Now that rabid Marvel fans have finally gotten a few tantalizing looks at the forthcoming third Avengers film Infinity War, we can start looking ahead to what will happen after Avengers 4. After all, the only thing more fun than actually watching a Marvel movie is hotly debating Marvel Cinematic Universe fan theories with like-minded nerds online - which we unashamedly do time after time.
Marvel has long teased Avengers 4 will conclude Phase 3 of the MCU (which was kicked off by Captain America: Civil War). According to the evil mastermind behind Marvel films, Kevin Feige (the president of Marvel Studios), Phase 4 will be the start of something new entirely. But what the heck does that even mean? Will Thanos destroy the entire universe? Will we suddenly care about Hawkeye? Will Avengers 4 ticket sales empty the US treasury? The questions are endless.
The internet is littered with speculation about how the next phase of Marvel films will fit into the univerese's admittedly wonky timeline, so let's dig through some of the better Marvel Phase 4 theories below and see if we can outsmart Feige and his minions.
For years, Hawkeye has been something of a joke among Marvel aficionados. His "super power" is being able to shoot arrows, like, really well, but he's on a team that features literal gods. The movies have made various attempts to portray him as a leader or upgrade his arrows to explode, but generally speaking, the name "Hawkeye" isn't likely to strike fear into the hearts of any serious Marvel supervillains.
That's why it would make perfect sense to do what the comics do and kill Hawkeye. Not forever, of course, but just long enough that Scarlet Witch can resurrect him as Ronin - a martial arts expert and one of the Marvel comics' greatest fighters. There have already been a few leaked set photos that appear to depict Hawkeye in a very "Ronin-esque" outfit. The beginning of Phase 4 sounds like the perfect time to take a boring character and turn him into something awesome.
Even if Chris Evans's Captain America does end up dying like a lot of these theories assume, that doesn't mean Captain America will disappear. In the comics, multiple characters have taken up the mantle when the "real" Captain wasn't available. That said, it sort of feels like the MCU has been preparing us for a switch for years.
Bucky, AKA the Winter Soldier, has already "become" Captain America three times in the movies. In Captain America: The First Avenger, Bucky picks up Captain America's dropped shield and starts mowing down Nazis just like the Cap would have. In Winter Soldier, he picks up and uses the shield again, and in Civil War, Bucky and Cap swap the shield back and forth almost like they're sharing.
Given the high amount of visual clues, this theory almost feels like a given. Captain America is arguably one of the MCU's most popular characters, and they'll likely do anything to keep his movies coming.
Although they've never been depicted onscreen, most fans are already aware the aliens known as the Skrull will make an appearance in the forthcoming Captain Marvel film. This naturally opens up the possibility of them appearing in any films afterwards, and boy, that's a pretty big deal.
In the comics, there's an entire arc referred to as the "Secret Invasion" whereby shape-shifting Skrull - who can morph to appear like anybody - invade Earth and masquerade as several of the planets greatest heroes and villains. Once Thanos is dealt with, the MCU will need a new, overarching event to propel the movies foward, and an invasion by a bunch of body-snatching aliens sounds like a perfect next step for the franchise. Is that where Marvel intends to go next, or is it just "fun" like Feige has said?
Nick Fury Finally Catches Up With Red Skull
There was a time not too long ago when Nick Fury felt like the most important character in the entire MCU. Now he obviously can't fly or shoot laser beams (or even have very good depth perception), but he's the reason the Avengers exist and the reason those heroes are working together to keep Earth safe. But then there was that little thing where S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be a front for Hydra, and Fury's been sort of absent from most of the films since then. So what's he been doing?
Well, according to Mr. Fury himself, he's hunting down Red Skull, who is still very much alive. During a March 2017 interview, Samuel L. Jackson let slip that while, "You didn’t see [Fury] in Civil War... I’m still out there trying to figure out what the Skull is going to do..." He gets cut off before he can reveal anything else, but Jackson's comments would help explain why Fury has been off the radar for so long. Fury catching up with The First Avenger's villain could make for an exciting part of Phase 4. Could it maybe even be in a standalone film?