With Chris Evans apparently bidding farewell to Steve Rogers/Captain America earlier this week, it sounds as though we’re seeing the end of an era for the MCU. As Evans explained on Good Morning America, “The contract is done. A lot of our contracts are through,” referring to the fact that his multi-film contract is fulfilled with Avengers 4, together with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth.
“Myself, Downey, Hemsworth, we all kind of started roughly at the same time, and I think we all, through Avengers 4, kind of wrap it up. So at this point, I don’t know what’s next, but yeah, by 2019, that’s it.”
You can add Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner to that list as well, meaning pretty much the entire original Avengers lineup could be making their final appearances in next May’s blockbuster. I doubt this will be the case (particularly as some of the actors have already confirmed that they’re appearing in future movies), but it certainly signals a sea change in the faces we’ll be seeing on screen. So, with that in mind, what’s next for the MCU and for these much-loved characters?
Well, if Avengers 4 kills off all of the original heroes, it’s going to be a real bummer, but it’s a safe bet that at least some of them will bite the dust. Still, Captain America and Iron Man are incredibly lucrative IPs and it’s silly to think Disney and Marvel Studios will sit on them for too long, even if the actors are departing the roles. Despite sounding a bit blasphemous that anyone other than Downey Jr. could play Iron Man, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has previously discussed recasting major roles, saying the following in a 2016 interview with Variety:
“You can look to Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Batman as characters that last longer than any one actor playing them. There’s a precedent for it in other franchises that suggests it’s possible.”
My prediction is that we won’t see any major MCU roles being recast due to contractual obligations being fulfilled (though we will see a new X-Men cast pretty soon). I think instead we’ll get some ‘legacy’ characters taking up the mantle of the departed heroes. So, Bucky Barnes might become the new Captain America or (as is rumored) Ironheart might become the new Iron Man. After all, it’s a tactic that’s worked well in the comic books for 50 years.
That being said, just as familiar from comic books are periodic resets of the continuity so that the stories don’t get bogged down in history. By the time we hit the 2030s, the MCU will probably be creaking under the weight of its own backstory. Not to mention that they might be beginning to run out of classic heroes and villains to adapt.
As such, I think we’ll see some cataclysmic disaster that’ll reset the continuity and birth MCU 2.0, in which a new generation of actors will play the heroes we know and love. After all, Feige’s explained that “The narrative that started when we began 10 years ago will have a conclusion.”
That, or the whole superhero genre could fall out of fashion and audiences will start demanding films based on, I dunno, Fortnite or something.