Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame effectively wraps up the 22-film MCU originally kicked off by Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008. But it also sets up the future of the franchise, with various references to upcoming Phase 4 movies.
After more than a decade of storytelling, Marvel Studios stuck the landing with the Joe and Anthony Russo-directed and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely-written project. Picking up after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame saw the Earth's Mightiest Heroes at their lowest. But with a brand new chance to take down Thanos (Josh Brolin) and undo the decimation of half of life in the universe, they got back together for a nearly impossible mission.
With the original six Avengers at the forefront, fans were treated to seeing the team all together on the big screen one last time. Avengers: Endgame wrapped up character arcs for several of the universe's cornerstone players like Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in ways that leave their long-time fans satisfied.
Amidst all this, Avengers: Endgame also laid the foundation for the next chapter of the MCU. The movie is peppered with various references and information drops that would be significant in forthcoming films.
Black Widow: Her Father Ivan
Black Widow is the big early death in Endgame that further energized the team to accomplish their goal of undoing Thanos' snap. After a scuffle with Hawkeye in Vormir about which one of them should be sacrificed in order to acquire the Soul Stone, Nat bested Clint and fell off from the same cliff that Thanos' threw Gamora off in Avengers: Infinity War. But just because Widow's gone doesn't mean that she's no longer going to be in the MCU. The character gets her overdue standalone film, Black Widow directed by Cate Shortland which will clearly be a prequel now that we know Natasha is dead.
Avengers: Endgame spent a significant amount of time exploring how difficult it's for Nat to come to terms with their Avengers: Infinity War loss. She remained vigilant about the idea that there might be a way to restore the old universal status quo and was vocal about the fact that she'd never had a family until she became part of the Avengers, further piquing the interest about her old life. But arguably the biggest clue regarding what we can expect on her upcoming movie was the reveal of his father's name: Ivan, a piece of information dropped by Red Skull (Ross Marquand), the guardian of the Soul Stone on Vormir. Nat belatedly admitted to Clint that even she didn't know her father's name.
In the comics, Natasha was raised by her surrogate father, Ivan Petrovich Bezukhov. He was also the one who made her join the Soviet's Black Widow Ops program. It's possible that Marvel Studios will take some liberties in introducing their own version of the character since Nat didn't seem to have met Ivan and it seems like he is her biological father. Regardless, we can expect this part of Widow's life explored in her upcoming solo film.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Thor Joins & The Gamora Mission
After the majority of them was wiped out in Infinity War, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back together with the resurrection of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Although Gamora (Zoe Saldana) wasn't brought back to life, the existence of the 2014 version of herself in the present MCU timeline opens up a narrative possibility for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Considering the time setting she's from, Gamora no longer remembers Quill and the rest of the cosmic gang. Her whereabouts are also currently unknown in the aftermath of Endgame's final battle. As the gang all convene in the Benatar, we see Quill staring at Gamora's image on the vessel's holographic screen, implying that their next mission is to find her and bring her back.
While we all wait for the return of Gamora, the Guardians adds another member in their roster - Thor. In a short but pivotal exchange with Valkyrie (Tessa Thomspon) looking over the new Asgard, Odinson officially relegated ruling duties to her, explaining that it's time for him to fully embrace his real self. Thor never wanted to be a king the way Loki (Tom Hiddleston) did, he was more interested in his own adventures. Considering his chemistry with the gang in Infinity War, this poses a very interesting future for the Guardians.
Doctor Strange 2: Stephen Strange Was Right
The only character who saw the outcomes of the Thanos debacle, Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) had a hand in orchestrating how the series of events panned out in Endgame. During the Avengers' revisitation of the Battle of New York to snatch the Space and Mind Stone, Bruce Banner also sought out the Time Stone from the Sanctum Sanctorum. At this point, Strange still wasn't involved in the mystic arts, so Smart Hulk was greeted by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) instead. She was initially hesitant to hand over the Time Stone despite Bruce's explanation of the circumstances. But after she learned that Strange willingly gave it to Thanos, the Ancient One changed her mind knowing that Doctor Strange is tipped to become the smartest Sorcerer Supreme, even surpassing her. Because of this, she decided to trust his judgment and gave up the stone.
The First Doctor Strange's post-credits scene teased Baron Mordo on the loose ridding the world of any magic users he things are abusing their power, so it seems logical that Doctor Strange 2 might follow that story. After Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, a more intimate conflict for the Sorcerer Supreme would be a good change of pace compared to the all-out magical display he put on in the team-up films. Now that he's officially the Sorcerer Supreme, he has a lot more responsibilities than his last solo outing.
Black Panther 2: Is Namor Coming?
With the status quo now restored in the universe, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) eventually reclaims the Wakandan throne. Endgame barely had anything to do with the advanced-tech nation, but it provided us some information about the status of the nation during the five-year time gap in the movie. During Nat's holo-conference call with the Avengers' remaining allies, Okoye (Danai Gurira) provided an update on how things are going in the country. According to the Wakandan general, there was an earthquake under the sea which they handled "by not handling it." The fact that this is a major underwater disturbance has many naturally assuming it alludes to the existence of Namor the Submariner in the MCU and teases his possible introduction in Black Panther 2.
This isn't the first time that Namor was teased in the franchise, in fact, there was already a reference to Atlantis as early as Iron Man 2 - the same time they also set up the introduction of Wakanda. It's one of the couple remaining Easter eggs that have yet to pan out in the MCU, potentially because of its complicated character rights situation - but seeing how the franchise thrived in the last couple of years, Universal may be more open to collaborate. Based on how Okoye brushed it all off, it sounds like they're familiar with these undersea quakes, which coincides with the idea that Namor and his people have long been in the MCU.
Aside from setting up MCU's future on the big screen, Endgame also provides narrative openings for the planned Marvel Studios' series for Disney+. Loki grabbing the Tesseract and warping to an unknown place is a great way to explain his upcoming adventures as an "unlikely influencer on historical events." Vision didn't come back in the film, but Wanda did, and she hinted at the end that she's looking for ways to resurrect him. With several other ways to make this happen given Vision's structural make-up, this could be the premise of their own series, WandaVision.
Finally, the most obvious series set-up is the official passing of Captain America's shield from Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). And while his future team-up show with Bucky remains to be titled Falcon & Winter Soldier (complete with an official logo), there's still a chance that Marvel Studios will change this last minute to reflect the updated superhero personas of both characters: Bucky (Sebastian Stan) as the White Wolf and Sam as the new Captain America.
What's great about Avengers: Endgame is that despite it setting up the future of the MCU, that didn't lose sight of its main goal: to wrap up the franchise's 22-film arc. But with the ending comes a new beginning with the universe moving forward with new projects.
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