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Ever since Tony Stark donned his first suit of armor back in 2008's Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building towards the showdown with Thanos. That climax will take place next year when The Avengers: Infinity War finally debuts, but what will happen to the MCU once the Infinity War arc plays out? According to Kevin Feige, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it could come to an end after the latest Avengers movie premieres. Feige opened up ahead of the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and said:
Certainly as we get to Infinity War there is a sense of a climax if not a conclusion to, by the time we're at untitled Avengers 4, the 22 movies that will have encompassed the first three phases of the MCU. And what happens after that will be very different. I don't know if it's Phase 4, it might be a new thing.
During his recent chat with Collider about the future of the entire Marvel franchise, Kevin Feige made it clear that Infinity War's implications for the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe cannot be overstated. While the Marvel franchise will undoubtedly continue for years to come (you don't shut down a huge cash cow like this), we're beginning to see that many major shifts will take place at the end of Phase 3. The Marvel Cinematic Universe technically isn't going anywhere, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it could be over very soon.
The existence of the Infinity War story arc seems like the biggest reason for this massive upheaval. Thanos' use of the Infinity Gauntlet will likely have enormous implications over the continuity of the Marvel franchise, and it could serve as a logical way for Marvel Studios to shift away from actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. -- who may soon begin to age out of their respective contracts. All it takes is one snap of the Mad Titan's fingers to make some significant changes.
And by significant changes, I mean the death of half of the known universe. In the same way that Days of Future Past helped reorganized 20th Century Fox's X-Men timeline back in 2014, the Infinity War story could serve as an easy way for Marvel Studios to retcon, restructure, and generally, start from scratch in a way that will feel earned -- without angering fans too much. By doing this, Marvel may shift away from the "Phase" model, and try something entirely new with its comic book movie slate; that said, what this new model will look like remains to be seen.
We will have to wait and see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe evolves over the course of the next year to get a better sense of what Kevin Feige meant when he said that the MCU could be a "new thing.". For now, make sure to check out Marvels' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when the highly anticipated sequel premieres on May 5.