By now, you’ve seen Avengers: Endgame, you’ve wiped the tears from your eyes, and you're wondering what's next for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where can things go now that the Avengers are no longer leading the charge against a giant purple alien or sentient AI?
There’s been plenty of foreshadowing about the MCU's future already. While that has inevitably led to speculation among fans about the heroes, villains, and stories that may await them, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has been tight-lipped about what's in store. Endgame may bring a decade of storytelling to a close, but it also offers significant hints about Marvel's forthcoming Phase 4 - you just have to know where to look.
Infinity War gave MCU fans a taste of what happens when long-solidified teams get rearranged. One of the most fun examples is Thor's time with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The affectionate but awkward chemistry between Thor and the Guardians is immediately clear - as is his tangible, if gentle, disrespect for Peter Quill.
Chris Hemsworth has admitted he wasn't feeling the whole Thor thing until Ragnarok. But putting old characters in new, uncomfortable positions is exactly the kind of thing comic book fans love. There's no official word on whether or not Thor fits into the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but a late scene in Endgame - in which Thor and Star-Lord pick up right where they left off, politely dueling for alpha-male status - suggests a high likelihood we'll be seeing more of this crossover soon enough.
According to Kevin Feige, Spider-Man: Far From Home will be the final film of Phase 3, but audiences are likely to see a whole lot more of their favorite wall-crawler in the coming years. As one of the most memorable victims of Infinity War's Snap, Peter Parker obviously doesn't appear in most of Endgame. But when he is finally brought back to life, he's all over the climactic fight.
Peter makes fast friends with Carol Danvers, he has a hilarious and touching reunion with Tony Stark, and there's an amazing low-angle hero shot of Spidey that announces him as the bright new beacon of Phase 4. No one from the MCU has commented on the direction they expect things to take in the future, but this is Marvel's most popular superhero we're talking about. With Iron Man and Cap out of the picture (and high school coming to a close soon enough), Spidey seems primed to be Marvel's new leading hero.
Before any time travel takes place, there's a lot of debate about how the science actually functions - with the living Avengers mostly just rattling off cinematic reference points to explain how they assume it works (or doesn't work). Do they need to play by Back to the Future rules? Or are they in more of a Terminator scenario? It turns out the timeline is much more complicated than most of them can comprehend.
When Bruce Banner goes to the Sanctum Sanctorum to ask Doctor Strange for the Time Stone, he runs into the Ancient One. She calmly explains that he's five years too early for the Doctor, who at that moment in time is still a medical doctor, not a metaphysical one. She goes on to argue that removing the Infinity Stones from their proper place in time can render the timeline unstable. We know Steve Rogers eventually returns the Stones to pretty much the exact moments they were taken, but the Ancient One's warnings could be a hint that, after all the time-travel shenanigans of Endgame, serious repercussions remain.
In many ways, Phase 4 of the MCU will closely parallel Phase 1. With new characters to introduce and the looming threat of Thanos long gone, it makes sense to take a back-to-basics storytelling approach. During Endgame's final fight, audiences get to see just how many heroes populate the MCU - and how many have yet to have their stories told.
It is two very distinct things and I hope they’ll feel very distinct. But there is a similar mentality going into it, which is, "How can we continue to tell stories with some of the characters that audiences already know and love in a unique way, in a different way, in a surprising way, of which we have a lot of plans and ideas and work already going into it?"