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The Future of the MCU: What's Next for Marvel Studios

5/17/2022 • 5 min read

[Updated on 7/13/2022]

This is a turning point for the Marvel cinematic universe. For a long time, we had a good idea of where Marvel Studios was going with its big picture storytelling. Studio president Kevin Feige laid out a roadmap for Marvel's future several years ago, in which he introduced Black Panther and detailed plans for the movies that became INFINITY WAR and ENDGAME.

But as Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has rolled out, we've seen great movies that focused on specific aspects of Marvel's big picture, without indicating much about what the next big stage would be. We’re here to give you a little bit of an idea of what’s next for the MCU based on what we've seen for far.

Many New Characters

Marvel is bringing a lot of characters to screens big and small, often refining them in streaming series before they make the leap to the big screen. Kamala Kahn, the central character in "Ms. Marvel," is a good example — her series will lead into THE MARVELS.

Then there's Kang the Conquerer, played by Jonathan Majors, who appeared in the "Loki" series and will likely be the villain of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP: QUANTUMANIA. In fact, he may be the successor to Thanos as the next Marvel Big Bad. Kang can manipulate time and space, and he takes many forms. He's also a distant relation of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four and Reed's enemy Doctor Doom. Be bounces back and forth through time trying to manipulate people and conquer basically everything.

Once upon a time, Marvel television was kept separate from the film side. Netflix shows like "Luke Cage" and "Daredevil" did not cross over to the movies. That’s no longer true. In fact, Daredevil's alter-ego Matt Murdock showed up in the most recent SPIDER-MAN movie, and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin showed up in "Hawkeye." There's a good chance we'll see Daredevil on the big screen in the near future.

Not all of the new characters are coming from television. THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER introduced Hercules, and DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS offered both the universe-hopping America Chavez and Charlize Theron's character Clea. She recruits Strange to fix a multiverse problem and he accepts. In the comics, Clea is Strange's big romantic interest, but we don't know how she'll play in the movies. One thing's for sure: You don't case Charlize Theron for a minor role.

Mutants, Mutants, Mutants

The "M" word was uttered in the season finale of the Disney+ show "Ms. Marvel," which revealed that Kamala Khan is the first official mutant of the Marvel cinematic universe.

That is significant. For a long time, Marvel Studios was unable to even use the word mutant, because 20th Century Fox owned the cinematic rights to the X-Men. In the comic books, Kamala Khan was created as an Inhuman. That was part of a process to lessen the influence of mutants on Marvel Comics overall, to make the comic and movie worlds more alike. Then Disney bought Fox, the rights came together, and suddenly the Inhumans plan is not so important. Now, Kamala Khan is a mutant.

Not only is Kamala Khan a mutant, but we believe that the villain in BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER is likely to be Prince Namor. He is akin to Marvel’s version of Aquaman, but a lot more complicated. He is also a mutant. We know that at some point Marvel will make FANTASTIC FOUR, in which Namor may be a player, and THE X-MEN. Fox's original Charles Xavier, played by Patrick Stewart, already appeared in DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS. Or, at least, one variant of him did.

A Multiverse Contraction?

We suspect that, at some point, the multiverse will contract. Right now, the multiverse is a great way to sort out and re-order some storytelling aspects of the MCU. It can unify things that were previously separate, like the X-Men and the rest of the MCU. But everything in the history of comics publishing tells us that managing a multiverse of stories becomes very difficult.

When the difficulty becomes overwhelming, there is a contraction. We would bet that, perhaps in Phase 5, Mervel Studios will contract the Marvel multiverse to a much more limited set of realities. They did it in the comics in 2015, using a comics-famous story construct…

Will There Be a Secret War?

We’ve already seen the Civil War in the MCU. Now, will the Secret Wars take place? That's the name of the very first multi-title Marvel comic book crossover event, from 1984 and 1985. It's where Spider-Man got his black costume, some heroes were killed, others were rewritten, and worlds were changed. There was a "Secret Wars II" not too long after, and then decades later a spiritual sequel Secret War, which dramatically rewrote Marvel's comic book continuity.

We don't expect a direct adaptation of either major "Secret Wars" storyline, in a powerful entity called the Beyonder (who has been rewritten multiple times in Marvel's history) created a "Battleworld" full of heroes and villains. But we do expect that Marvel will use something called Secret Wars in order to close out one of the next big phases of the MCU. If Marvel is going to contract the multiverse into something a lot more linear, that would be the way to do it.


Read more about Marvel's next movie: BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER


All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.

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