s Guardians Of The Galaxy has fourth and fifth onscreen appearance already slated after Infinity War. Even The Incredible Hulk is marred by an old deal with Universal Studios that hinders solo outings and a clear future. Can the likes of  Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Doctor Strange entertain and sustain the MCU moving forward?

There are plenty of elements and characters from the comics to draw from. There’s also a strong commitment to move toward a more sci-fi angle in Phase 4. Will the same audience that has enjoyed everything so far go along for the ride? The strength of the MCU  has been the variety of styles each movie draws from. They have been less strictly “superhero” movies like other attempts. “Space pirates who happen to be superheroes” and “an espionage thriller starring superheroes” differentiate enough as to not fatigue. How will the general public react if the scenery becomes too static?

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Only time will tell what happens after 2020 with the MCU. Kevin Feige and company have already talked about some obscure second-tier characters. That may seem concerning, but Iron Man wasn’t a sure-thing in 2008 either. Marvel has continually surprised before with the success of otherwise middling characters. Even if they announce something really left-field, there’s precedent to knock it out of the park anyway.

Audiences have enjoyed a ten-year journey with the studio, so why not give them a little trust?

Avengers Infinity War hits theatres later this week on April 27th. If you don’t already have a ticket, enjoy avoiding all social media until you find one sometime in early May.

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