Now that Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame have concluded the saga of the infinity stones, it's time to start theorizing 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.
Serving as a sort of epilogue to the 22 films that preceded it, Spider-Man: Far From Home officially concluded 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?
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.
Most fans understood the alien Skrulls would make an appearance in 2019's Captain Marvel. What they probably weren't expecting was how sympathetically they were depicted. Rather than the villains of the story - as they're often shown to be in the comics - the Skrulls ended up being the secret heart of the film. But is Marvel setting us up for a major fake out?
In the comics, there's an entire arc referred to as the "Secret Invasion" whereby shape-shifting Skrulls - who can morph to appear like anybody - invade Earth and masquerade as several of the planet's greatest heroes and villains. Now that Thanos has been 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?
By the time the dust settled in Avengers: Endgame, the Earth had lost some pretty major heroes - including Iron Man, Black Widow, and the Steve Rogers Captain America. Phase 4 will undoubtedly be fronted by some fresh blood, including never-before-seen heroes and new incarnations of old ones. In the meantime, who's going to lead the new Avengers?
Some believe that responsibility will fall on the powerful shoulders of Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, AKA Carol Danvers. Danvers is widely considered one of the most powerful superheroes in the entire Marvel canon, and in the MCU she seems to be at least as strong as Thor and the Hulk. Who better to take the reins of Earth's Mightiest Heroes?
Considering Marvel and superhero movies in general are becoming more diverse, it actually makes a lot of sense to put a woman in charge of the world's most powerful (and lucrative) team of superheroes.
For years, Hawkeye was 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.
Update: While Clint Barton did become Ronin in Avengers: Endgame, no trip to the afterlife was required. He's expected to pass the torch to the next generation in his Disney+ Hawkeye series.
Fortunately, Chris Evans's Captain America did not bite the dust in Avengers: Endgame - as many assumed he would. Unfortunately for Evans's fans, Cap decided to return to the past to be with his one true love, Peggy Carter, and subsequently aged out of the superhero business. But 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.
Many believed Bucky, AKA the Winter Soldier, would take on the mantle of Captain America. In a sense, he already "became" 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.
Update: Cap did retire at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but he passed his shield on to Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon. Bucky seemed pretty cool with the decision, too.