Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe has been going strong for almost twelve years now. Producing about two films a year, totaling twenty-three installments in there consistently growing saga. And only last month, the last installment of Phase three, or the ‘Infinity Saga’ was released. Spider-Man: Far from Home looks to wrap up the last twelve years of the MCU, the events following Avengers Endgame. And most importantly Tony Stark’s death and how Peter Parker could take on the role of Iron Man. Though, it also looks to set up the next phase; phase four, and how this could build up the next saga of films leading to the next Universe threatening villain. But since the seemingly most important threat to the MCU is now gone (from this current timeline, again), will interest dwindle after Far From Home, or will it expand alongside the opening up of several multiverses?
As we know, so far there have been three phases in the MCU, all leading up to Thanos’ snap in Avengers Infinity War. This creates the first hurdle that the Franchise needs to overcome; they need to reinvigorate interest in a new threat — even more dangerous than the mighty Thanos. And convince audiences in the process.
The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
The next phases have a lot of potentials. As Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury said in the Far from Home trailer, “the snap tore a hole in our dimension”, leading to the possibility of many new villain’s – even multiple Thanos’. There are also thousands of other characters that could travel through the multiverses like a young Steve Rogers. (Is anyone else thought about putting Steve in Hulks ‘Time Machine’ from Endgame?). There’s even the possibility of some X-Men entries into the MCU (which we’ll get onto later)…
It’s also important to note now there are no Infinity Stones in the timeline that we follow. It’s possible that hordes of evil could now threaten the galaxy. There are certainly many characters, threats, and storylines to deal with to make phase four as sufficient the earlier phases.
What Marvel has Confirmed:
With each phase lasting on average three years (phase one, 2008–2012, phase two, 2013–2015 and phase three, 2016 to 2019), it’s likely the next Marvel Phase, phase four, will last from 2020 to 2023. Marvel Studios has also come out saying that they have planned the MCU up to 2023. Phase five is even planned out, so we can at least expect another 16 films in the next eight years.
Marvel’s Phase Four: The Introduction:
As of Comic-Con 2019, Marvel has officially announced five-phase four films. A Black Widow prequel is in the works, as well as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Even a fourth Thor film titled ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is guaranteed. Some new franchises are also being launched with ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’, and ‘The Eternals’. That’s quite a lineup, and that’s only from 2020 to 2021. Phase Three took its course from 2016 to 2019, so expect plenty more from Phase Four. It’s been confirmed that there’s also Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man sequels releasing in Phase Four. This is alongside Blade and maybe even another Fantastic Four reboot. That’s a lot of potential right there.
But in terms of potential villains and new storylines to keep fans invigorated. Marvel Studios will be hard-pressed to run out. Since 1939 there have been estimated somewhere over 30,000 comics, creating thousands of stories involving many thousands of characters. This will likely fuel the MCU until its end, which is relatively distant considering Endgame grossed over $2.7 billion. Unsurprisingly, this is more than any other Disney film or even franchise has got its hand into (besides Avatar, which Endgame recently overtook at the box office). With this, we can be sure that Disney will pump billions more into the Franchise over the next decade.
Besides the movie industry, the MCU will also expand into TV series, like the upcoming Loki series, Falcon and Bucky series, as well as a ‘Wandavision‘ series, featuring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. Hopefully, more to the movie standard, than the current Marvel series on Netflix (sorry Daredevil).
Marvel’s Potential Problems:
Though, the fact that the seemingly massive threat of Thanos is now over, many MCU fans may lose interest. Or even become ‘Marveled-Out’. Though, with so many highly anticipated sequels, prequels and new characters entering the Universe, it’s unlikely fans will be bored anytime soon.
Marvel also hasn’t really made any ‘bad’ movies. With all of their films ticking the boxes for quality, story, and visuals (mostly), they’ve managed to keep fans happy, which is particularly important as the Star Wars Franchise shows. Much like Han Solo: A Star Wars Story showed in the aftermath of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one film can ruin a franchise, which led to the very poor grossing of the Han Solo origin story, changing Disney’s stance on Star Wars and its potential (which hopefully Episode Nine will fix).
So let’s hope all the new Marvel films stay within the quality limit. And don’t upset too many fans with inaccuracies or a ridiculous storyline. Thankfully, this will be more difficult, with literal tonnes of comic material to prevent this. Unless that is if a director decides to make up their own story, without good enough to the rest of the franchise whatsoever. (I’m looking at you, Rian Johnson).
Phase Four Theory
Overall, from a story perspective, they’ll use phase four similarly to phases one and two. They’ll explore a new threat, this being the hole in the multiverse and introducing new characters alongside this, with the foreshadowing of some impending doom.
