With the Marvel Cinematic Universe preparing to enter its Third Phase with the imminently arriving Captain America: Civil War, it's not all that surprising that attention is being to turn to what's next. Now, for many, that anticipation is focused upon the form of the next movie to arrive, November's Doctor Strange, or on the various upcoming sequels, origin stories and Avengers: Infinity Wars that make up the rest of Phase 3. For some of us, though, our eager, geekery-fueled minds have already turned to what comes after that, when Phase 3 becomes Phase 4...
After all, as Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige recently teased:
"I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase 3, as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different chapter in what will some day be a complete first saga made up of three phases."
Which would seem to suggest that what we're set to see in Marvel's Phase 4 will be very different from what we've seen thus far, and are going to see over the next four years of Phase 3. The big question that raises, then?
Just How Different Is Marvel's Phase 4 Going To Be?
Well, first up...
We Could Well See a Very Different Avengers Lineup
After all, with much of the original cast set to fulfill their contractual obligations in Avengers: Infinity War, and with Thor and Captain America's solo trilogies coming to a close over the next two years, there's a pretty solid chance that any future Avengers movies will feature a strikingly different lineup to the one we're used to.
The likes of Ant-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel all seem shoe ins - with Spider-Man's long-term membership less certain but entirely plausible - but where Marvel will opt to go beyond that very much remains to be seen. Will Scarlet Witch and The Vision stick it out, for instance?
There Might Not Even Be An Avengers Lineup in Phase 4
After all, there's always the possibility that Marvel will opt to give the Avengers franchise a break following Infinity War Pt 2, and give another superhero team the chance to shine (perhaps at the very end of Phase 4).
With Doctor Strange, Hulk, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Captain America and even Drax having been members of The Defenders over the years, it's entirely possible that some version of that team (whose original name has already been taken by Netflix's heroes) could arise in place of The Avengers.
The Ultimates, perhaps?
We Could Also See Some Brand New Genres Hit the MCU
With many of the original Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes potentially retired - or dead - it's worth noting that we could see some very different variant genres arrive on our screens. After all, while Iron Man, Thor and Cap are largely tied to their own milieux, the likes of Ant-Man, Captain Marvel and Black Panther could take things in some unusual new directions. A 'hard sci-fi' Captain Marvel movie, perhaps, accompanied by a New York-based noir Black Panther movie and a family comedy about Scott 'Ant-Man' Lang and his (now teenage) daughter Cassie getting into some entertaining scrapes?
Speaking of which...
We Could Finally See The Young Avengers
With Marvel's Young Avengers comic-books having long been among the most critically acclaimed and fan-beloved going, it's no surprise that there have been calls to see some variation of the team on the big screen in Phase 4.
What's more, with a younger, female (and ridiculously awesome) Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, Scott Lang's daughter Cassie and a whole lot of other Avengers analogs in the team - not to mention a teenage Loki in a more recent lineup - there's a whole lot of connectivity to the MCU built right in to the Young Avengers' DNA.
In fact, Phase 4 could well skew even further towards the teen market, seeing as...
We Could Also (Finally) See The Runaways
With an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan's magnificently snarky and teenage Runaways having reportedly been in some stage of development at Marvel Studios for close to a decade now, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see the group hit theaters in the early 2020s.
What's more, with the original comic-book story-line pretty much tailor-made for a big-screen adaptation - it's a twist-filled tale of a group of teenagers who discover that their parents are secretly super-villains - it could well prove to be one of the most endearing Marvel movies yet...and perfectly timed for a generation of kids raised on Marvel movies from birth to hit puberty.
We Could See Marvel Bet Big On The Inhumans
It would likely depend heavily on the success of their self-titled movie (whenever it arrives), but of all the upcoming Marvel projects, Inhumans seems the most likely to spark a Phase-spanning plot-line.
Could we perhaps even see the arrival of the 'Inhuman' likes of Kamala 'Ms. Marvel' Khan in the MCU - or members of the Young Avengers or Runaways folded into a bigger plot-line involving mysterious Terrigen mists transforming people into mutant-like 'Inhumans'?
It'd certainly be different. The big question now, though?