2008 was a defining year for the modern superhero film. With the release of Marvel Studio’s Iron Man, a game-changing franchise was born, and nobody could possibly know after watching that first film how big that universe would become.
Seven years later, the MCU has expanded immensely. Now eleven films, three TV shows, four short films and several tie-in comics long, with the twelfth film, 2015’s Ant-Man hitting theaters next month. There are even talks of new animated series being created that will also tie-in to the main series.
As with all great things, however, there inevitably has to be an ending. Many people are under the impression that the two part Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and 2019 will be the end of the MCU, even though 2019’s The Inhumans is set to come out after the fourth Avengers film. Every film up through this point seems to be leading up to an epic confrontation with the villain Thanos in Infinity War, so it would seem natural that this would be an easy stopping point.
But will it really be the end of the MCU?
In my opinion, no. For starters, these movies are huge money makers for both Marvel and Disney. They continue to soak in billions at the box office, and this is from only a small select group of superheroes that Marvel chose to adapt for the big screen. There are still countless other heroes that have not been touched yet, and while not all of them are as popular as Iron Man or Captain America there are many that could easily hold their own in their own films. Marvel and Sony have already been working out a deal with the Spider-Man rights, so it is quite possible that Marvel could do similar deals in regards to The Fantastic 4 and X-Men, bringing even more popular franchises into the MCU fold.
Ending the series with Infinity War would also seem a bit premature to me. By the time the first part is released, there will be several standalone films in the series, including Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel. If Marvel has taught us anything, its that neither the studio nor the public like standalone films. With a rich comic book history for all of these characters it would not make sense at all to just make one film and then end the entire franchise without giving them the same sequels that the others got. Just like with books, modern audiences prefer series. Marvel could easily keep making money far into the future if they kept their series approach going.
Another reason to keep the MCU going is the rising threat that DC poses to Marvel. DC has already started copying Marvel’s formula but at a much more rapid pace, following their first and so-far only film with a crossover, 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It took Marvel four years to build its universe from the first Iron Man movie until the first Avengers film. Now, just like Marvel, DC has a slate of films planned past 2020, and from what DC and Warner Brothers have said they are only at the beginning. If Marvel were to quit after 2020 they will be surrendering a lot of ground to it biggest rival, and if the public’s love of superheroes persists then Marvel stands to lose a lot of money, which DC will start taking for itself.
It is still far too early in the game to see what the best course of action for the future is, but if you ask me I think Marvel stands to gain so much by keeping the MCU going and to lose so much by letting it end. I will keep my fingers crossed over the next five years and hope that the movies keep coming, but if in the end they decide to stop making the movies then I will be sure to soak up each new release and savor it as if it were the last.
Only time will tell, though.