The Marvel Cinematic Universe will continue after the finale of Avengers 4, but it will be doing so without some core heroes. Vanity Fair recently released a massive cover story about the Marvel Cinematic Universe that spotlights Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and the unprecedented success he has achieved masterminding an interconnected 22 film cycle (with many more to come) that has grossed over $13 billion at the global box office. The centerpiece of this are the two upcoming Avengers movies, Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled Avengers 4, which bring about the conclusion of the MCU thus far and the beginning of the next cycle of films yet unannounced.
It's a fact of life that all good things must eventually come to an end. With the impending end of the MCU as fans have come to know it since Jon Favreau's Iron Man became its first blockbuster in 2008, the VF article also points to which of the beloved actors who have embodied Marvel's greatest superheroes would be departing the franchise after Avengers 4 in 2019:
After Avengers 4...at least some of the original characters who sit at the center of the billion-dollar Avengers team will be hanging up their capes and shields. That’s partially because the Marvel contracts with the actors who play them—Evans (Captain America), Ruffalo (Hulk), Downey (Iron Man), Johansson (Black Widow), Hemsworth (Thor), and Renner (Hawkeye)—are coming to an end.
While VF's statement seems definitive, there has certainly been leeway in the number of appearances some of the actors have made based on announced contracts, with renegotiations - particularly in recent years - common. Nonetheless, it seems clear that Avengers 4 will mark an ending for the journeys of several of the MCU's major heroes - with possibly fatal consequences. The six names VF noted are the actors who portrayed the core team in the first Avengers movie and have been the backbone of the franchise since the beginning. The most likely scenario is that Avengers 4 will provide the swansong of the inaugural Avengers, with the actors either leaving the MCU altogether or ceding the role of headlining MCU films to the next generation.
Here are the actors who are slated to make their final appearance in the MCU (barring cameos) in Avengers: Infinity War and/or Avengers 4.
THE ORIGINAL AVENGERS' LAST STAND
Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) were specifically name-dropped by VF to depart the MCU after Avengers 4. The upcoming two Avengers films will thus likely finish what Captain America: Civil War started and end the possibility of the original six Avengers ever teaming up again - possibly with a few leaving the mortal coil entirely.
The megastar who started it all, Robert Downey Jr. originally signed on for three Iron Man films and The Avengers. Downey has extended his contract 3 times in the years since, making himself available for Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Avengers 3 and 4. While it's hard to imagine the MCU without Tony Stark as its centerpiece, fans have long speculated that Iron Man's days are numbered and the MCU will have to get along without him.
Downey, however, has remained amenable to continuing his extremely lucrative MCU career. Even if Tony Stark were to physically die, he could certainly continue appearing as a virtual reality version of himself, as in the current Iron Man comics. Avengers 4 may indeed spell the end of Iron Man and Downey's historic run atop the MCU, but Tony Stark's legacy could likely carry on in some fashion.
Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth each signed six-picture deals that are set to conclude with Avengers 4. Steve Rogers has been everything from a national hero to a 'war criminal', as some in the MCU now see him, and the time may come when the original Captain America puts down his shield for good (though Evans has indicated he would be open to extending his contract).
Hemsworth, on the other hand, is coming off the Thor franchise's most well-received success with Thor: Ragnarok. It'd be a real shame if the God of Thunder is really done with the MCU and won't follow up Ragnarok's success, although that may be too late to lament. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) has also started to run out the clock, although Loki's ultimate fate is likely tied to whatever happens with Thor.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019