A few months back, I wrote about where the Marvel Cinematic Universe might go post-Avengers: Endgame. At that time, it was mostly conjecture based on a bunch of release dates being saved by Disney and Marvel for the next three years with no clarification about which movies might be released when.
At the time of this writing, other than a few casting notes and a few directorial attachments, there’s been no confirmation or denial about ANY of the dates currently being held by Disney for Marvel Studios movies. Presumably, this will either happen at Comic-Con or D23.
Now that almost everyone has seen Endgame, we can start figuring out what happens with all of the characters in the movie, but we have to consistently think about this on two different fronts: the first is how the characters were left at the end of Endgame and how their characters might be used in future storylines. More importantly, we need to remember that these are still movies starring actors, and as with everything in Hollywood, this involves a lot of number crunching and negotiations. Whenever there’s that much money involved, things get complicated. Obviously, anyone involved with Marvel at this point will except a lot more money than they might be willing to give, which also makes things difficult.
As of now, Black Widow has her own movie, The Eternals will be introduced in their own movie and the master of the martial arts, Shang-Chi will have his own movie, maybe even called Master of Kung Fu (but probably not?).
What’s interesting is that other than Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow movie, only Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, and the casts of Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther know they’ll have another movie in the future. Everyone else?
and yes, there is a HUGE ENORMOUS BIGGEST SPOILER WARNING EVER, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame yet.
If you have, then read on…
I am literally going to go character-by-character in convenient groupings…
MARVEL’S FUTURE TV STARS
Just as ABC took Clark Gregg’s S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson and moved him over to the series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers, they seem to be taking a similar tactic with some of the movie Avengers.
THE FALCON / Sam Wilson and WINTER SOLDIER / Bucky Barnes (Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan)
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s characters barely appeared in Endgame and not until the big battle with Thanos, though they each got some nice moments including one with Steve Rogers near the end. As you may already know, Marvel is busy developing a Disney+ series for the two of them, and that could take them into many other realms. More than likely, it’s going to be something on the smaller side ala Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., because it’s a TV show. (Translation: Smaller budget per episode.) This show is being written by Empire‘s Marcus Spellman.
More importantly, this show will give Marvel a chance to further develop these characters in ways they couldn’t in the bigger movies by the Russos where they were constantly competing against higher-profile characters and actors, such as Chris Evans‘ Captain America. This Disney+ series would be the perfect way to make the characters and characters popular enough to hold their own in future Avengers movies without the gamble of trying to create a movie with the scope fans might expect that they might be able to carry sans Evans.
Obviously, once Marvel figures out what to do with future Avengers movies, they will be back, likely with Mackie’s Sam Wilson wielding Cap’s shield, much like he did for a year or so in the comics. Who knows? Maybe Bucky will step up and want the shield creating more conflict, but right now, they just need to accept the new reality with Steve Rogers being too old to be Captain America.
SCARLET WITCH / Wanda Maximoff and VISION (Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany)
If you’ve ever been a fan of the Avengers comics, then you know the importance of these two characters since being introduced in 1964 and 1968 respectively. Wanda/Scarlet Witch started out as an X-Men foe – part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in X-Men #4 – but then brought over to the Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Vision was introduced in The Avengers a few years later and eventually, the two being romantically linked.
The thing is that these characters have such a rich history in the comics that has barely been touched upon in the movies since they’re competing against so many characters (Heck, they haven’t even gotten into the probability aspect of her powers). That’s why it’s good they’re being given their own Disney+ series called “WandaVision,” written and produced by one of Captain Marvel‘s writers, Jac Schaeffer, who is also the showrunner. The series will consist of six one-hour shows.
You may remember that the Vision was destroyed by Thanos in Infinity War, and there was absolutely nothing in Endgame to show that Vision had been rebuilt. In fact, there wasn’t even a mention of him once Scarlet Witch was “snapped” back, which is quite surprising. (But hey, Wanda’s brother died in Age of Ultron, and he hasn’t been mentioned since either.)
With Tony Stark dead, who possibly has the intellect to even rebuild the Vision without access to the Mind Stone? Olsen recently let slip that the announced WandaVision series for Disney+ will take place in the ‘50s (or be inspired by that era, at least), which could mean Wanda’s powers include time travel or maybe she ends up in the ‘50s while trying to save either the Vision or Pietro or both? (The fact that Age of Ultron wasn’t even cited or referred to in Endgame makes me think Aaron Taylor-Johnson won’t be back in the MCU anytime soon.)
