Marvel studios have stated that they have movies planned all the way until 2028. This is an incredibly long period of time and will result in about 40 films in the franchise. The main question with this is a matter of public interest. Will people eventually get bored of superhero films? Especially if DC get their act together and Fox keeps making movies, there will be such a huge number of superhero films that eventually people will stop going to see them. Luckily, Marvel seem to know how to get around this, Winter Soldier was a political thriller whilst Guardians of the Galaxy was a Sci-Fi comedy. This diversity looks set to continue, especially if Marvel gives us films for Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Inhumans.
Why will it end?
Put simply, the Marvel Cinematic Universe must eventually end. Even if Marvel regain the rights to Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four or even X-Men, there just aren't enough ways to tell interesting and meaningful stories. Also, there is the fact that too many superhero films is a bad thing. Looking at franchises over a long period of time, eventually they overstay their welcome. Terminator, the original Planet of the Apes, these franchises saw huge success but drifted off, becoming less and less popular. Also, as Marvel introduces more characters, the universe could become too big to control. Even now people are asking why one of the five other Avengers didn't help Iron Man or Captain America, imagine trying to pull this off with 25 other superheroes around. I believe that if Marvel really tries hard to strive for originality then it can continue the franchise until 2028, but going any further would be very hard.
How will it end?
Marvel has no shortage of villains and storylines worthy of ending the cinematic universe. It seems likely that the end will come in Avengers 6 or 7 if Marvel's three year pattern continues. Marvel will have a choice to make, do they want to end Lord of the Rings style, with everybody safe and happy, or to completely destroy the planet like in These Final Hours.
Thanos: Thanos seems set to appear as the villain in [The Avengers 3](movie:738027). With the infinity gauntlet, Thanos gains incredible powers. In several alternate comic book storylines, Thanos has used this power to "delete" the universe. A return of Thanos could spell the end. Thanos has been known to restore the universe though, as he did in Marvel: The End.
Kang: Kang has one of the strangest stories of the Marvel Universe. He was born as Nathaniel Richards in the 30th century and is a descendent and/or father of Reed Richards. Kang discover time travel technology and has appeared in many different forms. He has been the Egyptian Pharaoh Rama-tut, the villain Immortus, or the young hero with an inevitable future Iron Lad. In the storyline The last Avengers Story, Kang, with the help of Ultron, kills the Avengers by Nuking Avengers Mansion.
Kang could answer a very important question: If villains have mastered interstellar travel, why don't they have really powerful bombs to use instead of an army?
Galactus: Currently sitting at Fox with the Fantastic Four, Galactus eats planets. If he succeeds, that is pretty much the end. Build up films could also have him wipe out Xandar or Hala, resulting in a universe with very few loose ends. A heroic sacrifice to kill him, even though it means the end of the world, could work on screen.
Post Apocalypse: People love a good post apocalyptic story, and Marvel Comics has no shortage of them. Wolverine and the Fantastic Four have their own stories but the Hulk and Punisher stories would be best suited for a dignified and thoughtful end.
Hulk: The End sees the gamma-powered monster the last survivor of a nuclear apocalypse, fighting off giant cockroaches. Eventually, after trying to reason with the beast, the consciousness of Bruce Banner leaves the Hulk. Hulk finds himself alone, cold.
In Punisher: The End, Frank Castle leaves the dying remains of an underground prison colony after a Nuclear War. He finds one of the survival bases in New York, populated entirely by the wealthy. There, it is revealed that all other bases have been destroyed due to outbreaks of insanity. The Punisher murders the group, realising that humanity has caused the earth enough problems, then steps outside into the Nuclear Wasteland, consumed by the fire and radiation.
This is all well and good, but what happens after the end of the franchise? What will Marvel do next? Ultimately it comes down to respect. It would be easy to simply reboot the franchise, start at the beginning, bring in Fantastic Four, Spider man and X-Men to form a new universe. However, I believe that this move makes the original franchise seem unimportant. If the franchise lasts until 2028, it will be the longest continuous franchise in movie history by a mile (Bond doesn't really count). This deserves a certain amount of respect, The franchise should be left, not immediately rebooted for the sake of it. End on a high, then leave. It's as simple as that. Then, once the world has moved on and the market returns (15-25 years), then think about either rebooting a universe, or making good solo films that aren't connected (Think about the way the Star Trek reboots have handled themselves), but it should not be rushed.
I firmly believe that, once the Marvel Cinematic Universe ends, it should be left alone as the greatest movie franchise of all time. A graceful, humble farewell that is left with power and impact, not instantly cheapened by a reboot. The Marvel Cinematic Universe needs to be respected once it ends, it will have earned it.
What do you think? When/how/why should the franchise end? Comment below with your opinions.