2019 will be an exciting time for Marvel fans; it will usher in the exciting second half of the story arc introduced in Avengers: Infinity War, and herald the debut of one of the most powerful superheroes in the MCU: Captain Marvel. But, it will also be a time of great change as the MCU prepares to enter into Phase 4 of its studio development. While some titles seem certain to continue, others are on shakier ground, making the next flurry of films (up to 2025) less resolute than in previous years.
Over a decade has passed since the MCU started to cleverly weave its franchises and properties together into a vast tableau of mythical narratives. The comic book genre is no stranger to such an intricate method, often requiring its fans to have immense encyclopedic knowledge of multiple universes and characters to fully comprehend the complexity of its unfolding storylines. Marvel Studios has admirably tried to duplicate this, albeit on a slightly less harrowing scale, by giving each of its popular heroes several films to build their backstory, all while tying into films that showcase their abilities in a larger context. These machinations worked until now, when the release of the fourth (and potentially final) Avengers film may mean the dissolution of more than just the founding members of the MCU as we know it, but of a cohesive narrative framework altogether. Our hopes and fears for the future of the MCU going into 2019 are based on the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one.
20 HOPE: X-MEN WILL HAVE A CAMEO
When Fox Studios owned the rights to the X-Men franchise, there was little hope of them ever appearing in the MCU due to the licensing agreements in place. Now that Disney has purchased 20th Century Fox for a record 71 billion dollars, there’s a big chance that the gang will be hobnobbing with the Avengers in no short order.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix has been delayed until after the fourth Avengers movie is released this summer, so who’s to say that an X-Man or two might not end up in Avengers: Endgame? It would certainly be great material for an epic post-credits scene.
19 FEAR: A NEW GUARDIANS CREW ASSEMBLED BY ROCKET
Avengers: Infinity War marked a turning point for the Guardians of the Galaxy, literally. Three members turned to dust when Thanos, armed with the Infinity Gauntlet, snapped his fingers (Groot, Drax, and Star-lord), while Gamora had already been eliminated by Thanos to get the Soul Stone. This leaves only Rocket, the last surviving member of the intergalactic team of misfits.
As awesome as Rocket is, he isn’t exactly a natural leader. Sure, he ordered Groot around, but his natural instinct is to be a lone wolf and only do things that directly benefit him. The giant talking tree was just there to make sure that happened. Having Rocket be the leader of the new Guardians basically guarantees there would be no Guardians.
18 HOPE: THANOS WILL SURVIVE ENDGAME
With the revelation in the first Avengers film that Thanos was behind all the cosmic chaos being hurtled at Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, he has done more than loom large over the proceeding series of films; he has come to define them. The very act of his merciless actions in Avengers: Infinity War, where he chose elimination in order to make the galaxy a better place, forced each hero to examine their principles and their motivations.
There hasn’t been a villain as compelling as Thanos in the MCU, which is why we’re hopeful that he will survive Avengers: Endgame and go on to be a part of even bigger narrative machinations. Perhaps on the cosmic or interdimensional level.
17 FEAR: SPIDER-MAN WON’T COME BACK IN ENDGAME
One of the most gut-wrenching moments of Infinity War came when Peter Parker, a.k.a Spider-Man, dissolved into dust right before Iron Man’s eyes, forcing his friend and mentor to watch helplessly as Thanos carried out his dirty work. While a huge swathe of superheroes were ended by Thanos via the Infinity Gauntlet (Black Panther, Doctor Strange, etc) none seemed to hurt as much as Spider-Man’s demise.
While it’s almost a certainty that the heroes dissolved will come back, thanks to some temporal magic up Doctor Strange’s sleeve, we’re worried about the fate of young Spidey and his chances of appearing in Endgame.
16 FEAR: NO NEW VILLAIN WILL MATCH THANOS
The MCU, while strong in its ability to conceptualize heroes, has had a string of mediocre villains. They’re all extremely powerful, but not extremely memorable, save Loki, but that’s because he keeps popping up. Thanos is the only Marvel villain to have repeated appearances, from the Avengers movies to Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only is he supremely dangerous, he’s also supremely charismatic, with a brain to match his brawn.
After Avengers: Endgame, if Thanos is taken out, who will be the next Big Bad that threatens to eliminate the universe? And will they have a perfectly logical reason for doing so that connects with audiences and forces them into uncomfortable introspection about their own life choices? Time will tell in 2019.
