Avengers 4 will end the MCU as you know it - and in more ways than you expect. Thanos' dramatic finger-snap wiped out half of all life in the Universe in this summer's Avengers: Infinity War, including several fan-favorite heroes. Attention has quickly turned to 2019's imminent sequel, the currently-untitled Avengers 4 to see if - or more specifically, how - the remaining Avengers can save the day and bring back the dust piles formerly known as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord et al.
What is certain is that the current Phase 3 is coming to an end in 2019, with prequel Captain Marvel and culmination Avengers 4 will reshuffle the deck and change the Marvel Cinematic Universe (hopefully) for good and (definitely) for always. Thanos has been a Big Bad building behind the scenes ever since the first Avengers movie in 2012, and Avengers 4 - seven years later - will finally see his defeat and/or demise.
Actors who have been around the MCU since its inception - like the "trinity" of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth - are nearing the end of their contracts, and it's clear the Infinity War arc will resolve many plot threads. Whatever comes next is going to be a clean slate story-wise, and in some cases, character-wise. The story that's been unfolding since the start of Phase 1 with Iron Man back in 2008 will come to a close, and audiences can rest assured that Avengers 4 will end the MCU as they know it. The real question is, what is that going to look like?
- This Page: How Avengers 4 Actually Ends An MCU Era
- Page 2: How Phase 4 Will Change The MCU
MCU Phases 1-3 Were Defined By The Infinity Stones
Once Marvel producer-extraordinaire Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel Studios production team realized they had a plot device that could beget an entire series of MacGuffins with the Tesseract, the plan was set for the first three Phases of the MCU. The Tesseract, an all-powerful object capable of opening wormholes (first appearing in Captain America: The First Avenger), could be the first of six Infinity Stones (the Tesseract being the Space Stone), based on the Infinity Gems from the comic books.
As per the source material, Thanos the Mad Titan was revealed as the cosmic being in search of these all-powerful stones, desiring to collect them all and release their power to decimate half of all life in the Universe. The next to appear was the Reality Stone, in the form of the blood-like Aether from Thor: The Dark World. The remaining four were all finally revealed in the sequence of films leading to - and including - Avengers: Infinity War.
With Infinity War having culminated in Thanos' successful retrieval and use of the Infinity Stones, and Avengers 4 likely to reverse Thanos' victory with his presumed defeat, the aftermath - and all MCU films that would follow afterward - will surely be without the pre-creation ingots, drawing a new line.
There's definitely a slew of potential new, all-powerful MacGuffin going forward. While some classic objects like the Mandarin's rings have been tossed aside, the future induction of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men to the MCU also earmark the Ultimate Nullifier and the M'Kraan Crystal for potential future inclusion too, as Galactus-destroying weaponry and "nexus of all realities" gems respectively. Of course, Marvel could decide to play against type and excise MacGuffins from their future plans altogether.
Regardless, Phase 4 will bring an entirely new modus operandi to the heroes of the MCU, unbound by a strict adherence to a line-wide focus on the Infinity Stones.
Several Big Avengers Are Unlikely to Return
After almost eleven years and 20 movies (Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 will make 22) into the MCU, many veteran actors of the franchise will see their contracts up for expiry. Robert Downey Jr.'s contract has been on operating on a rolling basis since Captain America: Civil War, Chris Hemsworth has spoken about Avengers 4 being his last contracted film, and Chris Evans is the same. Although Evans has stated his willingness to extend his Marvel contract, Hemsworth is apparently done with Thor unless "another great script comes along". That is by no means any guarantee of either to return, so the state of the MCU post-Avengers 4 looks like it might be without some of its mainstays.
This does leave the door open for existing supporting actors (who all have time left on their contracts) to take on various Marvel mantles, using the source material as inspiration; Rhodey could step into the red and gold armor of Iron Man, Bucky or Falcon could become Captain America, and even Natalie Portman's Jane Foster could return to become Thor (although Valkyrie could be a suitable alternative given Portman seems done with the series).
If some of the longtime anchors fail to return, it further creates an opportunity for entirely new characters to appear. We could even see Riri Williams make her on-screen debut as Ironheart. Whatever the case may be, the faces fans will see in the landscape of the MCU post-Avengers 4 are currently a mystery.