2018 is set to be a big year for Marvel, with Black Panther — Marvel’s first superhero film with a black actor in the lead role — and the almost overwhelming star-studded Avengers: Infinity War on the docket. But it also marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Iron Man, which kicked off Marvel Studios’ grand cinematic universe experiment. A decade later, the MCU’s success is unmatched by any other franchise in Hollywood.
The company’s superhero stories are just getting started
And in an interview with Vanity Fair profiling Marvel Studios president (and overall architect of the company’s cinematic success) Kevin Feige, it seems like the company’s superhero stories are just getting started. Marvel has already released or plotted out 22 MCU films, from Iron Man through to the end of the studio’s “Phase Three” arc, which wraps with a fourth and supposedly final Avengers film in 2019, closing out the Infinity War story. But according to Feige, “we’ve got another 20 movies on the docket that are completely different from anything that’s come before — intentionally.” Disney CEO Bob Iger seems to agree, noting in the same piece that Marvel owns the rights to 7,000 characters, with the implication that the company means to use them.
But while Iger and Feige’s comments are interesting, the hints to a soft-reboot looming in the future of Marvel’s films are the most intriguing part of this profile.
Contracts for key actors like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson are all set to run out after the last Avengers movie. And on the story side, the upcoming Avengers two-parter is looking a lot like a coda to the saga of the Infinity Stones, the McGuffins that have been a key part of the initial three Marvel cinematic phases. Or, as Feige himself puts it, “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after.”
Marvel is keeping quiet for the most part of what its post-Avengers plans look like
For the most part, Marvel is keeping quiet about its post-Avengers plans. The studio has only confirmed two upcoming sequels in Feige’s alluded-to “second period” of 20 new films post-Avengers films: a Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel in 2019, and a third Guardians of the Galaxy film from James Gunn, slated for release in 2020.
That’s markedly different from the plans on the other side of the comics-adaptation fence. Marvel’s competitors at DC Comics/Warner Bros. have already ambitiously announced plans for the next 20 films in its own cinematic universe: Aquaman, Shazam, Wonder Woman 2, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Batgirl, The Batman, Black Adam, Flashpoint, Gotham City Sirens, Justice League Dark, Nightwing, Suicide Squad 2, Birds of Prey, Deadshot, Deathstroke, a Harley Quinn and the Joker film, a Justice League sequel, a Lobo film, and a Man of Steel sequel. Most of those films don’t have dates, production information, or anything else past titles, and DC’s film schedule also only extends to 2020. And there’s no telling what DC will change as it backs away from its plans for a Marvel-esque extended universe. It remains to be seen whether DC plans to issue a competing statement about how many thousands of characters it has in its copyright roster.