BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Avengers: Infinity War is biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. The film throws the heroes of all the previous movies (except Ant-Man) into a slugfest with Thanos. Not only do we see Thanos goes one on one with The Hulk, the Avengers line up alongside the entire army of Wakanda and Spider-Man, Iron-Man and Doctor Strange hang out with the Guardians of the Galaxy but we actually feel for their fight. To recap: We’ve seen The Avengers come together in Phase 1 of the MCU. Then the universe expanded with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Ant-Man in Phase 2. The Avengers finally came to blows with each other at the beginning of Phase 3 with Captain America: Civil War (2016). Staring down the end of the MCU as we currently know it, the Marvel superheroes must work through their issues to fight the biggest threat yet. In short, Infinity War is an epic comic book fans have been waiting for since they first walked into a comic book shops. But where does Marvel go from here? Can the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continue?
The obvious answer is yes. The franchise is simply too big of a cash cow for Disney to mothball in the name of closure. We also know there are a few more films left in Phase 3 of the MCU. Ant-Man and The Wasp is coming in July 2018 and may explain why the Paul Rudd’s title character was absent from the film. The film takes place before Infinity War so there is still a chance Ant-Man shows up in the still-unnamed sequel to Infinity War. And it finally brings founding Avenger (at least in the comics) Wasp into the MCU, played by Evangeline Lilly.
Captain Marvel (March 2019) is going to have an even bigger impact on the MCU. The film takes place during the ‘90s and will see Air Force pilot Carol Danvers’ (Brie Larson) transformation into the hero Captain Marvel. She will need all the superpowers she can get to deal deal with the intergalactic war between the blue-skinned Kree , the military minded alien empire last seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Skrulls, an empire of green skin aliens who can shapeshift into other life forms. Nick Fury called Captain Marvel at the very, very end of Infinity Wars. Her super strength, flight, and energy projection will reinforce the Avenger’s depleted roster. And her red and blue body glove superhero outfit will look stunning among the over Avengers.
I assume that Infinity War’s sequel will end with either Thanos’s defeat or his surrender. Most likely Captain Marvel and Vision (who is connected to one of the Infinity Stones Thanos uses for power) will work together to end the mad titan’s reign. You should expect someone to use the Infinity Gauntlet, the oversized glove with all 5 Infinity Stones that Thanos donned in Infinity War, to undo what Thanos has done. The rest of the Avengers (and assorted heroes) who survived Infinity War will be on damage control. The Hulk is also likely to get more screen time. The jade giant spent most of the Infinity War stuck inside Bruce Banner. I will be stunned if this is not paid off in an epic transformation that saves the day and continues Bruce’s and Hulk’s character developments. Chris Evans has also said he will no longer play Captain America after the Avengers: Infinity War sequel. A heroic sacrifice that passes the mantle off to either Bucky or Falcon (two characters who held the mantle in the comics) could be a fitting end to Phase 3.
But what about Phase 4? The only confirmed films for Phase 4 are a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) on July 5th, 2019 and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 coming in 2020.. Recent box office juggernaut Black Panther also has a sequel in the works but no official release date has been announced. The plots of these films are hard to guess. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 might deal with the aforementioned Skrulls from Captain Marvel. These shapeshifting aliens are all over Marvel comics. They use their preternatural morphing abilities to infiltrate other planet’s political structures. In fact, it is possible they are the next Thanos-sized threat. Secret Invasion was a comic storyline where the Skrulls replaced dozens of Earth’s superheroes and a few key political figures. When the Skrull empire then invaded they already had agents in place and access to world governments. Thanos is a straightforward villain. He shows up and you fight him. But the Skrulls will not be as simple as to fight. Any Avenger we cheer for on screen could reveal themselves to be a Skrull.
Another possibility for the next villain the entire MCU has to face is the Red Skull. While the crimson Nazi supervillain was defeated by Captain America during WWII in Captain America: The First Avenger he showed up in Infinity World. Whoever takes up the mantle of Captain America may have to lead whoever is on The Avengers against Steve Roger’s greatest villain.
There is also another possibility for Phase 4. Disney is attempting to buy 21st Century Fox. To make short a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, this will give Disney (and therefore Marvel) the movie rights to the X-Men and Fantastic 4 characters Fox currently owns. The MCU might finally be able to use the word “mutant” that Fox owns. And there are billions of storylines Marvel can use. The experiment that gave Wolverine his metal skeleton is an extension of Project Rebirth that made Steve Rogers a superhero. This can easily be made into a Captain America film exploring the seedier sides of the US Government’s attempts to make superheroes.The wedding of X-Men Storm and Black Panther could bring the X-Men into the center of the MCU. A Doctor Strange sequel could pit the character against Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom in the trials for Earth’s new sorcerer supreme. And there is just the coolness factor of imagining The Hulk fighting side by side with Wolverine or Colossus.
If the Disney/Fox deal is approved by the U.S. Government the MCU will get a lot more crowded. Marvel Studios President and producer Kevin Feige will have to figure out how to make it all fit. Adding all these new characters who were never mentioned before might be a problem. Audience members might be unwilling to suspend their disbelief that Wolverine fought in World War II but was never mentioned during the Captain America films. But the Infinity Gauntlet is an easy solution. This Macguffin contains all 5 Infinity Stones. It has the power to rewind time, rewrite reality, and turn whoever wields it into God. Comic books have a long tradition of using power items that can alter reality to bring in new characters to explain why things suddenly changed. And the Infinity War sequel, scheduled for release on May 3rd 2019, will be the perfect chance to use it.