Marvel Studios is bringing its amazingly successful first decade to a close and its future is stronger than ever, though it might look very different going forward. One or more characters are expected to perish in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, although death is more of an inconvenience — often only temporary — when it comes to superheroes. Additionally, several new characters are coming aboard (Black Panther, Captain Marvel). What or who will be the face of Marvel’s movies in the future is an open question.
More pressing is the reality of expiring contracts for actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. And now we’re learning that Chris Hemsworth’s multi-picture deal concluded with Avengers 4, which just wrapped production. Hemsworth spoke with USA Today about his status with Marvel:
Contractually, right now — yeah, this is it. I’m done. I won’t be playing the character again. It’s sort of a scary thought. This really seemed like this never-ending thing. And now it’s potentially finishing.”
Is it though? Thor: Ragnarok was a mega hit last year, earning over $850 million worldwide while also essentially rebooting the character (and revitalizing the Hulk too). Critics and fans loved the movie, and it made director Taika Waititi a household name (albeit, still tricky to pronounce). It’s difficult to imagine that this is the end for Thor or Hemsworth’s presence in Marvel’s ongoing cinematic universe (MCU).
Disney’s pending acquisition of Fox also adds complexity and confusion to the discussion, with Deadpool, Wolverine, and the X-Men potentially joining the fun. It’s unclear how Marvel will integrate mutants into their storytelling, having avoided the mere mention of the word in any of their films to-date. Don’t worry, it’s going to happen. Marvel Studios chief, Kevin Feige, is already on the record with his desire to tell X-Men stories in the MCU.
So, over the next few years Marvel, and their flagship Avengers franchise, are likely going to look very different from what we know today. Could Wolverine join the Avengers? Will Spider-Man face-off against Magneto? Who will Marvel re-cast as Wolverine and Professor X? Huge questions to answer with long-term impacts on the MCU. A good problem to have, however (ask Warner Bros. and DC Films how its been going lately).
All of these changes ensure a dramatic shift in the way Marvel approaches their storytelling, and it’s going to be a few years before it all shakes out. Change is scary, but complacency is dangerous. Marvel’s fans will surely lament the end of certain characters or the departure of the actors who play them, but keeping everything fresh and unpredictable is a necessity in this genre.
Marvel’s MCU formula has worked, is working, and will work… but experimenting with its ingredients is a risk worth taking. What it all looks like, well, that’s anybody’s guess — and a great big reason why fans love talking about this stuff.