Marvel has become the most successful brand in the film industry since Iron Man hit big in 2008. In eight years they've had thirteen films added to the expanding universe.
Phase Three of the #MarvelCinematicUniverse ends in 2019 so fans can't help but speculate which characters will be introduced and where the MCU will go after everything culminates in Avengers: Infinity War (and then the untitled Avengers sequel) which will tie up the Infinity Stone saga we've been watching since 2011.
While many sequels seem obvious, there are still many unknowns going into Phase 4. Here's my list of hopeful films we could see in Phase 4 and how they'd be unique.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 seems like an obvious sequel, as it's been one of Marvel's biggest successes, but with the addition of the Guardians helping out the Avengers in #AvengersInfinityWar anything could happen for a third installment. Perhaps Star Lord decides to take a leave of absence and stay on Earth, and it's also possible one or two characters could still die before the end of Phase 3.
My hope with a third installment in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is that we would get a new team and new leader to shake things up. Rocket and Groot are integral to the series so we'll assume they'd stay, but could Gamora or even Yondu take the lead? Could we see them struggle with who gets to be leader in Star-Lord's absence? Star-Lord would also make an awesome solo film, and I'd love to see Drax leave to find his daughter (who is surely alive by the way). Just think of the deadpan joke possibilities!
That leaves us with Nebula and newcomer Mantis who will debut in #GuardiansOfTheGalaxyVol2 next summer. With Nebula's and Thanos' history it seems likely she could switch sides or even die in Infinity War. There are also several characters who could join the Guardians in Phase 4 and it would change up the entire dynamic of the ensemble.
2. Black Widow
Recently Scarlett Johansson gave an update on the long anticipated Black Widow solo film:
"I would like for it to happen under the right circumstances. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to mine that story line. She’s got a really rich origins story. There’s a lot of places you can go — you can bring it back to Russia. You could explore the Widow program. There’s all kinds of stuff that you could do with it. You could really uncover the identity of who this person is, where she comes from and where she’s part of."
A centering on our favorite Russian spy would be pretty amazing. Fans love the character, Johansson loves the character, and after Civil War we're all asking: What happened to Black Widow after leaving Iron Man's team? It seems unlikely she's in Wakanda, so where is she?
Johansson has been portraying the character longer than Chris Evans has been Captain America, and the truth is she's paid much more than he is. Since Johansson is the second-highest paid actor in the #MCU after Robert Downey Jr, it becomes more difficult and unlikely for Marvel to greenlight a solo film and re-negotiate her contract. However, Kevin Feige himself has spoken recently about the studio's serious interest and commitment to a Black Widow standalone film, and we could always use more badass women in the cinema:
Anything is possible.
3. New Avengers
Fans don't know how Phase 3 will end, and we don't know which Avengers will be left standing when they defeat Thanos. With the potential death and/or disappearance of several key players (and contracts ending) and the team dynamic already shifting, we'll probably have an entirely different team heading into Phase 4.
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Could we see a female leader with Captain Marvel? It's very possible, she's led the team several times in the comics. There are dozens of other characters that could easily become Avengers as the series moves forward. Ant-Man, Wasp, Vision and the Scarlet Witch could easily remain as part of the team. Some of the Guardians could come over and stay on Earth, and if the Fantastic Four are brought in the Thing is a possibility. My ideal New Avengers team would be: Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Vision, Black Widow, Ant-Man, Wasp, and, of course, Luke Cage. It's a large team, but it needs to be a pretty epic movie to follow Avengers: Infinity War.
What would a new Marvel phase be without introducing the film universe to a few new characters? Nova has been a huge part of several comic story lines and it's time he got a big screen version!
There are so many possibilities as to how this character can come into play, but in the comics, originally, he was the last member of the Nova Corps and he came to Earth. The Nova Corps has already been seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, but in the comics their planet has been long destroyed. It's very likely we'll see this play out in Avengers: Infinity War as Xandar is hiding one of the precious Infinity Stones Thanos will need to combine the Gauntlet.
If Thanos destroys the planet and Nova becomes the only survivor it could even be a teaser at the end of the film as he joins the Avengers for the second Infinity War installment. There is a lot of potential for a story that focuses on the immense survivor's guilt his character would carry after watching his people die and planet destroyed.
5. Vision And Scarlet Witch
There's a comic tradition of pairing together characters for temporary series called team-ups With the wonderful chemistry of these two in Captain America: Civil War, and Vision swooping in to rescue Wanda before the city exploded at the end of Age of Ultron, it's clear that Marvel is setting up their comic book romance.
In the comics, Scarlet Witch and Vision were married in 1975 and become one of the longest-running comic book couples in history. A team-up movie with these two would be amazing, in a similar fashion to 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp.
This fan would love to see Vision and the Witch together romantically, and this film would especially be great to start with the entire Avengers cast at the wedding of these two, and the rest of the film could take place with Wanda and Vision attempting to have a romantic vacation. In comic tradition honeymoons for superheroes never work out, they always end up rescuing a foreign country, or finding a secret stash of villains. This would be quite fun to see on the big screen with these two wonderful characters!
Another newcomer that fans have been hoping to see is She-Hulk. In the comics she has played a huge role in many Avengers stories, but she has yet to appear on screen. Originally Jennifer Walters was a big shot lawyer, but after a car accident and an emergency blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner, she became She Hulk. She's much different than her cousin because she can control her transformation, and keeps her head on straight when she does Hulk-out.
She Hulk would be a great character to add for a solo film, or a duo film with her cousin the Hulk. Unfortunately Universal Pictures owns the film rights to any solo Hulk films (which is why Hulk keeps appearing everywhere but his own films), it's unclear if this would include a She Hulk film, but it's very likely. Either way fans are hoping to see her appear soon!
7. Captain America 4
After Avengers and Iron Man, Captain America's trilogy has been a huge money maker for Marvel. Even though most fans assume that Captain America, Iron Man or both will sacrifice themselves before Phase 3 is over it's likely that the Captain America series will continue on, at least in the name. It's common in the comics for characters to take up the mantle and name of dead heroes, and this would be awesome to translate to film.
In the comics both Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson have had turns as Captain America and either one would be an awesome fit to the character on the big screen. My personal hope would be that Bucky or even Black Widow become the new Captain America moving forward, and we see a different and darker side as they try to stay true to Steve Rogers' beliefs and values inside his costume and identity.
With Bucky making the attempt, and trying to make up for all the wrong he's done, a Captain America film starring Bucky as Cap could be one of the most emotional the MCU could give us. Plus if we throw in Black Widow into this film with Bucky we could finally see the defining romance fans have loved from the comics!
8. The Illuminati
One of the most influential teams in the Marvel comic universe is The Illuminati, a secret organization made up of Namor, the King of Atlantis, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Charles Xavier of the X-Men, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans. These six men from different groups came together on occasion to share information and to influence events in the Marvel universe behind the scenes. Other members such as Black Panther, Beast of the X-Men and Captain America were occasionally added in other's absences.
The original six came together after the Kree-Skrull War and each took an Infinity Stone to hide and protect. During the Secret Invasion storyline where the shape-shifting Skrull aliens had replaced several key heroes and politicians, the Illuminati found out early on but didn't trust each other to act on the information. Fans want to see the Skrull Invasion play out on screen! With the possibility that Mister Fantastic and the Fantastic Four film rights could be going back to Marvel at some point, we could see them join the MCU. And there are other characters that could take the place of Professor X. Regardless of a few character rights, the core team would be amazing as an addition to the MCU film family.