The Future of Marvel's Cinematic Universe (Opinion)
Questions upon questions upon questions remain for how the current phase, as well as the culmination of the past 10 years, will present for our heroes and villains (those still alive anyway). With every film or bit of information that comes out, it seems like yet another question is presented. Constant retcons both in the films and by the actors and studio seem to leave us without any clear trajectory and that's probably by design. The mouse house knows something about marketing, after all, having already earned well over $3 billion dollars this year, BEFORE the end of May. Most of you reading this only care about one thing out of Disney's future, and that's the beginning of Phase 4 of the MCU.
It's been 10 years since we heard "I am Iron Man" uttered from Robert Downey Jr.'s lips as he cemented his place as the cornerstone of the MCU. Since then we've had the universe expand from the physical to the magical and even the cosmic. However, from the beginning, one through line has teased the goal all along: The Infinity War. After all, the Avengers are only as good as their villains. With a universe that's gotten so large, it requires an equally impressive response. Enter: Thanos, the villain teased in the post-credit scenes of several movies since Marvel's The Avengers. Once we saw his face and the reference to his oft obsession in the comics, Death (the entity), we all knew where this was headed. I'll be doing a piece about Thanos himself so I won't get into the details of his life right now, but suffice it to say he is on a quest for the Infinity Stones. In the comics, they were gems, not stones. Each of them granted unbelievable power. Together, when placed in the Infinity Gauntlet, they granted the user the powers of God, basically. Time, matter and even reality manipulation are all child's play to the wielder of the gauntlet. Like with everything else so far in the MCU, the gauntlet will probably be significantly de-powered compared to the comics, but it will still be a sight to behold. In particular, I want to discuss the reality shaping ability it has and what that could mean for Marvel's future.
Anthony Breznican of EW tweeted a very cryptic take on things, just before the D23 Expo panel where Infinity War and other Marvel projects would be discussed. The tweet alludes to the possibility that the Gauntlet could allow for Marvel Studios to gain access to other superheroes they’ve previously not used, or possibly don’t even have the rights to.
Breznican probably doesn't have any inside info and is just speculating, but he could know a little something due to his connection to EW, a site known to get first dibs on many Marvel movie official images and the like. At any rate, his tweet echoes a thought I've had for a very long time now. The gauntlet is the perfect way to get over many of the hurdles of sharing character rights between studios. The very nature of the events set to take place in Infinity War lends itself to the notion that maybe our heroes won't be enough. In the comic series the film draws inspiration from, the destruction is incalculable. The death toll was immeasurable. How could our Earth, our universe, our reality recover from that kind of power? Check out these images below to get an idea of the power I'm talking about. Also, you can clearly see that far more Marvel characters than are in the current MCU are not only present but being laid waste to. The final image is the most telling.
So with all of this power--power enough that the combined might of the Marvel Universe was almost not enough, how will he be stopped with this roster of heroes? Of course, the easy way would be that the gauntlet and Thanos are de-powered enough that it's possible, but that's not the fun way to think about it is it? Let's speculate! Currently, we've got Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, Falcon, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Black Panther, Winter Soldier, Captain Marvel, the GotG and even a few of the Netflix heroes available if they decided to use them (doubtful). I'm sure I've missed some, but the point is, it's not enough. What if something happens that allows a portal to one other or several other realities to open? We could see the Fantastic Four, Galactus, Silver Surfer, a variation of the X-Men maybe? It's all possible with the reality bending power of the gauntlet. If you know anything about how this story ends, then you know that this kind of battle has repercussions--effects felt long after it ends. That's where the future of the MCU becomes the present.
What if, in the aftermath of the battle, that portal remained open, or closes before some "borrowed" heroes can get back? Better yet, what if the culmination of the battle reshapes the universe, period? That would allow for just about anything to be on the table, so long as the studios can work it out logistically. Robert Downey Jr.'s contract is up after Untitled Avengers 4, along with Chris Evans' and a few others. That leaves room for some fresh blood in the MCU. With access to Spider-Man already on the table, what if all of this gives us access to Deadpool? The X-men? Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider-Man)? We know that the first sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place after Avengers 4 in 2019. That will be the first phase 4 film and it will show us the world we're left in after the events of the last 2 Avengers films. This could open the door for any of Spider-Man's rogues gallery or forbidden characters to come to the MCU. Heck, I've already talked about how a World War Hulk story could work. The possibilities are endless.
Basically, the sheer breadth of power that the gauntlet has, opens the door for just about anything to happen in the next 10 years of the MCU. If the studios can work it out behind the scenes, it can be brought to life on screen. Tom Hardy's Venom fighting Sebastian Stan's Captain America? The Carnage symbiote taking over the Hulk's body? Deadpool casually strolling by as a revitalized Wolverine battles the Punisher? If they wanted to, the MCU could basically be a blank canvas after the events of Avengers 4. I'm ok with that. That canvas means fresh blood in front of and behind the cameras. It means new stories to tell and different ways to tell them. Here's hoping for a long and prosperous future in the superhero film genre.
A little cold water by Marvel director James Gunn. Still room for a shakeup though.