On Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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It’s obvious enough from the title, really. Marvel has announced their third phase (I love how planned this all is) of movies, including fan favourites Doctor Strange, Black Panther (who’s to be played by Chadwick Boseman), and Captain Marvel (that’s the Carol Danvers iteration, specifically).

This is a pretty big thing all on its own really – recently, DC and Warner Bros announced a rather diverse cast for their own next set of movies, and they were rightfully commended for making that step. Marvel’s now doing the same, so that means that over the next few years, superhero movies (which have got to be amongst the biggest genre of movies currently around) are going to get a lot better for representation and diversity. That is, obviously, pretty important, and generally all round pretty great.

What’s also interesting though is what this might imply for the actual future of the MCU as a whole.

I think it’s fair to say that the MCU is pretty much unprecedented as a project and an idea. The crossover between films and television, the whole idea of a shared universe – that’s completely new. Innovative, even. Personally, I think it’s brilliant; the way that Marvel has taken advantage over the connectivity between movies, and beginning to tie in TV shows with the movies, has really given a level of depth to their films and the stories they’re telling that you don’t get with straight up sequels.

But, obviously… this has to come to an end at some point. Apart from the fact that, hey, superhero films won’t be popular forever, and there’s such a thing as market saturation, the actors themselves will want to move on soon enough. Chris Evans, for example, is talking about getting out of acting and becoming a director, and Robert Downey Jr is beginning to limit his involvement somewhat as well. Now, they’re both relatively key players in the MCU, so when they do eventually move on, or get too old – “Iron Man 7, coming to cinemas near you July 2030!” – where does the franchise go?

The idea of rebooting or recasting isn’t exactly an option, although it was done with the Hulk, because of quite how established everything is – you couldn’t have, say, Johnny Depp turning up in the Iron Man suit for Avengers 6 and expect no one to notice.

Personally, I think that Marvel should actually build an end into their plans; when they reach Phase 4, they should have ‘The Last Avengers Movie’. Bring the universe to a finite close, never to be reopened; wrap up all the character arcs, and end everything. Kill off some of them, give others a happy ending, and so on and so forth. If built towards properly, it’d probably be the cinematic event of the century – the only thing that could top the first Avengers movie is the last Avengers movie.

However, this announcement does suggest that maybe that isn’t quite necessary. The majority of the characters on this list aren’t exactly in the zeitgeist – they are, if you like, C-List characters in terms of the public eye and how knowledgeable people are of them. They aren’t exactly risks though despite that. Guardians of the Galaxy proved, more or less, that the Marvel name is enough on its own now; you don’t have to have the most popular heroes.

So perhaps the future for the MCU lies in expansion, rather than closure. Maybe the way forward is to keep going through the roster, and making all sorts of different films – when the time comes for Iron Man to be retired, who says Squirrel Girl or Moon Knight can’t take his place? In ten years time, we could simply have a whole new set of Avengers, rather than none at all.

Whether that’s for the best, I’m not sure. I still like the idea of an ending.

But it’d be pretty damn impressive if they made a Squirrel Girl movie.

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