Marvel’s Phase Five: More Introduction and More Understanding:
With Disney recently acquiring Fox, Marvel Studios inherited the rights to the X-Men and The Fantastic Four. Down to the fact that the MCU had been planned out to 2023 before the deal between Fox and Disney was struck, we won’t see any Fox characters in phase four. But phase five, on the other hand, could tell a whole different story, with likely the introduction of several familiar X-Men characters and villains, like Doctor Doom and the Wolverine. Though, what will be strange is seeing several iconic characters being played by different actors. I can’t see the Wolverine as anyone else but Hugh Jackman, and it’s likely the only surviving actor from Fox will (luckily) be Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, which I’m sure will make an entry into the MCU alongside other heroes like Captain Marvel, which will be very interesting to see.
Guardians of the Galaxy will very likely receive its next installment, as now with a new addition, Thor, abusing the much enjoyed God of Thunder and Star-lord dynamic. Annoyingly, James Gunn is currently working on Suicide Squad. Sadly that means no Guardians until the end of Phase five. But at least it’s going to happen.
But given they’ll be at least a three-year gap between Fox’s last X Men movie, Dark Phoenix, and phase five, hopefully, fans will acclimatize to the new takes on the X- Men and Fantastic Four Universes. This phase will probably last a similar length, from 2024 to 2027. This likely also ending Doctor Strange’s, Captain Marvel’s and Black Panther’s franchises as trilogies. So, phase five will be similar to phase two in many ways. With this interesting new mix of characters, this phase will likely create the ability to ensure a successful phase six.
Phase Five Theory
Continuing from phase four, five will introduce several new heroes from X-Men and The Fantastic Four, whilst also completing several character trilogies. Arriving from a different universe, each group will come into conflict with each other. They’ll briefly come together to defeat a multiverse threat to finish the phase but will remain in conflict as they go separate ways – much like the events up to Captain America: Civil War.
Marvel’s Phase Six: The Conflict, the Resolution, and the Finale:
Phase six so far is a mystery. It’s likely the X-Men, Fantastic Four and the Avengers will come into some sort of disagreement, entering into a conflict, like in Civil War. But then finally coming together to battle some sort of Thanos figure by the end of the phase. They may even then heal the hole in the multiverse created at the end of phase 3, by the snap, ending the crossover for these franchises. But your guess is as good as mine. Though it’s interesting to speculate what could happen, it is likely all we predict will somehow be wrong. The depressing thing is that we won’t find out for at least another eleven years, and by that time fans will be a lot older.
This creates two questions. Will old fans still enjoy there traditional bi-annual dose of Marvel? And will the Marvel hype transfer to the next generation? It will need to to ensure people continue to watch the MCU.
I, like so many others, have grown up with the start of the franchise, since 2008’s Iron Man. But those who’ll be our age by the later phases will likely not have grown up with it. Therefore not seeing its development and characters thrive as we have. So maybe, for lack of interest, these later phases won’t be able to be reached. Thus echoing a similar story to the reception of the new Star Wars films. Let’s hope so for the sake of seeing this epic possibility of a 6th phase, the fan base continues and grows with the next generation.
Phase Six Theory
After their disagreement of phase five, a Civil War type scenario will break out, with the Avengers fighting the X-Men, with The Fantastic Four split up. This will be solved later on into the phase as they have to unite to fight another, but much bigger, multiverse threatening villain, causing their reunion. The last film of the sixth phase will be about healing the hole in the multiverse. Here the X-Men and Fantastic Four will return to their rightful dimensions, just like before the snap.
Beyond the Multiverse:
And for a seventh phase? Well, I have no idea. But it’s likely all the heroes that we watch today, sadly, won’t be there. Another generation of heroes will have taken their place, and the universe may be hard to recognize compared to today. If the franchise can keep making as much money as it does, inevitably there will many more films. But if popularity dwindles after phase three, or the next generation of fans don’t carry the interest we do, then simply, it will not.
If the MCU does dwindle in popularity, they’ll grow into TV series as they’re cheaper to produce. After this, the Marvel Cinematic Universe could decline into nothing but a memory. Though with most Franchises nowadays, like Star Wars, the MCU will probably be rebooted in a few decades. Unless it’s somewhere in its 11th phase due to continual success.
Overall, it’s a good bet that the MCU will reach its fifth and hopefully sixth phases, with the fourth already in the works. But beyond 2030, who knows what will happen. Now that there’s a multiverse of madness, there’s only one clear thing. There won’t be any Hulk sequels.