I loved Avengers: Endgame as much as anybody. While I'm not quite ready to say it's my favorite movie ever, though some are, I was absolutely shocked at how satisfying it all was. However, at the same time, as I think about Endgame now, I find myself not so much thinking about what happened as I am thinking about what is going to happen. The best part about Endgame is that it's over and now some really interesting stuff can happen in the MCU.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe takes it cues from the comic books that came before it. The entire interconnected continuity concept was born from the simple idea that all the Marvel comics take place in the same world, and that individual adventures are happening more or less simultaneously with each other.
However, while Marvel's comics have been going on for decades, and a host of interesting stories have taken place, some things have been constant throughout. Mainly, the heroes themselves.
Occasionally, as part of a big story line, we'll see major characters die or otherwise change. Steve Rogers has been killed before and others, like Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, have taken on the mantle of Captain America. Peter Parker has had his body taken over by the consciousness of Doctor Octopus. Comics are weird.
However, in the case of the comics, the story always returns to the status quo. Steve Rogers is always Captain America again. Peter Parker is always Spider-Man again, even if other, similar heroes are born from these changes.
And this is why Endgame's conclusion has me excited. It certainly seemed going in that the plan was for some parts of the MCU to reach a true end, and while it was always possible the franchise could chicken out in some way, it did not. The way the story ended, it seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done something the comics have never had to do: change permanently.
Tony Stark is dead. Steve Rogers has passed his shield on to Sam Wilson, apparently making him the new Captain America. These changes are almost certainly going to progress through the MCU for a long time, and likely forever.
Even before we knew the ultimate fates of some of these characters, we knew that MCU was going to be a different place in the future because the five year time jump was going to be kept. Rather than resetting the MCU back to at or before Thanos' snap, five years of time has still moved forward for half the universe.
While the possibility of a Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans appearance in the future of the MCU isn't entirely off the table, the fact is that bringing these guys back for the long term would be incredibly expensive. And while the profit on Avengers: Endgame is probably enough that Marvel could afford RDJ for a few more years, that doesn't seem likely to happen.
Part of the problem when Steve Rogers dies in the comics is that you know he'll be back eventually. This makes whatever happens in between feel less important. In fact, frequently, the point of bringing in a new person to play a particular role is get fans back on board with the standard bearer when things begin to get stale.
However, here, the MCU has to try and get the audience to buy into new heroes completely. If you decide you don't like Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, whether or not that's what he's actually called, you can't just wait around until the storyline that brings back Chris Evans gets here. That's not going to happen.
Marvel Studios needs to get the audience on board with these new heroes. These are the people who are going to carry thing for the next several years.
With the new MCU, we simply don't know what's going to happen next. We may still get more Captain America movies, but they will star an entirely new character, and as such will be very different. We might even get a new Iron Man movie at some point, but again, it's not going to be anything like the ones that we've already seen.
In addition to the fact that old characters are moving away and letting characters that had been supporting heroes take the lead, there's also the fact that, with the five year time jump that the MCU received in Endgame, the world looks like a very different place which also means entirely new young heroes. We saw that Scott Lang's daughter Cassie was not eliminated by Thanos' snap. so she's now five years older compared to all those who were brought back to life or stuck in the Quantum Realm. In Marvel Comics, she becomes a hero in her own right and is now just about the right age to do that in the MCU.
I have no idea where things are going in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there are a few places where I'm confident things won't go, and that's exciting. I'm confident we're not going to simply be brought back around to the beginning. That works on the page, where the characters never need to age, but on the big screen, one way or another, time passes.
This first step, with Sam Wilson carrying the shield and Iron Man gone, among other minor changes, isn't a step into entirely new territory, but because we won't be taking any steps backwards, where things go from here is still mostly uncharted. Every potential change from here on out happens in an MCU where these other changes have happened.
Whatever the MCU ends up doing with the Fantastic Four or the X-Men, they'll never meet Tony Stark or Steve Rogers. These may seem like small details, and maybe they will be, but they could also push the storytelling into entirely fresh directions. The repercussions of a world without the original Captain America can be drawn out much further than they ever have been in the comics.
Phase 4 of the MCU will certainly be a different world, but more importantly, so will Phase 5, 6 or however many more of these we're going to get. Every change has the potential to compound those that came before. I honestly hope the MCU really does keep going because the more things change in real, permanent ways, the more opportunity we'll have to see really inventive stories that we might never see in a comic book world where things never change all that much.