Avengers 4 will see some of the biggest Marvel characters leave the MCU. The culmination of the first three "Phases" set out by Marvel Studios and their President Kevin Feige, starting with the release of Iron Man in 2008, the still-untitled Avengers movie is set to bring over ten years' worth of integrated storytelling to a close.
Whatever form the combined heroes' victory over Thanos takes - and it is assumed they will defeat him, if not use his assistance in fighting some new, even more menacing villain - it's safe to believe that many characters will not be returning afterward. Whether it be by death, retirement or a simple lack of necessity, the MCU will be looking streamline itself going into Phase 4 before it becomes too large and unwieldy to control. Kevin Feige has gone on record to say that he believes Marvel will be sticking to releasing only three films a year, and with so many characters to work with, not everyone can continue to be in the spotlight.
The MCU actors who have helped build this monumental cinematic undertaking, step by step, are also people who should be free to do other things with their lives, regardless of how much they enjoy working with Marvel. It's easy to understand that an actor wouldn't want to be playing one role for the rest of their lives (or even another few years), so fans will sadly be saying goodbye to a fair few of them. Avengers 4 represents the best way to do so, potentially being the most epic and finale-esque capstone to the entire MCU so far.
Iron Man (& Pepper Potts)
Robert Downey Jr's contract is once again up with the release of Avengers 4, and considering that appearances in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming were carried out on a rolling basis, if Tony Stark himself chooses to return afterward, it'll be on his terms. Currently, that seems rather unlikely, with every piece of foreshadowing suggest Avengers 4 will see the man-in-a-can nobly give his life for his teammates and the entire world. There can be no more a fitting end for the man who started it all.
With Tony going, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) likely won't be far behind. The only thing potentially keeping her around is adopting the Rescue armor from the comic books and being the replacement Iron Man. However, there's a lot of other contenders for that role, including Rhodey and even Shuri.
One Iron Man-related character set to return in the future is Happy Hogan, with Jon Favreau spotted on the set of Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Captain America (& Peggy Carter)
Chris Evans hasn't been shy about his intentions to leave the MCU with Avengers 4. He first teased Steve Rogers' departure in 2014, something he recently reiterated with the end of Avengers 4 reshoots. Whether by death, time travel or simple retirement, it looks like Captain America is leaving the Avengers. As sad as his departure will be - Evans has been a lynchpin of the MCU for a long time, and has made fans of Captain America out of people who never saw the appeal of the character - it leaves the opportunity for Bucky or Falcon to wield the shield (the good money is on Sam Wilson, not Bucky Barnes).
With Captain America going, so too surely does Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Although the character sadly passed away in Captain America: Civil War, she's been a constant presence in various time periods of the MCU, with rumors that Peggy will return once more in Avengers 4 rife. If Captain America dies or retires in the MCU, the desire to bring Peggy back for anything reduces dramatically. In fact, to have Peggy appear after Steve's removal from the MCU would lack a resonant emotional punch that seeing her again would require. It'll most likely be goodbye, Miss Carter, unless by some miracle her ABC show is resurrected.
He may not be a hero, but you can certainly bet on Thanos not making it out of Avengers 4 too. He's been the big bad of the MCU teased since The Avengers in 2012, and the two-part Infinity War arc is his big story. And, with Avengers: Infinity War ending on the Mad Titan's victory, that means the next movie surely has to be his defeat.
How is something even Avengers 4 leaks haven't teased, although we can make some strong assumptions about his fate. While in the comics, Thanos has normally lived past his atrocities, in one famous case becoming a farmer, that feels like too light a handling for the decade-long story of the MCU. Even if he does somehow survive the events of Avengers 4, Marvel's going to want to move past Josh Brolin's purple maniac, so Thanos is sure to bid the universe farewell.
- 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