The MCU Phase 4 problem
Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War is the first part of an Avengers story line that will culminate May 2019 with the, as of yet, untitled Avengers 4. This two part saga will see the conclusion of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the culmination of an 11 year project set in motion with 2008’s Iron Man.
By the end of Avengers 4 Marvel will have released 22 movies woven together across various story arcs to form what we know as the MCU. Throughout these films the we have slowly be introduced to countless characters who will all converge in Infinity War and potentially Avengers 4 in, what could be described as, the season finale of the MCU series.
These films will rely heavily on the audiences prior knowledge and understanding of the characters and plots they have seen in previous MCU movies. It’s this interlinked story telling that could present Marvel with its greatest challenge going forward.
One of the biggest concerns in the lead up to Infinity War was if its over reliance on previous movies would hinder its box office performance and accessibility to the more casual fan. Not everyone is as tuned into every story and every character that has come before and so the concern was there that those casual fans may be lost when it comes to Infinity War.
As of writing this, Avengers Infinity War is crushing it at the box office. It has set a new opening weekend box office record in North America with $250 million, beating The Force Awakens ($248 million), and grossed over $380 million internationally. This might signal that those fears are unjustified however as with most opening weekends its those that are the most interested in the series that have helped gain those numbers, likely with multiple viewings. We will have to judge Infinity War on its lifetime box office totals to see its true impact but for now those fears may still be lingering in the minds of movie goers.
If those fears are still there then they will only grow over the coming 5,10 or potentially 20 years. If Marvel keeps adding films to the MCU at the rate they have been then we will have in excess of 40 films by 2025. This could rise dramatically too once the 20th Century Fox Marvel movies get introduced into the MCU.
That is a monumental catch up that new fans would have to undertake if previous MCU stories continue to impact future films. It’s with this in mind that I think Marvel may use Avengers 4 and the end of Phase 3 to tie up loose ends and soft reboot the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Do I think Marvel will recast the current stars and start again, no. I think that Phases 1-3 will represent its own series which for now we can call the Infinity Saga. From Phase 4 onwards I think we will then be introduced to new characters, new stories and ultimately a new overarching plot that will culminate in another 10 or so years time.
This new saga will of course carry over some pre existing characters but the events of the Infinity Saga wont have to be known to follow the larger plots going forward. They will instead just add context and backstory to some of the characters and minor references.
This shift in focus will allow for existing fans to take a breath and reinvest in new plots as well as give new fans a platform to enter the MCU.
Marvel doesn’t even have to worry about trying to market new and unheard of characters to the masses either as, with the Fox merger, they will have the Fantastic Four and X-Men on hand to introduce. Two already, well established, mass market franchises that casual fans can recognise and get excited about as well as pushing forward with characters from the current movies such as Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther. All of whom have had successful stand along movies already.
So with the MCU reaching the last page in its current chapter I think that fans and new comers alike can be very excited about the future stories that Marvel is waiting to tell us.