15 HOPE: FEMALE-DRIVEN MARVEL TEAM-UP ANNOUNCED
Currently in the MCU, there are two superhero teams front and center that have distinctly unbalanced ratios when it comes to male and female members: the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Black Widow and Gamora have been holding things down for some time now, and after seeing the epic nature of female-led casts like the one featured in Black Panther, it’s about time for an all-female MCU team.
We’ve already been introduced to some great potential members, such as Magneto’s daughter Scarlet Witch, the Asgardian warrioress Valkyrie, and Shuri, T’Challa’s tech genius sister (who actually becomes Black Panther in the comics). With Captain Marvel arriving in 2019, the MCU may even have its team leader.
14 FEAR: THERE WON’T BE A CLEAR NARRATIVE DIRECTION
The world of comics is simultaneously confounding and dazzlingly intricate. With so many characters interconnected through story arcs and crossovers, the complex tapestry is often on a scale that few can comprehend. So far, the MCU has done an admirable job of taking the nature of the genre and parsing it out over the last decade of films, allowing for new fans to get up to speed and enjoy the rich tableau of storytelling as it unfolds film by film, towards a predictable climax.
After Avengers: Endgame, however, the predictability of the narrative shifts. With only a handful of franchise titles being released between now and 2022, it seems the direction of Phase 4 is very uncertain.
13 HOPE: BLACK WIDOW FILM RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED
At this point, the “Big Three” (Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man) have all had a trilogy of films describing their heroic exploits. That just leaves Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow to fight for scraps when it comes to who gets the same star treatment. A Black Widow movie has been rumored for several years now, but in order to catch up to the films of her peers, she needs to be starring in one yesterday!
Hopefully after the success of Avengers: Endgame, 2019 becomes the year that fans finally get to hear when the standalone Black Widow film will be coming out. For an important and popular character, she deserves more respect.
12 FEAR: CAPTAIN AMERICA WILL MEET HIS END
It's no secret that Chris Evans has been discussing departing the MCU for the last year, making Avengers: Endgame his last appearance as Captain America. This heavily implies that while Cap wasn't one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to get snapped into oblivion by Thanos, he will meet a similar fate in Avengers 4.
Chris Evans has imbued Steve Rogers with all the integrity, courage, and plucky charm that fans have come to revere Captain America for. His departure would mean a huge gap in the MCU, as well as mean the end of an era for one of the original Avengers to assemble.
11 HOPE: THE AVENGERS WILL GET A NEW LEADER
For over a decade, the Avengers have faithfully assembled. Led by their fearless leader Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow have faced foes both foreign (were talking space!) and domestic. They've even been joined by a few new allies in Spider-Man, Vision, and Scarlet Witch.
But with Chris Evans in talks to make Endgame his final appearance as Captain America, Phase 4 of the MCU could begin with a new leader. With the introduction of Black Panther and now Captain Marvel, it's appropriate that the next 10 years will show the Avengers being led by a new champion.
10 FEAR: THERE WILL BE TOO MANY FILMS
Though the ending of Avengers: Infinity War would have you believe that dozens of superheroes have been lost, it’s partially misleading; many of them have sequels still to come out. After 2019 opens with two new additions to the MCU, Captain Marvel, and Avengers: Endgame, the Black Panther sequel is still being released, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and a third Ant-Man movie.
2019 will be the year that the rest of Phase 4 is secured, with half a dozen titles at least. That doesn’t count any new titles announced going forward, which could mean far too many films crammed too close together, causing severe Marvel and superhero burnouts.
9 HOPE: ADAM WARLOCK WILL APPEAR IN ENDGAME
One of the most highly anticipated characters to not yet make an appearance is Adam Warlock, a superhero with near unbridled cosmic powers. He's wielded the Power Cosmic, beat Thanos to a pulp, and has been responsible for several temporal anomalies.
He's been rumored to debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but that film has been delayed until sometime in 2020. What better way to get fans psyched up than to give him a cameo in Avengers: Endgame, arriving May 2019.
8 FEAR: THE INHUMANS MOVIE WILL BE DELAYED... AGAIN
Marvel fans may recall the disaster that was the Inhumans television show, an eight part mini-series for ABC that had its first two episodes premiere in IMAX theaters as a standalone film to questionable results. The series was a pale comparison to other properties in the MCU, and it never got a second season.
