The Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (According to a Wildly Speculating Online Idiot)
Like an electric-charged Mjolnir to our collective pop culture b-hole, Avengers: Endgame rocketed into theaters and somehow landed a goddamn 22 film endeavor. Let’s be real, after that many movies, we should hate these things, and yet, here we are desperate to find out what happens next. Because while Endgame is, in theory, an ending, there is no such thing in comic books. Hell, some of the tidy little bows it tied are already being unraveled as we speak.
So what I’m going to do here is take a stab at the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe based on what Endgame is telling us. I’m going to mostly stick to the broad strokes and not get bogged down with the minutiae of which sequels/movies are coming next because those productions are still in flux. (Not to mention, there’s a very good chance the MCU might be down a Spider-Man.) I’m also going to steer clear of speculating on the inclusion of the X-Men or Fantastic Four because Endgame surprisingly dropped zero Easter Eggs on that front — unless you count this potential Namor reference — and I’m operating under the assumption that the MCU will want to put some distance between its version of the X-Men and whatever wet fart Dark Phoenix ends up being.
Of course, I could be wrong, which is really the central theme here: Mike is making mildly informed judgment calls that could easily blow up in his face at the drop of hat. On that note, it’s about to get sloppy with Endgame spoilers, so consider yourself warned.
An Emphasis on Diversity
During the final battle, the female heroes of the MCU brought to life an epic splash shot as they formed up with Captain Marvel for an assault on Thanos’ forces. While there’s been some debate over whether this “girl power moment” was pandering, I’m here for it because I took it as a promise of something bigger: A-Force, baby. Tessa Thompson has made it abundantly clear that she wants an all-ladies team, and if Marvel is making it happen, that’d be a huge signifier of Thompson’s importance and Marvel Studios’ dedication to featuring more heroes who aren’t white dudes named Chris. It also doesn’t hurt that Black Panther and Captain Marvel made assloads of money.
The MCU also drew a definitive line in the sand when Steve Rogers handed his shield to Sam Wilson/Falcon. The conventional wisdom since Captain America: The Winter Soldier has always been that Bucky would become the new Cap when Chris Evans’ contract ran out. Granted, both Sam and Bucky have taken up the mantle in the Marvel comics — which the movies are no longer beholden to, and for the better — the publishing arm lost its nerve while Sam was Cap and began to walk back its diversity initiatives to appease sad white dudes who will die alone. So it’s a huge move for the MCU to plant its flag on a black Captain America. It’s a full-on rejection of the backwards thinking that kneecapped the early years of the studio, and a firm commitment to representation moving forward.
Now, if the MCU could just improve on the LGBTQ front. Like a lot.
A Tug-Of-War with Disney+
While Steve passing the shield to Sam was a strong moment for diversity in the MCU, it was undercut by the fact that we just saw a blatant setup for a Disney+ series, and it robbed the gravitas of what should’ve been a defining scene. Instead of “Oh sh*t, we’re getting a Cap Falcon movie!” my reaction was “Oh, guess that’s what I’ll be watching six hours of on TV. Cool?”
It gets even worse for Loki who was practically a pop-up ad. He has barely 30 seconds of screen time, and it was, again, a blatant setup for his new series. “Where did Loki go with the Cosmic Cube? Find out on Disney+!”
Like I said at the beginning, I could be very wrong about all of this, and Marvel somehow pulls another rabbit out of its hat by making this balancing act between the movies and streaming work. But I gotta be honest, it really feels like one’s starting to cannibalize the other. If these shameless plugs went down in its epic, 10-years-in-the-making saga, what kind of sh*t is going to happen in its other movies?
Time Travel Shenanigans
Hi, did you go into Endgame not really caring that much about Tony Stark, and then sat there frantically wiping away tears at “I love you 3000” because being a parent has turned every TV show and film into an emotional land mine (looking at you, The Lego Movie)? Haha! Me either. What?
Seriously though, Tony’s death was a goddamn haymaker to the feels — but also probably not permanent along with Black Widow’s. C’mon, they died during a film that was literally about bringing people back to life, and oh by the way, left f*cking time travel on the table. It also doesn’t help that the Russo Brothers are already out here dropping hints that Old Man Cap wasn’t a quiet, well-earned ending for Steve, but a jumping off point for more hijinks. In the words of America’s ass, “You gotta be sh*tting me.”
So basically, everyone is still on the board for surprise cameos, live or dead. Especially after, say, their first, insanely expensive post-Marvel movie bombs its butt out.
Speaking of Avengers who are still hanging around, Endgame left Thor’s story crazy wide open. Without getting into the legitimate debate on whether his character arc was fat-shaming and/or made light of depression (I’ve seen good and bad arguments for both sides.), you’ve now got a very free Odinson who’s hopping on spaceships and generally doing whatever the f*ck he wants after unburdening himself from Asgard. — Which he basically just dumped on Valkyrie. Wait a minute…
Anyway, provided he doesn’t get swole with Star-Lord, there’s definitely fertile ground for a new Taika Waititi movie, where perhaps a Lady Thor emerges and has to contend with the previous and now-portly God of Thunder. Or Fat Thor just randomly shows up in movies to do Fat Thor things.
Why not both?
Avengers Reborn… Eventually
Again, I’m wildly speculating here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel lets The Avengers name cool off for a while. Sure, Endgame made a trillion dollars in under five minutes, but the core team that audiences know is probably over. That said, there’s no way in hell Marvel’s going to leave easy money on the table, and I’d be amazed if Phase 4 doesn’t end with the formation of a diverse new team populated with heroes from the 200 franchises floating around and, hell, maybe even Old Man Cap. The possibilities are endless. Think of it as the MCU’s version of “Anyone can wear the mask,” except how would that line work?
“Anyone can A the Venge?” (They’ll work on it.)
Header Image Source: Marvel