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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in an interesting place, as we're living in the interim year before Phase Four kicks off with Cate Shortland's Black Widow. Phase Three went off without a hitch, with every single installment resulting in critical and box office success. Many of the biggest success stories from the last slate of movies have come from The Russo Brothers, and frequent collaborators, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Markus and McFeely wrote all three Captain America movies, the ill-fated Thor: The Dark World, and the last two Avengers movies, including the massive and hugely successful Avengers: Endgame-- which recently became the highest grossing movie of all time. They've had a long history with Marvel Studios, but it appears the duo isn't planning on writing any of the recently announced Phase Four movies. As McFeely recently put it:
We’re gone, no. We are not working for Marvel at the moment. For one thing, you can’t raise the stakes.
The man makes a point. After crafting the complicated narratives of Infinity War and Endgame, there's really no higher than Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus can go within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So it might be best to leave on a high note.
Cristopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were tasked with an impossibly daunting task with Infinity War and Endgame. The co-writers had a giant cast of characters to include, and properly serve in a character-driven way. And they did it all, giving the OG Avengers extra time in Endgame by dusting half of the heroes as a result of Thanos' Infinity War victory.
Avengers: Endgame presented a unique storytelling challenge, as the surviving heroes used the powers of Pym Particles to travel through the MCU's history in the Time Heist. This second act brought even more characters and settings into the massive movie, allowing for several exciting cameos. After figuring out how to extract each Infinity Stones rom the MCU's lengthy timeline, it would make sense that McFeely and Markus would want to step down from their roles within the studio. They've done enough.
Then again, it doesn't look like the duo has written off (pun intended) the idea of returning to the MCU sometime in the future. In their same conversation with Los Angeles Times, Christopher Markus spoke about the idea of coming back, with:
We love them, hopefully they like us, we would gladly go back when the need arises. But at the moment we’re not there. We were on, literally, continuously from [Captain America: The First Avenger] to the end of Endgame. It’s a long run.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is showing no signs of slowing down, despite losing its main stars in Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America. Since there's no end in sight, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely don't seem to be ruling out the possibility of working on another project. But it's not happening anytime soon, as the writers will finally get the chance to have some distance from the massive franchise.
Narratively, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus have been responsible for some of the biggest seismic changes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First and foremost, they introduced audiences to Steve Rogers Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve's humble beginnings and relationship with Peggy Carter proved to be an important narrative thread throughout the entire first three phases of the MCU. What's more, Peggy got her own brief series on ABC, created by McFeely and Markus themselves.
Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus' second addition to the MCU was Thor: The Dark World. This might be a bit surprising, as The Dark World is considered one of the MCU's weakest installments. Even Chris Hemsworth has admitted that he wasn't a fan of the movie. What's more, it seemingly kept Natalie Portman away from the shared universe until her upcoming return in Thor: Love and Thunder. But The Dark World did help move its title character forward, while also introducing the Reality Stone to audiences for the first time.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier arrived next from McFeely and Markus, and changed the course of the MCU forever. The movie brought Bucky Barnes back into the narrative, this time as a brainwashed antagonist/assassin. What's more, the shared universe was flipped on its head when it was revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. was infiltrated by Hydra. It was a major growing experience for the title character, who was previously more of an idealist.
After helping to clean the script of the original Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely opened Phase Three with Captain America: Civil War. This project united the writers with The Russo Brothers, and was the first major step toward the type of work necessary for Infinity War and Endgame. A huge cast of characters was used in the titular conflict between The Avengers, which split the group of heroes in half. The movie also introduced Tom Holland's Spider-Man for the first time, kickstarting another fan favorite franchise.
Then there's the work the pair of writers did with Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, which truly can't be understated. Their collaboration with The Russo Brothers did the impossible, with two tonally unique movies shot back to back. It's a wonder that the writers were able to service so many characters in those two movies. Despite being from various franchises, Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus were able to write for each hero in an organic way. And the ending of both blockbusters are sure to be felt in the MCU for some time.
Thanos' snap of death was the twist no one saw coming, with countless heroes turning to dust before our yes. The heroes eventually brought back the formerly dusted during Hulk's snap, but the world was forever change. The effects of The Decimation and The Blip were explored in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and smart money says they'll be a continued theme during Phase Four's big screen and Disney+ adventures.