To say I’m super-curious about how Marvel Studios is going to sell the still-untitled Avengers 4 would be a dramatic understatement.
Throughout the campaign for Avengers: Infinity War, one theme was repeated over and over again: This is the end. Without spoiling too much of the story itself, the entire marketing campaign – especially elements like earned media and promotional videos – were focused around the idea that the movie was the culmination of the story begun in 2008 with Iron Man, specifically the end-credits tag where Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury to introduce Tony Stark to the idea of The Avengers Initiative. Everything since then, we were told by producer Kevin Feige and others, had lead to this point, where it all comes together.
Except that was never really the case. We always knew a fourth movie was coming a year later that would *actually* be the endpoint, the finale of a two-parter. The audience, though, was asked to swallow the narrative in order to build Infinity War up as an event that could not be missed, even if you had decided to skip Doctor Strange or Ant-Man.
Rumors has begun to emerge about what the subtitle for the fourth movie may be, joining guesses about how the 1990s setting of next year’s Captain Marvel film starring Brie Larson might hint at what’s in store. So, based on what we both do and don’t know about the fourth entry in the Avengers series, let’s engage in a little rampant speculation about what sorts of angles Marvel might take to convince audiences to come out again for [checks notes] a second final installment.
Avengers: One Last Time
It’s possible Marvel Studios just leans into how it kinda sorta pulled a fast one on the audience and says “No, really, *this* is the summation of everything we started but without the nice symmetry of it happening exactly a decade after Iron Man.” It could sell it as a straight-up continuation of the story in the first movie, addressing the developments of Infinity War and promising the audience some sort of resolution to the emotional ending of that movie that doesn’t cheapen what transpired.
Avengers: Hawkeye and The Defenders
Picking up on one of the key conversations among fans, Marvel might decide to address head-on Clint Barton’s notable absence as well as bring heroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage over from Netflix to the big screen. Imagine a campaign explaining how Hawkeye and the others have rallied in Daredevil’s studio apartment and are coming into take down Thanos through the power of trick arrows and borderline alcoholism. I’d watch that.
Avengers: The Dream of the 90s Is Alive
With Captain Marvel taking us back 20-odd years before Tony Stark announced himself as being Iron Man, it’s possible that the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place fully in the time of the Clinton presidency. There’s actually a ton of story potential here, with other characters who haven’t made their MCU debut yet available to build out a whole lineup of heroes operating in the 1990s. It could even include a younger version of both Hank Pym and Bill Foster, played by Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne respectively in the recent Ant-Man and The Wasp, and allow Brie Larson to fill the same central role Robert Downey Jr. has for the last decade.
Avengers: Captain America Wakes Up Next to Suzanne Pleshette
This is perhaps the least likely scenario, but I like to imagine that at some point in the development process someone pitched “…but it was all a dream” and wrote a whole treatment where the MCU starts over from scratch with all new actors taking on the roles of Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and others.
Avengers: Fox and Friends
It’s what everyone wants, right? For the end of the current MCU to herald the beginning of a fresh one that, thanks to Disney’s absorption of Fox, features the Avengers joining forces with the mutants of the X-Men or scientifically-minded Fantastic Four? Marvel execs have played down the notion of this happening, saying that any potential team-ups could be years away at best, but it’s still out there as a possibility and a line of thinking that won’t end until the movie is released.
What approach is chosen should begin to come into focus when we start seeing some early marketing and publicity for the film, which might start in November based on the beginning of the Infinity War campaign. The studio won’t, though, be able to tap into the same kind of event hype that was used for that movie as it’s a bullet that can’t be fired twice, at least not without experiencing significant drop-offs in effectiveness.
Also presenting a challenge for Marvel Studios is that any use of any character will represent some form of spoiler for the movie’s story. With so many heroes being literally wiped away at the end of Infinity War, any reference at all to anyone will generate moans and complaints from the audience that they now know too much about what happens.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.