Marvel's ensemble of key superheroes Marvel Studios

Earlier this week Marvel revealed its entire slate of films for the next five years. Nine films will be released as part of "Phase Three" of its sprawling cinematic universe (MCU), starting with Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and concluding with Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 in 2019.

At this week's event Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige described the two-part Avengers story as the "culmination" of everything Marvel has done since its first film, 2008's Iron Man.

Don't think for a second that Feige's words mean it will be the end though. After 10 films that have collectively grossed over $7bn, and 11 films to come that will gross even more, there's no way the Marvel machine will simply stop.

Where then, will it go?

Infinity War will be a galaxy-spanning event movie like no other, with every big screen MCU hero coming together to battle Thanos (Josh Brolin) the Mad Titan who threatens the universe's very existence.

After all that commotion it's safe to say that things will need to calm down a bit before Marvel embarks on its next decade-long story arc. The whole point of a sprawling inter-connected film series is so its many characters can eventually come together, so it will want to build towards something after Infinity War, just maybe not straight away.

Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans. All will soon star in Marvel movies. Marvel Comics

Here is what might possibly follow in Marvel's Phase Four.

The Obvious Sequels

Black Panther, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans will all have appeared at least a couple of times before the end of Infinity War, but will only have had one film all to themselves.

Sequels for each are the most obvious films Marvel could roll out, as well as a third Guardians of the Galaxy.

TV Stars Stepping Up

By 2019 Marvel's Netflix series will have wrapped up, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage enjoying their own shows before teaming up as The Defenders. Any of them, or all of them together, could feature in their own film.

As for Agents of SHIELD, it's hard to imagine that making the jump to the big screen, but if it manages to last eight seasons and extend into Phase Four then anything is possible. Perhaps an X-Men-style film about a SHIELD training academy and its students could work.

Recasting Old Heroes

Captain America
Bucky Barnes (as the Winter Soldier) already held Cap's shield once Marvel Studios

The assumption is that Marvel will be lucky to retain the services of even one of its key current stars. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson may well all be gone following Infinity War.

In the case of Iron Man there has been talk of recasting Tony Stark with a new actor, James Bond style.

Black Widow, as good and well-loved as she is, can be lost without much worry, and then there's Thor – who was very recently recast in the comics as a woman. A notion that would surely have crossed the minds of those at Marvel Studios planning for the future.

When it comes to Captain America, existing big screen sidekicks Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam 'Falcon' Wilson (Anthony Mackie) have each assumed the title and shield in the comics, something which will almost certainly happen in the films at some point.

Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four

There would be no better way for Marvel to start over than to acquire and reboot the licenses it sold to Fox and Sony in the 1990s, and whose films currently don't form part of the MCU.

Rumours have suggested that Sony might strike a deal with Marvel over the use of Spider-Man in its Avengers series, but that is still just a rumour.

Spider-Man could yet appear in the MCU Sony Pictures

It is however much more likely to happen than a deal with Fox for the X-Men. For a start the mutant collective has enough strong characters to build its own cinematic universe around. Then there's the bad blood between the two studios: Fox also owns the big screen rights to the Fantastic Four, and Marvel just cancelled that comic series apparently to hinder next year's movie reboot.

X-Men is too big a series to do this to though, and too successful for Fox to relinquish any time soon. If that Fantastic Four reboot fails next year however, the rights could revert to Marvel in 2020.

New Heroes

If Marvel's first film post-Infinity War was about a new character unfamiliar to audiences and had few ties to what came before, that would be the ideal pallet-cleanser for fans following all the intergalactic shenanigans.

Who could that hero be? Nova, Blade, Moon Knight, Runaways and Namor the Sub-Mariner are candidates, as is She-Hulk, which leads us nicely to...


The big guy.

Since Mark Ruffalo first played Bruce Banner in Avengers Assemble and helped bring the best big-screen Hulk to life with motion capture, fans have clamoured for a solo Hulk film. Quite why it hasn't happened yet isn't clear, with Feige insisting that it still might.

Issues with the previous two Hulk movies (neither Ang Lee's Hulk nor Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk did the character justice) could be to blame, or Marvel could simply be saving him as a further selling point of the Avengers movies.

A solo outing in Phase Four makes sense, and if timed right could also provide a story for post-Infinity War Marvel to pursue. Planet Hulk, which sees the character jettisoned into space where he rules his own planet, and World War Hulk, a sequel which sees him return to Earth very pissed off, are both ripe for adaptation.

How would you like to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue after Infinity War?

Thanos, the Mad Titan, will be voiced by Josh Brolin. Marvel Studios