Avengers 4 is the grand culmination of the MCU - will it see the end of Marvel's patented "Phase" structure? The mega-franchise is currently deep in Phase 3, but its future Phase 4 and beyond remains unclear.
There are six more films in the current run planned: Thor: Ragnarok, then in 2018 Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, with Brie Larson's Captain Marvel and an untitled Avengers film to follow in 2019. After that, there's Spider-Man: Homecoming 2 and a currently un-dated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but what state the MCU will be in after the epic team-up of Avengers 4 is unclear. According to Kevin Feige, it'll definitely be different.
Screen Rant recently caught up with the Marvel super-producer at the Ragnarok junket and discussed where the long-term goal of the franchise lied:
Screen Rant: You’ve set out these kinds of patterns. These phases. Do you feel restricted by the phases, or going forward into phase 4, is it even still phase 4, or is it just going to start being a lot different now? Because this felt very much like a new generation of a Thor film kind of.
Kevin Feige: Good!
Screen Rant: Like a passing of the torch it seemed like to be.
Kevin Feige: Well, I think that's good and I think that’s true, even going back to Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, I think it was a tonal shift. I think certainly with what Joe and Anthony Russo did with Civil War, the Captain America trilogy we always try to do that, and I think really where the focus of the whole studio for the next two years is finishing phase 3. Completing a really unprecedented 22 movie inter-connected epic, and that is what we’re thinking about. We have ideas. We have things for what happens next, but it will really be a conclusion to 22 films.
For Ragnarok, it's clear that the film is a big change from Thor's previous solo outings, expanding the scope with a different tone, as well as helping set the stage for the rest of Phase 3.
As for what comes next, Feige doesn't say explicitly but reaffirms that the Infinity War event is a real culmination. But what does the Phase 4 shift mean? It's safe to assume that new characters like Captain Marvel and Black Panther will take on a more prominent role as MCU stalwarts like Captain America and Iron Man will cede the spotlight to them. Perhaps Marvel's Phase 4 (and beyond) will even feature new iterations of the heroes, like Bucky Barnes or Sam Wilson as Captain America or Riri Williams as Ironheart.
But, could it see a bigger structural change? After what will then be eleven years of set-up has been paid off, Marvel and Feige may want to try something different and focus on telling less operatic, overhanging stories. If so, the Phase notion would definitely feel defunct.
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