When the original Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, I don’t think anybody really expected that it would spawn an entire universe. I mean, sure, it was a good movie, but it featured a C-list character and didn’t really offer anything new to the classic superhero formula. Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which came out the same year, featured the most popular superhero of all time in a movie which completely revolutionized the genre of comic book films, which is really no surprise because it was directed by the Stanley Kubrick of our generation. A single look at 2008 YouTube is enough to show us just how much The Dark Knight blew Marvel Studios’ very first movie out of the park. If somebody asked me in 2008 what I thought about the future of comic book movies, I’d have certainly said that Marvel are better off sticking to comic books. Oh, how times have changed!
Come 2016, and Marvel are completely ruling the industry. With 12 movies (and a 13th one on the way), 4 ongoing TV series (with 3 more on the way), countless videogames and animated series inspired by it, thousands upon thousands of pieces of merchandise and even a series of slot machines (which can be played at most of the top online casinos), the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an unstoppable juggernaut, with its latest instalment, Captain America: Civil War set to completely obliterate its DC counterpart Batman V Superman at the box office. At this point, it seems like nothing can possibly stop the Marvel Cinematic universe… So what if I told you that it’s going to stop existing as you know it in only a few short months?
As you probably know, May’s Civil War will see the heads of the MCU, Captain America and Iron Man, come head to head over an act known as the Sokovia Accords which will place the Avengers directly under the control of the government in an attempt to minimize collateral damage. Iron Man believes that the Avengers should embrace the Accords while Captain America thinks it’s an attempt from the government to militarize them and turn them into their own private army. The conflict leaves the MCU superheroes split… possibly forever. I mean, sure, they’re going to assemble one last time in “Avengers: Infinity War”, but for the most part, this is it. That’s the end of the MCU as we know it.
Let’s look at the roster of movies, shall we? Marvel’s Phase 1 (from Iron Man until Avengers) was all about establishing the heroes who would form the Avengers, with each of the six characters forming it receiving at least one movie appearance before they assembled. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk all received their own movies, as they (alongside Ant-Man and the Wasp) were the founding members of the Avengers in the comics. Ant-Man and the Wasp were supposed to show up in Phase 1, but the entire project (headed by Edgar Wright) was one huge mess from start to finish, so it was delayed to Phase 2. Speaking of Phase 2, this one was all about further establishing the Avengers and their adventures. Three of the four main Avengers received one more movie, and not counting the exception (Guardians of the Galaxy, which is pretty much its own franchise only tangentially related to the MCU) they assembled once again for Avengers: Age of Ultron. And while Ant-Man finally came out after Ultron, it’s much more appropriate to count it as a Phase 3 movie due to its timing and themes.
And now let’s look at Phase 3, shall we? How many movies do we have establishing the main 4 Avengers? One – for Thor and Hulk, the only Avengers not involved in Civil War. Again, not counting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, most of what we have on the slate for Phase 3 are introductions of brand new heroes. Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Inhumans, maybe even Ant-Man if you count it as a Phase 3 film (like I do). We’re no longer establishing the classic characters – we’re now focusing on new ones. While many have stated that Avengers: Infinity War will be the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, I dare to say that it’ll actually come much earlier – with Captain America: Civil War. After all, it’s the last movie to feature the Avengers (the foundation of the universe) for a really long time while also setting the stage for new characters to appear and take the reins throughout Phase 3. If that doesn’t seem like a finale to you, I don’t know what will.