HAWKEYE / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner)
Clint Barton was pretty much written out of the equation post-Age of Ultron before being brought back for the Berlin battle in Civil War. He then went back into retirement with his family, and it took the snap of Thanos’ fingers to put Barton back into the costume, this time as Ronin. Granted, the appearance of the Brian Bendis-created character in the Endgame trailer was a big tease for basically one action scene, but Barton/Renner played a huge role in that movie. Like the characters mentioned above, it’s not felt like Renner would be able to carry a Hawkeye movie, so they’re going to experiment with Renner in his own series spun-off from Endgame. This is probably the best way to keep developing his character for a potential return in a future Avengers movie, as well.
LOKI (Tom Hiddleston)
Presumably all the Asgardians killed by Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War are still dead… or are they? After all, Thanos was killed when he came to Earth BEFORE his encounters with the Guardians of the Galaxy in their first movie, so doesn’t that mean that his murders at the start of Infinity War never happened?
But that doesn’t matter when it comes to Loki, because as we saw in Endgame, the Avengers’ attempt to get the Tesseract (aka the Space Stone) from Loki backfired, as he managed to steal it back and escape, not to be recovered. That would basically start a splinter timeline where Loki could travel around in time and do whatever he wants… and that’s probably what he’s going to do in the planned Disney+ streaming service.
Listen, actor Tom Hiddleston has done his time, appearing in all three Thor movies and three of the Avengers movies, and if he was ever ready to move on, he’d be more than deserving. I think Hiddleston’s career has really gotten a boost from playing Loki, and he’s still well-loved as the character. While I don’t think we’ll ever see another Thor movie, I can’t imagine Loki will never not be a player in the MCU sometime down the road.
MORE ABOUT MARVEL AND DISNEY+
So far, there have been three very specific series announced to be on the streaming service sometime in the first two years after launch. It’s also been announced that these shows will be produced by Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige with bigger budgets than the shows on ABC, Netflix and other Disney affiliates like Freeform. Besides the fact that WandaVision may or may not “be set in the ‘50s,” we really don’t know much of anything about direction of these shows, how they will tie into previous or forthcoming movies or whether these shows will be a lot like the ABC shows i.e. they have their fans but never really took off on the level of the movies. That’s a big question mark for sure, but at least we know that six of the Avengers actors will have work. Maybe Marvel/Disney will take my suggestion below and do something with the Ant-Man cast as well. Either way, that’s presumably one or two years where these actors will be too busy to make another Avengers movie.
Moving on to the…
SPIDER-MAN / Peter Parker (Tom Holland)
This is both the easiest and hardest character to talk about because a.) We know that Holland’s Peter Parker will be starring in Spider-Man: Far from Home in two short months, but b.) It seems like Peter, Ned and presumably all of his high school classmates were snapped into non-existence by Thanos and then returned five years later. The Russos have really put Far from Home director Jon Watts and Sony in a spot, because now, they either have to explain what happened or at least make mention of it… or just make Far from Home a movie that takes place before Infinity War. Until we see that movie, we won’t know which way they went, but it seems like Holland and his castmates have a pretty strong career ahead making movies at Sony. This is especially true if some of the villains and anti-heroes like Venom and Jared Leto’s Morpheus are eventually pulled together into a movie with Spider-Man, which could very well happen.
BLACK PANTHER / T’challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Cast
The Russos have kindly left T’Challa, his younger sister Shuri and the rest of Wakanda in a place where they might be picking up the pieces from Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, as well as the events of Black Panther. Then again, that leaves a lot of room for Ryan Coogler, who presumably will be back for the inevitable sequel, to play around with some new villains and menaces to Wakanda and get away from the larger story that tied Black Panther into the rest of the MCU.
DOCTOR STRANGE (Benedict Cumberbatch) and WONG (Benedict Wong)
Also scheduled for a sequel, currently being written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, Doctor Strange’s world has also been left in a place where he’s been… somewhere… for five years. Doctor Strange is such a rich character with so many possibilities in terms of villains and other characters (like his other “sidekick” Clea!) Again, it wouldn’t be hard to just tell another standalone story with a couple mentions of the events of the last two Avengers movies, so I don’t really see any problems here.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Again, like the two examples above, the Russos have left the Guardians in the Galaxy in a great place for James Gunn to return for his third movie, probably even keeping with his plans to introduce Adam Warlock and the previous Guardians team that appeared in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 end scene. Older fans of the ‘70s Guardians (like me) will be thrilled to see the other team, and having Chris Hemsworth’s Thor on board as a member of the “Asgardians of the Galaxy” (a nod to the current Marvel Comics series) will just give Gunn more ammo for team in-fighting humor, as we’ve seen in the last two Avengers films. There’s still the question of where Gamora and Nebula might fit in, but we’ll get to them below.
These are the characters we know (or at least presume) will have futures either in sequels or television shows, so let’s talk about the characters who have essentially been left as “orphans”…
ANT-MAN / Scott Lang and THE WASP / Hope Van Dyne (Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly)
The MCU underdogs have been winning more fans over from appearing in movies like Captain America: Civil War and Endgame, although last year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp didn’t really make waves on the level of other Marvel Studios movies. It grossed $200 million domestically, around the same as Thor: The Dark World, but I think many hoped it would get a bump following after Infinity War and by introducing Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp. Nope.
