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We've heard Marvel Studios and its filmmakers talk a lot over the years about the importance of changing up The Avengers lineup every so often. We will start to see this idea play out in Joss Whedon's upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron\ - which is adding some new members to the team like Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch - but if rumors are to be believed, then the comic book movie company is planning to take that thought to the extreme with the inevitable Avengers 3.
This story comes to us from Badass Digest, which says that Marvel is contemplating keeping major Avengers characters Thor and Captain America (and possibly Black Widow) out of Avengers 3 so that they can both keep the actors under contract and avoid renegotiation. With Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans soon to be done with their existing deals with the studio, the idea is that the company would take those characters out of the spotlight for a while and focus on newer Phase 3 characters- like Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and other "secondary characters from the MCU" who will get the chance to "stand up and prove their worth." Then, at a later point in the franchise, Marvel would be able to bring both Thor and Captain America (and possibly Black Widow) back, which would obviously be a very big deal.
An interesting question mark in this situation, naturally, is the deal between Marvel and Robert Downey Jr. When the Iron Man star's contract was renegotiated last summer, it was reported that the actor had signed on for two more features - specifically The Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Avengers 3. This would suggest that Iron Man could be the original Avenger who sticks around and brings all of the new guys together (the story makes no mention of Hawkeye and suggests that Hulk could be off-world by the time Avengers 3 comes rolling around).
If Captain America and Thor aren't going to be in The Avengers 3, that could mean some very interesting things for currently in-development Captain America 3 and Thor 3. Fans have already been wildly speculating that the former could see its titular hero either die or hang up his shield, and it's hard to say at this point what will happen in the latter when the God of Thunder learns that his father has been "deposed" and replaced by the psychotic Loki on the throne of Asgard.
Should this rumor turn out to be true - and it's a bit iffy at this stage - then it could disrupt a whole bunch of fan theories floating around. For example, does this mean that Marvel would delay matching up the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy? And if that's true, does that mean The Avengers 3 won't be the Infinity Gauntlet storyline and the ultimate face-off with Thanos? The future is fuzzy, but there are a lot of interesting possibilities.