Still, there is still a chance that an Inhumans movie, properly launched, could regain the respect of the Marvel community. It was supposed to be released in 2018, but its release date has been pushed back until after Endgame, when further Phase 4 titles will be announced.
7 HOPE: EXPLORATION OF THE MARVEL COSMIC UNIVERSE
With movies like The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Doctor Strange, and Thor: Ragnarok, fans of the MCU have gotten glimpses of the worlds beyond Earth. They’ve seen a sentient planet (Ego The Living Planet), a Mad Titan, a Kree battle Armada, and watched the Grand Master pit superheroes against each other on his space station.
Marvel comics frequently feature superheroes and supervillains from other planets, as well as threats of galactic proportions. So, it only makes sense that the only thing to top Avengers: Endgame would be to take the next conflict beyond our Earth. 2019 could be the year that the MCU ventures further into space and explores more of its cosmic universe.
6 HOPE: A VILLAIN FILM WILL BE ANNOUNCED
Though Venom isn't officially a part of the MCU due to licensing rights with Sony, the premier of a villain turned anti-hero was so well received that the creative powers that be might tap into the chronicles of other Marvel mischief makers in the Hope's of green-lighting a hit.
An obvious choice would be Dr. Doom or Magneto, both villains with fierce personal codes of conduct, impressive presentation, and Byronic levels of dramatic personal tragedy. A no holds barred look at the inner psyche of a supervillain has yet to be done by Marvel and could be just what it needs to usher in Phase 4.
5 FEAR: SKRULLS HAVE INFILTRATED THE RANKS OF THE MCU
As the MCU has been exploring the furthest reaches of space with Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers films, fans have been able to see a view of different extraterrestrials, such as the members of the Kree race, the people of Xandar, and even seen what an enraged Titan is capable of.
For decades, Skrulls have been a race of aliens featured in Marvel comics, but absent from the MCU. Or have they? As extraterrestrial shapeshifters, they could have technically infiltrated the ranks of the MCU and impersonated any number of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Time will tell if our greatest fears have been realized and if their sudden appearance in Captain Marvel could mean they've been here all along.
4 HOPE: CONTINUED DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION
One of the things the MCU has been getting right over the last few years is the inclusivity of minorities, namely women, people of color, and members of each community. It began with important characters like Black Widow, Pepper Potts, and Gamora, and it continues with over half the leading cast of Black Panther.
DC has led the charge with Wonder Woman not only starring women, but having a female director, and Marvel isn't one to be upstaged. Captain Marvel ushers in a great new era of crime fighting from the leading women to the film crew.
3 FEAR: SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN TO IRON MAN
On the heels of the news that Chris Evans would no longer take up the shield as Captain America after the fourth Avengers film, Robert Downey, Jr. has also been quoted as saying his future with the MCU is uncertain. He has been there since the beginning, when arguably his performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man was the reason new life was breathed into comic book movies in the first place.
Would one of the founding fathers of the MCU really leave after Endgame? If Tony Stark doesn’t sacrifice himself in some heroic way, there is a chance he’ll pop back in for cameos every now and then.
2 HOPE: THE FANTASTIC FOUR WILL APPEAR IN ENDGAME
With 2018 marking the return of the First Family of Marvel to their own comic series with Fantastic Four #1, it's only appropriate that we see them make a cameo in a future Marvel film. While a new Fantastic Four film is probably a long way off (at least until the dust from the last bomb settles), a glimpse of them in Endgame could get the ball rolling.
Recently, the Fab 4 have been lost in space, so maybe Rocket encounters them while en route to get the Avengers some intergalactic backup? It would certainly start Phase 4 with a bang.
1 FEAR: BLACK PANTHER HAS GOTTEN SNAPPED TO THE QUANTUM REALM
Black Panther was one of the great heroes dissolved into nothing when Thanos finally got to make use of the Infinity Gauntlet. But did he meet his end? Or was he simply transported elsewhere? Marvel comics are full of other dimensions and alternate realities, so it’s possible he could have simply gone to another realm that he can’t escape from.
We know that there is going to be a Black Panther sequel announced at some point in 2019, so he can’t be entirely gone. And in recent Black Panther comics, he’s even spearheaded a Wakandan Space Empire. So, it’s more likely he’s been transported to someplace like the Quantum Realm. But how will he get out?