Avengers: Endgame was thought to signal the final appearances of the original MCU cast, but it appears Marvel's Phase 4 will handle those duties instead. Heading into San Diego Comic Con 2019, Marvel had a relatively clear slate, but the studio's panel revealed a host of new releases, comprising Phase 4 and beyond of the superhero movie universe. Prior to the release of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel strongly suggested that the movie would act as the final chapter for the original Avengers team and close the door on what has now been dubbed The Infinity Saga.
This prediction came true to a certain extent. The stories of Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow were all brought to emotional/touching/tragic (delete as appropriate) conclusions and, as promised, the original 2012 Avengers team was broken up. Avengers: Endgame truly felt like a closing chapter and this ethos was summed up in the absence of a traditional post-credits scene, leaving fans feeling incredibly silly for sitting through the entire reel of names.
Interestingly, Marvel's Phase 4 has a clear and heavy Phase 1 presence, with Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Chris Hemsworth all reprising their roles. Looking a little deeper, however, it appears that Phase 4 will finally lower the curtain on this trio's crime-fighting careers, and this time for good. This may be more beneficial than ending everyone's arcs in a single, albeit quite long, movie.
Black Widow is the most obvious final bow, since Natasha Romanoff was killed off in Avengers: Endgame. Realistically speaking, Marvel have jumped on the Black Widow movie idea three years too late, and while this deeper exploration into the character's past is very welcome, knowing her eventual fate somewhat dampens the excitement surrounding the film. Natasha's sacrifice also means that Black Widow is almost certain to be Johansson's final MCU appearance, finishing strong with a long-awaited solo venture.
Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye Disney Plus series was one of Marvel's more surprising reveals at SDCC 2019, with Renner being the latest of the franchise's big names to transition to the small screen. Far from being a continuation of the archer's adventures, however, Marvel were keen to stress that the Hawkeye series would heavily feature Kate Bishop, a character from the Marvel comics that takes up the Hawkeye mantle after Barton himself retires. Bishop's presence in the Hawkeye series strongly implies that the project will represent a passing of the torch, and conclude Renner's time as the butt of all Avengers jokes.
Thor: Love & Thunder marks Chris Hemsworth's fourth solo movie as the God of Thunder, with his series experiencing a rejuvenation under the watchful eye of Taika Waititi. Similarly to the Disney Plus Hawkeye show, Marvel have confirmed that Thor: Love & Thunder will feature Natalie Portman's Jane Foster taking on the guise of Mighty Thor. It's unknown whether Portman will take on the Thor mantle long-term, but her appearance certainly paves the way for another handover from one classic Avenger to an incoming replacement.
And then there's Hulk - a character who is still alive and active in the MCU, but has no confirmed appearances to speak of. Nobody (other than perhaps Kevin Feige) knows whether fans will see Hulk again after Avengers: Endgame, but if Ruffalo was to hand over his role to a different character, there are plenty of candidates from the Marvel comics to choose from.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021