Marvel is getting ready to start a new chapter of its superhero universe, with Avengers: Infinity War and the still-untitled Avengers 4 serving as the culmination of a decade’s worth of battles and adventures. The two sequels will bring some major changes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, introducing new characters and alliances and bringing an end to the current phase of films.
So what differences can audiences expect to see in Marvel’s post-Avengers 4 future? Here’s how the movie will alter the MCU for good:
1. It will officially close out Marvel’s 22-movie arc
Over the last decade, Marvel has released its films in a series of phases. Phase 1 brought the current heroes together and culminated in The Avengers, while Phase 2 and Phase 3 fleshed out each character’s storylines and also brought the universe to the cosmos and other new places.
But Avengers 4 will mark the end of that three-phase arc (consisting of almost two dozen movies), as Marvel head Kevin Feige recently confirmed. After the film, Marvel will enter another era, shifting its focus to a new slate of films and characters.
As Feige told Collider, “Certainly as we get to Infinity War there is a sense of a climax, if not a conclusion to, by the time we’re at untitled Avengers 4, the 22 movies that will have encompassed the first three phases of the MCU. And what happens after that will be very different.”
2. Spider-Man will kick-start a new future for the MCU
Spider-Man: Homecoming became a critical and commercial hit in its 2017 debut, with Tom Holland’s new, younger version of the webslinger earning praise from critics and fans alike. So it’s no surprise that Marvel is relying on Holland to help bridge the gap between the current phase of MCU and its future.
According to Feige, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will serve as the introductory movie to the new, post-Infinity War MCU. “The original 22-movie arc ends with the untitled Avengers in May of 2019, and then two months later it will be Peter Parker and Spider-Man that usher us into the aftermath and how things proceed from there,” he said, per the Toronto Sun.
3. A changing of the old guard
Iron Man, Captain America, and other Avengers have acted as the core of the MCU for the last several years, but it’ll soon be time to pass the torch to new leaders.
As many know by now, the contracts for Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) are coming to an end and several of the actors — including Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth — have publicly suggested that they’re ready to move on.
With that in mind, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4 will likely mark the continued phasing out of these old favorites and a new shift toward freshman heroes. Audiences already saw a glimpse of this in Homecoming with Downey’s Tony Stark serving as a mentor to Holland’s Spidey and prepping him to become a full-time Avenger.
Which leads us to …
4. A focus on new characters
With Iron Man taking Peter Parker under his wing in Homecoming and the latter set to have a key role in Infinity War, it’s clear why Marvel is using the forthcoming Spider-Man sequel to introduce a new period for the cinematic universe.
As previously stated, the Homecoming follow-up will mark Marvel’s first movie after Avengers 4 and will shift the studio’s focus to new characters. In addition to Holland’s Spider-Man, audiences can expect to see more of Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are getting second and third sequels, respectively. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel and Black Panther are also set to star in their own solo adventures.
5. More potential crossovers
Infinity War will bring over 60 different Marvel characters together. So there will be plenty of opportunity for new friendships and alliances to form. Heroes who have never crossed paths before will get a chance to meet and battle alongside each other. The events of the movie will also likely spark both new partnerships and new rivalries.
All of this will also spill over into Avengers 4, which could be the perfect set-up for future crossovers — or so we hope! Considering the numerous combinations of characters that could result from Infinity War, it seems like an obvious move for Marvel to focus some of its subsequent movies around these new team-ups.
6. The end of Marvel’s ‘phases?’
With Phase 3 soon coming to an end, many presumed Marvel would simply move into Phase 4. But that may not necessarily be the case. Feige recently hinted that the studio could be doing away with its current film release structure after Avengers 4.
“Truthfully, other than knowing that we’re going to work with Sony on another Spider-Man film for that year and that James [Gunn] is committed to continuing with the Guardians at some point, it’s all about Phase 3,” he told CinemaBlend. “I don’t even know if it will be called Phase 4. Things will be very different after 2019. After May of 2019.”
With Avengers 4 signifying the end of over 10 years of heroic adventures, it’s no surprise that the film will have a huge and lasting impact on the MCU. Fans are clearly in for a lot of significant changes in the coming years. But luckily, there’s still plenty of time to prepare.
Avengers 4 isn’t set to hit theaters until May 3, 2019. In the meantime, Marvel is due to release four more films: Thor: Ragnarok on Nov. 3, 2017; Black Panther on Feb. 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War on May 4, 2018; and Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019.