The future of Marvel is always fun to debate and discuss, and it feels all the more appropriate to do so in the aftermath of Stan Lee’s passing. The father of superheroes gave endlessly to a world insatiable for entertainment, and while his legacy is complex and wide-reaching, it may ultimately be best defined by the extent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And while many of us feel as if we’ve gotten a pretty good handle on that universe by now, it’s still expected to extend by another 20 films, at least. So in some respects, we may have only just gotten started, and Lee’s creations may still be gracing the big screen decades from now in the very same “universe” established in 2008’s Iron Man.
Not to be morbid following Lee’s passing – I suspect he always enjoyed the speculation – but in the past much of the process of thinking ahead to future Marvel projects has meant wondering which characters might die. This has been particularly true of late, given that we’re a bit further into the franchise and there have been teases and hints of different characters and the actors who portray them breaking off.
At times, character death speculation has even been so rampant as to spawn its own betting markets. While sports tend to be the main focus at bookmaking sites, these kinds of special events are not uncommon, and particularly leading up to Avengers: Infinity War betting in this area was busy.
Now, however, simply speculating on which characters might not make it past the next film seems like a hazy prospect. Because of the way in which Infinity War ended, it’s unclear which characters may already be gone, or which ones are simply on their way out (though people have fairly concrete theories).
What we can speculate on fairly easily however, is what films could be on the horizon for the MCU – because we really only know for sure about a few of them. So just for fun, and in anticipation of more excellent interpretations of Lee’s empire of comic characters, these are some of my own best guesses (aside from direct sequels to existing films).
This is the only future projection for which I’m sort of cheating. A Black Widow-centric film has been sort of loosely announced, and Scarlett Johansson will apparently make $15 million for it, which makes it seem pretty official. This idea has been batted around for so long though that it isn’t going to feel completely concrete to fans until we see trailers.
Still, I’d bank heavily on this film being made and released within about two years. The hope among many is that it sees Johansson’s character – fairly developed by this point, yet still mysterious – delving into aspects of her past on some kind of personal journey aside from Avengers business.
Here we’re going out on a bit more of a limb. Two key factors come to mind, and they’re not exactly subtle. The first is the ongoing call for Marvel to produce films starring female leads; as a reminder, this still hasn’t happened yet by the end of 2018, even if Captain Marvel is on its way. The second is that the character of Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, completely stole the show in Black Panther, and played a key role in Infinity War as well.
I just don’t see Marvel ignoring the opportunity to build on her easily established popularity and produce another female lead in the process. I’d bet on a Shuri solo film at some point, or at least a Black Panther sequel that focuses heavily on her.
The A-Force is actually a brand new comic series, but one that is made for the modern era, or at least the next few years of MCU progress. This is because, per the comments just made about Shuri, the A-Force is an all-female team of superheroes – the woman-only Avengers, more or less.
The only complication here is that the team is led by She-Hulk, who hasn’t been introduced despite some rumors, but clearly the MCU could go any direction it pleases with an A-Force-like team. Captain Marvel is a member, for instance, and could easily wind up leading the way in a sort of Avengers spinoff with a focus on female heroes.
The Eternals aren’t the most well-known of Marvel heroes, but they’re out there, and in a way the MCU has inched closer to them simply by expanding further into the galaxy. Basically a race of outer space humans imbued with supernatural capabilities and longevity, they’re obscure but powerful heroes. And as it so happens, Thanos is one of them!
This clearly gives the creative teams behind the MCU something to work with. There are some light rumors that a film based on these characters may in fact be in the early stages of development, though this appears far from definite.
Disney now has access to the properties Marvel had previously sold to 20th Century Fox, which means a lot of new characters are in play. Some will be expecting yet another take on the Fantastic Four, for instance (it could well happen), or a whole new take on the X-Men. However, I’d guess it’s more likely that we see a new Wolverine character introduced in the MCU first.
Granted, Hugh Jackman has come to thoroughly define the character, but superhero cinema has never shied away from reboots, and people are already debating how Wolverine could be introduced. He may ultimately be too popular a character for Marvel to stay away from.