Ever since Marvel Studios opted to shoot Avengers 3 and 4 back-to-back, there’s been plenty of talk about these films as one giant conclusion to the MCU we know so far. For one, the decision to shoot both movies back-to-back ensures this may be the one and only time this giant cast of MCU regulars can be assembled—navigating the busy schedules of all these famous actors is something of a nightmare, but squeezing it into roughly a 12-month production period for two movies is much easier than asking them all to come back at an undetermined time down the road. Moreover, while Avengers 3 is called Avengers: Infinity War, the title of Avengers 4 is being held back because it’s “a spoiler.”
All of this has seemed to suggest that we’re going to see some character deaths and/or exits at the end of this whole thing, which really does mean the end of the MCU as we know it. And indeed that’s confirmed in a sprawling (and must-read) profile in Vanity Fair about the 10-year anniversary of Marvel Studios:
“After Avengers 4, an ambitious multi-franchise crossover movie slated for release in 2019, at least some of the original characters who sit at the center of the billion-dollar Avengers team will be hanging up their capes and shields.”
This partially has to do with the fact that contracts are expiring on major actors like Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Evans. But it also has to do with the fact that some of these folks have been doing this for 10 years, and it’s time to hand the storytelling over to fresh and new characters.
Indeed, Feige says they already have another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from what came before, with Disney CEO Bob Iger echoing this point:
“We’re looking for worlds that are completely separate—geographically or in time—from the worlds that we’ve already visited.”
It is, obviously, unclear which characters we’ll be saying goodbye to at the end of Avengers 4, but Johannson seems to suggest she may or may not be on the outs:
“I feel a lot of joy for the next generation,” Johansson said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling, but a positive one.”
Feige reiterates that the conclusive nature of Avengers 4 is in keeping with Marvel Studios’ M.O. of shaking things up and offering the unexpected:
Avengers 4, he said, will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale. There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.”
It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see who picks up the mantle after the OG MCU folks are gone—can Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange fill RDJ’s shoes? Is Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther the MCU’s secret weapon? We’ll find out in due time, but first up is Part One of this thrilling conclusion—Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters on May 4, 2018.