A couple of things to note: right now, the final two named movies on Marvel’s release schedule are Avengers 4 (we won’t get the title of that until Avengers: Infinity War hits in 2018) on May 3, 2019 and the similarly untitled Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel on July 5, 2019. There are still three dates beyond that, stretching through November 2020, but those haven’t had films assigned to them yet. Anyway, those are the short term plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The long term plans are something else entirely, though. In a massive Marvel profile in Vanity Fair, Kevin Feige revealed that “we’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before—intentionally.”
Ominously, Feige promises that Avengers 4 will close the book on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, promising that it will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale…There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting.”
This echoes what Mr. Feige told Den of Geek in a recent interview, where he indicated that Marvel’s current method of building towards one massive cosmic threat may be coming to an end.
With a number of huge contracts expiring for key Avengers like Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner coming to a close, it makes sense to bring this era to an end. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all going to die, in any event, it doesn’t sound like Marvel is in a big hurry to recast these iconic roles just yet.
One thing to consider is that Feige might be sensing that the era of serialized superhero movie storytelling is coming to an end. If Marvel is able to complete a nearly 30 film cycle, that’s a remarakable achievement, but with superhero saturation now in full effect across all media, there’s a chance that he senses that a slight change in approach is necessary in order to keep things going. If, for example, Marvel were to focus more on movies that can stand on their own while still occupying the shared universe (think of what 20th Century Fox did with Deadpool or Logan, despite the weirdness of the X-Men films’ continuity), they would have considerably more freedom, rather than constantly building towards an epic of Infinity War‘s scale.
In any case, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to reboot the Marvel Cinematic Universe at the end of this cycle. Marvel has been the standard that all other studios have tried to follow with their own shared cinematic universes (although none have succeeded to this degree), so it remains to be seen if they can continue to set the pace for the next era.