The thing is that these characters would be PERFECT for a comedic action-adventure series on the Disney+ streaming service, and with Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne still alive at the end of Endgame, this show could theoretically include them, too. Oddly, Douglas is the only one who has regularly done television but then you bring in some of the supporting cast from the movies including Michael Peña and this could be a fun show that wouldn’t cost as much as making another movie. The thing is that the two Ant-Man movies are still two of Marvel’s lesser-grossing films so spending another $150 to 200 million on a third movie wouldn’t be particularly frugal. Developing the characters further in short six-to-eight episode series would be a great way to build the characters to take their place in a fifth, sixth or seventh Avengers movie.
WAR MACHINE / James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle)
Unlike some of the others above, Don Cheadle‘s Rhodey was actually was involved in the main storyline of Endgame, so he wasn’t as neglected, and he might be the one of the stronger characters (and actors) outside the original Avengers and those who have already had solo movies.
There have been rumors of Rhodey and War Machine getting their own Disney+ series but that has not been confirmed. A show like that might not be cost-effective due to the amount of CG required to make War Machine. The other thing is that Cheadle already has other television obligations, particularly his current Showtime series Bad Monday, which was just renewed for a second season. He could probably go off and work on that while Marvel decides what to do with him, but he also could be up for a contract renegotiation after appearing in six Marvel movies (seven if you include his Captain Marvel cameo).
I can almost guarantee we’ll see War Machine in future Avengers movies, but Cheadle probably wouldn’t turn down any opportunities to have Rhodey shine on his own either. (There was a small hint in Endgame that the Danvers/Rhodey romance from the comics might be carried over into the movies, so maybe we’ll see him in Captain Marvel 2?)
THE HULK / BRUCE BANNER (Mark Ruffalo)
Ever since Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner was introduced for Marvel’s The Avengers, people have been clamoring for a solo Hulk movie. There were so many rumors of them making a Planet Hulk movie that ended up being integrated into Thor: Ragnarok (which also borrowed liberally from the Marvel Contest of Champions story). Banner is in such an interesting place at the end of Endgame. He’s lost Natasha, who had played such an integral part of him keeping the Hulk at bay in Age of Ultron, and there wasn’t really much of a clue on what he might do next. I expect that Ruffalo will stay involved with the MCU after appearing in five movies, because it gives him time to make smaller and more personal films like Todd Haynes’ next feature. While it might be a long time before we get another solo Hulk movie, it wouldn’t really be an Avengers movie without the character.
VALKYRIE (Tessa Thompson)
After being so popular in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie was left out completely of Infinity War only to return with some great moments next to Captain Marvel in Endgame. I highly doubt we’ll see Valkyrie get her own movie or series anytime soon, but with her popularity, expert her to appear elsewhere, maybe in a second Captain Marvel movie? There was a great nod to the short-lived A-Force series in Endgame that teamed Valkyrie with some of the other powerful female Marvel characters, so maybe that would be another alternative to a fifth Avengers movie proper.
GAMORA (Zoe Saldana)
True, this founder of the Guardians of the Galaxy also presumably died in Infinity War, killed by Thanos to access the Soul Stone, but a previous Gamora from earlier in her timeline showed up on earth with Thanos and his throng. Presumably she blew away into dust with the rest of them, or did she? She certainly wasn’t around at the end of Endgame and apparently, the Guardians were still able to form without her. (Aren’t time paradoxes fun?) Honestly, this time travel and alternate dimension stuff can really give you a headache when you start thinking about it, especially in terms of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek or X-Men: Days of Future Pastand how they were used to rewrite and retcon franchise timelines. Either Gamora/Saldana will appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (maybe even in flashback) or she won’t.
NEBULA (Karen Gillan)
Nebula is also an interesting and weird case, because after appearing in the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, she was given a pretty huge role in both Infinity War and Endgame. That said, there ended up being two Nebula (Nebuli?) in the latter, and one of them, the one still working with Thanos, might have been wiped out by Iron Man’s snap. Does this mean that the other, considerably nicer Nebula is still out there, possibly able to rejoin the Guardians of the Galaxy in their third adventure? Only time and James Gunn’s script will tell…
CAPTAIN MARVEL / CAROL DANVERS (Brie Larson)
It’s equally unclear what’s going to happen to Captain Marvel at the end of Endgame, although with a $400 million introductory movie under her belt, Marvel will want to continue to share her adventures. A Captain Marvel sequel is inevitable, and we’ll just have to wait for Feige to announce it, let us know who will write and/or direct it and when it might come out. Story-wise, there’s lots of places where Carol can go in a second movie whether it’s one that follows the events of Endgame or fills in her adventures after leaving earth at the end of Captain Marvel. The world really is Marvel and Larson’s oyster, and I’m sure all parties will work as long and hard as necessary to figure out the best story before moving forward with a second movie, presumably continuing into the war between the Kree and Skrulls. If nothing else, Marvel will want to avoid the backlash that still surrounds Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, though the company and its creative team have gotten much better at figuring out what works for the MCU fans. Let’s be honest that there’s a lot of room for improvement with a Captain Marvel sequel regardless.
