All good things come to an end. While the DCEU struggles to find its identity, and with Fox exploring the potential of R-rated superhero movies, Marvel have consistently been churning out solid movies for almost a decade now — but as major faces move on, the #MCU as we know it won't exist before long.
The movies we've been referring to as "Phase 3" — Captain America and Avengers movies, with a few solo adventures in between — come to an end with the untitled Avengers: Infinity War sequel (out 2019), and the slate for "Phase 4" (2020 and beyond), if you want to call it that, is almost a complete mystery right now.
But one thing's clear — "Phase 4" should be about diversifying the kind of hero Marvel has to offer. I don't mean ticking boxes in terms of gender or race — I'm talking about taking the audience on adventures into different worlds. We've seen the beginnings of that with Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians exploring space, and the "magic" of Doctor Strange, but there's potential for #Marvel to take more risks in future.
Let's take a look at a few upcoming movies Marvel fans can probably expect, or at least hope, to see in "Phase 4" of the MCU.
1. 'Black Widow' (2020)
A movie which puts Natasha Romanoff front and centre should have happened already, but it's starting to look vaguely mythical at this point. Wonder Woman looks likely to be a big hit for DC this year, so even the lame "men aren't interested in female heroes!" shtick is no longer a passable excuse for reducing the red-headed Soviet defector and undeniable badass to a supporting role in Captain America movies.
The irony is that, far more than when she first started making a case for herself in The Avengers, 2017 is actually the perfect moment for a solo Black Widow movie — we're living in a time where Russia, the world's most skilled hackers, repeatedly interfere with democracy in the US and on a global scale. As a Russian who's now in bed with the Americans, Natasha is the perfect heroine to embody that growing sense of distrust and confusion. It would be a super-relevant spy story and, in the hands of the Russos, could finally elevate Black Widow to where she deserves to be.
2. Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange Sequels (2020-2022)
For Captain America and Iron Man, the end is near. Between them, the MCU's two MVPs have absolutely dominated this universe since 2010. What "Phase 4" needs is a new group of heroes who can run the show solo and come together as a team, and these three are the likeliest candidates — Stephen Strange has all the arrogance of Tony Stark, T'Challa represents justice, like Cap (and an escape from the tedium of New York City), and Captain Marvel's skillset leaves Black Widow in the dust.
If they're our new trinity, expect all to get a sequel in "Phase 4." The big question for Marvel is whether audiences care enough about the new generation to make any of those movies a billion-dollar smash — which brings us neatly to...
3. 'The New Avengers' (2021)
People love superhero teams, and The Avengers is still the highest-grossing comic book movie of all time. Marvel will have switch the DNA of the team around, but the Avengers — let's call them the New Avengers, 'cos it sounds sexy — are here to stay.
The line-up might look something like this: Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange and Black Panther, supported by The Wasp, Scarlet Witch and Bucky Barnes, and watched over by Nick Fury. Alternatively, remove the men, add in Black Widow, and you have a killer all-girl team mirroring the Gotham City Sirens in the dark dimension known as DC.
To keep the concept fresh, the New Avengers could specialize in hopping between alternate dimensions to fend off threats on other Earths, which would open up the opportunity to visit a place which looks like our Earth, but in which Captain America is a raging supervillain (or, say, a HYDRA agent?) and Thanos is the US President.
4. 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3' (2020)
Already confirmed to be directed by James Gunn, Guardians Vol. 3 is happening, and if Vol. 2 is as good as the early response suggests, the third in the trilogy will have to take us to some pretty wild places to go out with a bang. It's also supposedly the final movie featuring the current line-up of Guardians.
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5. 'Moon Knight'
When it comes to big-name heroes from Marvel Comics still to be seen in the MCU, names like Blade, Ghost Rider and Nova are constantly mentioned.
But Moon Knight, the millionaire vigilante with multiple personalities/aliases, could be the more imaginative choice. He's kind of dark and brooding, and has some seriously cool tech, all of which adds to the popular image of Moon Knight as Marvel's Batman.
A Moon Knight movie probably wouldn't work as a bright, PG-13 affair, but if the MCU wanted to try a dual approach of family-friendly movies (Captain Marvel, The New Avengers etc.) and darker material (Blade, Moon Knight), it could be inspired.
Bonus: A Mystery Villain
The shadow of Thanos the Mad Titan has loomed large over Marvel "Phase 3," but in future they could go even further in developing a mystery villain who has a hand in every villainous scheme in every MCU movie over a period of two or three years, leading to a huge reveal at the end of "Phase 4," in which we discover that the architect of everybody's pain was, in fact, Pepper Potts.
Just kidding. But the idea of a puppetmaster working in the shadows, manipulating both heroes and villains from behind a mask, is the kind of thing that could keep the MCU fresh even when superhero movie fatigue kicks in.
Which movies would you kill to see Marvel make in "Phase 4," which heroes should be retired, and who's in your dream New Avengers line-up?