Avengers: Infinity War has taken the world by storm and has become the biggest comic book superhero film of all time. The nineteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is generating continued talk and speculation about where the MCU will go next. Let’s continue the discussion, at least until other summer ’18 flicks like Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story soak up the attention. As before, major spoilers will be thrown around, so for anyone who has not seen Avengers: Infinity War yet, here is your last chance to avoid being spoiled.
How the Hulk Got His Groove Back, Etc.
Before the original Avengers make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers 4, a few of them have arcs that need to be concluded. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Hulk was soundly beaten by Thanos early on. The beatdown was so bad that he refused to appear when Bruce Banner tried transforming into him. The Hulk never reappeared, leaving his story line unfinished. Clearly, this will be addressed in the next film where he will finally emerge in an epic rage as Black Widow is threatened or even killed. That by the way will be the extent of her development until her rumored solo film. Anyway, just like Thor had his crowd-cheering moment in Avengers: infinity War when he showed up in Wakanda with his new hammer to kick some ass, so too, will the Hulk put a serious pounding on Thanos and his minions. It’s something to look forward to!
Meanwhile, Captain America’s story was underdeveloped in the third film. He never reconciled with Iron Man or regained his true shield. He did have a showdown with Thanos that surprised the Mad Titan as Cap held off due to his undying willpower. Captain America has had an underlying tragic aura as he is a man who cannot quite fit in. While the natural progression will be to have the old soldier lay down his life, hopefully he will be allowed to have another ending. Just a side note, it would be totally awesome if there is a scene where he not only wields his true shield but Thor’s hammer because, damn it, he is worthy!
Another Avenger that will get his day in the sun is Hawkeye who was noticeably absent in Avengers: Infinity War. Behind-the-scenes photos do confirm that not only will he be in the fourth Avengers film but might take on his Ronin identity. Possibly this will be because his family were victims of Thanos’ dusting.
Being that the next film will likely concentrate on the Hulk and Captain America (and Iron Man), do not expect Thor to get much attention. He spent most of his time in Avengers: Infinity War getting his mojo back by constructing Stormbreaker and took his shot with Thanos. Close, but no cigar. Don’t worry, the God of Thunder will have his applause-generating moments, but the most that may happen is that he will be involved in finding what’s left of his people. This would be a great way to send him off without killing him and brings up good ideas for future Thor adventures.
Will they all be killed off aping that scene from Guardians of the Galaxy where Peter Quill and company held the Power Stone? Instead all six original Avengers wield an Infinity Stone to defeat Thanos, but the effort takes their lives. Let’s hope it does not come to that.
Here Comes The New Guard
With the original Avengers probably fighting their last battle next year, who will take their place? Black Panther and Spider-Man are contenders but T’Challa may be too busy running Wakanda to be a full-time Avenger. He is popular, though, and he could fill the moneybags role possibly vacated by Iron Man. Spider-Man is still too young and would be better suited to his urban solo adventures. Ant-Man and the Wasp could pick up the mantle and their story could continue in new Avengers films. Captain Marvel will provide the muscle and a cosmic connection, since supposedly the next slate of MCU films will be more cosmic. Other candidates include Doctor Strange, the Winter Soldier and maybe even the heroes featured on the MCU TV shows. Maybe a couple of the Guardians of the Galaxy could even join the Avengers.
One thing is certain is that when he is resurrected Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, has much explaining to do! His plan for defeating Thanos was better than Iron Man’s, which did suck, and it almost worked. If only he hadn’t let his emotions get the better of him! The leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy has taken on a lot of Internet flack for supposedly ruining the heroes’ best chance to remove the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos in Avengers: infinity War. Frankly, some people are just too harsh on poor Quill. He just learned his love Gamora had been killed by Thanos, how else would he act? If anything, his actions where he revived Thanos from his induced trance by attacking him is quite true to his nature. Peter Quill is quite impulsive and emotional; he reacted the same way when he learned his father, Ego, killed his mother. We cheered him on then. Besides, this could have been part of the scenario that Dr. Strange foresaw as the only one where they defeat Thanos. Otherwise, he could have easily stopped Quill when he started attacking Thanos. The next film may allow the Guardians as much screen time as with Avengers: Infinity War, if so then expect Quill to feel guilty about his actions and find a way to make up for it. If they have ample screen time, the Guardians may be the cosmic key to defeating Thanos.
If not the Guardians then the cosmic angle for taking out the Mad Titan may fall to Nebula. She was one of the only two surviving Guardians and has excellent reasons for hating Thanos. It would be easy to think that her story will mirror the one shown in the comic book mini-series The Infinity Gauntlet. In that famous event, Nebula was just as tortured by her father as in the MCU films, but she was able to steal the Infinity Gauntlet and unintentionally undid his actions to the universe. However, the MCU adaptations of their famous comic book counterparts are very loose and are mainly inspired by them.
No matter how the story ends, the future of the MCU lies with the cosmic realm. Starting next year with Captain Marvel, next in 2020 we will get a final film for the Guardians with the current roster, and now Marvel Studios is developing the Eternals. Of course, an excellent gateway to the cosmic side of the MCU would be the Fantastic Four, but they may not make their MCU appearance until much later.
MCU TV MIA, Mutants, the Fab Four & the Future
These galactic heroes would be the basis for fantastic films but it’s too bad that the more grounded heroes seen on TV won’t have their chance to appear on film. That is most unlikely because of the turf war going on between Feige and Ike Perlmutter, the head of Marvel Entertainment. Perlmutter once ran Marvel Studios until Feige had it spun off and made independent, but the Marvel Entertainment boss still runs the TV division. While some programs like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. acknowledge the films, for other shows like Daredevil or Iron Fist it seems as if they exist in their own universe. What is worse is that the excuse for the exclusion always has to do with time, scheduling conflicts or the films would be too crowded. This last point is valid with Avenger: Infinity War since it was quite stuffed with characters but a couple of Easter eggs would have worked. It’s unfortunate that such crossovers are not happening, it would have made the entire MCU on film and TV more cohesive and immersive
It may be just as well because of plans to introduce new characters like the Eternals, Ms. Marvel and more to the MCU. Of course, the mutant juggernauts and the Fab Four are waiting for the deal between Disney and Fox to finalize so they can finally appear in the MCU. A wrench was thrown into the Disney buyout plans of Fox when Comcast made a bid for Fox. In the end, Disney will probably end up buying Fox but even if this does not happen, many analysts have concluded that the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four would revert to Disney. If not Disney could always try to buy the rights.
In any event, do not expect either property to pop up in the MCU soon. Many of us are griping that the X-Men and the Fantastic Four could not appear in Avengers: Infinity War, but seriously the film was crowded enough to be able to shoehorn more characters. Since there are not any immediate plans to integrate the X-Men and the Fantastic Four to the MCU, the next slate of films could be used to introduce new characters. They could also slowly build up towards the mutants and the FF as they begin appearing in other films.
As for the Avengers where do they go from here? After fighting for the universe how can they top that story? Bring in Galactus? He would be better served in the Fantastic Four films which could feature appearances by the Avengers. Maybe if Disney gets the X-Men sooner the next event could be an adaptation of Avengers vs. X-Men or the “Under Siege” story where their greatest foes team up to take them out. Whatever path the Avengers and the MCU films take, they have our full confidence that they will be spectacular.
José Soto and Lewis T. Grove