NICK FURY (Samuel L. Jackson), AGENT MARIA HILL (Cobie Smulders), S.H.I.E.L.D., etc
Although Fury and Hill were brought back from being snapped out of existence, it’s probably safe to assume that Samuel L. Jackson has done his time and fulfilled his contract with Marvel by appearing in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far from Home. If you don’t include his end credits bits in Iron Man and Infinity War, that would be Jackson’s 8th movie in a nine-movie contract… but if you include those appearances, he’s done. Sure, Jackson could re-up for a lot of money, but Jackson turned 70 last December and maybe he’s ready to retire at least from getting as involved in the action as he did in Captain Marvel. It will totally be Jackson call and Marvel’s willingness to meet his demands if he wants to fill the niche left open by Downey and Evans’ departure. (More on that below.)
And last but not least…
THE DEARLY DEPARTED (Of Sorts?)
The sub-title says it all, as three actors were left
BLACK WIDOW / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson)
This is where things get interesting because Natasha clearly died in Avengers: Endgame, but she also has a solo movie in production, so what will this movie be? Presumably, it will be more of an origin story that acts as a prequel to Natasha’s first appearance in Iron Man 2, because trying to do anything other than that would be dismissive of the impact her death had in Endgame. I have a feeling Johannson is ready to move onto other projects as well, so it’s nice to give her a solo movie, which should do very well, before she leaves the MCU.)
CAPTAIN AMERICA / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)
Steve Rogers was still alive at the end of Endgame, although he was very, very old. It’s been known for a long time that Evans has been ready to move onto other things after the end of the Infinity War/Endgame double feature. He already has a number of other movies lined up and has threatened to direct a movie or two himself. We can only wish him the best with these endeavors as he lets others fight over who gets to wield the shield for future Avengers movies.
IRON MAN / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)
If there’s anything more definitive than Tony Stark’s noble death in Endgame, then I can’t think of another. Robert Downey Jr. has been integral to the success of the MCU going all the way back to 2008’s Iron Man. To think that in 2001, Downey was on parole and in rehab for various incidents and almost uninsurable to be put into movies, but in 2019, he is easily one of the biggest movie stars on the planet thanks to his rumored $75 million payday for Endgame. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Downey received a third Oscar nomination for his role in the movies.
Besides appearing in all the Avengers movies and Captain America: Civil War, Downey even helped reinvigorate Sony’s Spider-Man franchise by appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming a couple years back. For many, Iron Man and Downey ARE the MCU, but Endgame and Infinity War have given others room to grow and take the lead with the Avengers. Next year, Downey will play Doctor Dolittle and maybe he’ll reunite with Guy Ritchie and Jude Law for another Sherlock Holmes movie. Downey is certainly in a place where he can finance and produce films by other filmmakers either to star in or not, and hopefully, he’ll use his power and money to do something like that.
WILL THERE EVER BE ANOTHER AVENGERS MOVIE MADE?
Sure… absolutely! Marvel and Disney would be crazy not to make more Avengers movies, but it clearly will be a very different movie from the first four, mainly because it will not focus on the original six Avengers of Iron Man, Cap, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Hulk. It will be a very different permutation with a different dynamic, but that will also be keeping with the Avengers comics where the line-up would change at the drop of a hat. Who knows? Maybe Feige is already eyeing the next filmmaker(s) to join the MCU in molding the future of the characters… or he’s taking a much-needed and well-deserved break.
As far as the Russo Brothers, they’ve already said that they’ve done what they hope to do within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They will be moving onto other things like producing television and other filmmakers like the upcoming 17 Bridges, starring Chadwick Boseman. Would it be crazy if they end up getting an Oscar nomination for their direction of Endgame when Ryan Coogler was snubbed last year for Black Panther? Stranger things have happened, and remember that Endgame is the conclusion of four well-received blockbuster MCU movies starting with Captain America: the Winter Soldier. Endgame is very much Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Return of the Game, not only in terms of popularity and making big bucks but also in its conclusion of a long-running story.
That’s probably all I’ll have to say about the MCU for a short while. Hopefully Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige will make some announcements at Comic-Con in July or D23 in August, because everyone is now chomping at the bit for what comes next.
Feel free to comment below whether you agree, disagree or just don’t care with my thoughts on the subject.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.