As the Marvel Cinematic Universe heads towards its fourth phase with Avengers: Infinity War, some of its most celebrated characters are about to graduate out of the MCU. Others wait to move into meatier roles
Ten years. Eighteen feature-length films. 82 hours of some of the most cinematic storytelling our times can allow. And a combined gross of over 14-billion USD. Over this time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its characters of universal appeal and simultaneous releases in dozens of languages across the planet, has managed to become the mythology of our times. Linking up feature length movies through characters that have their own lives and stories, but also end up meeting others with similar extraordinary stories, to create the genuine sense of a parallel universe, where many stories are occurring simultaneously, and are all linked – this has allowed Marvel Studios and the MCU to capture the minds of millions across the planet, and create one movie franchise after another, all the time banking on the success of previous characters, and moving the story of that universe ahead.
But while the events until now have been about finding exceptional individuals on terra firma, the game is becoming larger, wider, and more zoomed out. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man/Wasp and Thor have already glimpsed the idea of a story-verse that is larger, more cosmic, than just the Battles of New York, and this certainly seems to be the direction that the MCU is headed in, post Infinity War. New powerful franchises like Spider Man and Black Panther are also firmly in place to ensure that the earth continues to be sufficiently represented in cosmic battles. Also, the universe is getting quite crowded with characters, and that means some of the earthy heroes may have to make way for the more celestial beings on their way. Maybe a look at the cast of the last Avengers film, and their expected role in the Infinity War films, will tell us about the shape of the MCU, going into the next ten years of superhero cinema that is, hopefully, just as marvellous.
IRON MAN MCU Debut:
Iron Man (2008)
Tony Stark has appeared in the most MCU films until now, and he should – Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal kicked the universe off, and his troubled motivations / supreme talent equation makes for a great story personality. Although the Iron Man series has been wrapped up it is unlikely that the Infinity War movies will be his last in the MCU. He is already heavily invested in Peter Parker’s journey as Spider Man, and his unresolved rivalry with Bucky Barnes (/the Winter Soldier / White Wolf) may still have Marvel bank off the equity of Robert Downey as the philanthropist playboy- scientist-planet saver.
CAPTAIN AMERICA MCU Debut:
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Steve Rogers has been one of the catalytic forces of the MCU until now, captaining the Avengers successfully both against the Chitauri army and Ultron’s bots. His conflict of philosophies against the brasher Tony Stark have formed the background of three films now, and it is unlikely that political pettiness will have space in the universe going ahead, with enemies the likes of Thanos. That means it’s probably goodbye Captain America in the Infinity War – you did see him holding off the Gauntlet in the trailer – and Captain Marvel is just waiting in the wings to take over the ex-soldier-leader mantle on a cosmic scale.
THOR MCU Debut:
Thor: Dark World is probably amongst the worst films in the MCU, but with Thor: Ragnarok, a lost eye and buzzcut, the character seems to have gained a new lease of life. Thor is a key character in the story of the Infinity Stones, having dealt with four of the five known ones already through his journey in the MCU. His teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy in the movies may also create relationships that will further the character as one of the major representatives of the time that Thanos is probably about to end.
HULK MCU Debut:
The Avengers (2011)
Bruce Banner’s green monster is a favourite amongst fans across the world for his low-brain, high-smash antics which make for great screen time. Thor: Ragnarok established the Hulk’s ability to exist in cosmic environments, and the Infinity War films are likely to add more layers to the character of Bruce Banner. Where the universe is headed though, there seems to be little space for the Hulk apart from occasional appearances – the Infinity War films are already hinting at this, with Bruce Banner needing the help of the Hulk-Buster armour to stave off Thanos’ forces in Wakanda.
HAWKEYE MCU Debut:
Clint Barton has been notably absent from the trailers of Infinity War, leading fans to ask loud questions with which the directors replied to the effect of “Hawkeye is on a very important mission.” It wont take much to guess that this mission may be the heralding of Captain Marvel, whose independent movie has already been announced, and who is powerful enough to prove to be the turning point against Thanos and his Infinity Gauntlet. Hawkeye is also likely to play a major role in the Black Widow film, given his old association with Romanoff. Although earthly, Jeremy Renner’s award winning talents seem safe with the MCU.
BLACK WIDOW MCU Debut:
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Natasha Romanoff may not have the kind of super-abilities to take on cosmic battles, but along with the new need for strong femaleled movies and the ridiculous starpower of Scarlet Johansson, Marvel Studios should seem keen on not just keeping the Black Widow on its roster, but giving the character her own film. Her background story as a spy/ assassin may continue to keep S.H.I.E.L.D and the earth invested in the cosmic battles to come, and her slowly developing relationship with Bruce Banner may yet create a new twist for the universe to head into, with both characters.
SCARLET WITCH MCU Debut:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Wanda Maximoff’s Scarlet Witch avatar is the child of the Mind Stone, and her fate has been closely linked with that of the Vision. Their relationship which began in the Age of Ultron was shown to flower further in Civil War, and her abilities are seeing a powerful increase. She may be an important female character taking the MCU stories on earth ahead, but again, her fate as with Vision’s depends in many ways on the fate of the mind stone. If the Infinity War movies are able to place her within Wakanda and link her with the storylines of Black Panther and White Wolf, we could see some interesting red blasts in the MCU for years to come.
THE VISION MCU Debut:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The possessor and vessel of an Infinity Stone, no less, Vision is one of the most interesting characters whose births we have seen in the MCU. An all-knowing android built of Vibranium and human tissue, the Vision was key in beating Ultron. However, while the stone may keep him on as a major character in the two forthcoming films, whether or not he continues to play a major role in the MCU going ahead is quite unclear. The character has been twisted and turned for convenience in the comics in the past, and it would certainly be unfortunate to see Paul Bettany’s cool portrayal of the purple skinned machine-god being wasted thus.
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