The MCU as we know it is racing toward its finale. Phase 3 has been a truly incredible run of movies for Marvel Studios. With the release of Thor: Ragnarok, we are quickly racing toward Avengers: Infinity War, which will bring Thanos into the MCU and will help bring us to Avengers 4, which still doesn't have a title. With or without a title, Kevin Feige has made it clear that Avengers 4 will serve as a finale to the MCU.
The man behind Marvel Studios was interviewed for a recent, in-depth story about the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe next year. During the course of the conversation, he was asked about Avengers 4 and, while he couldn't reveal much, Feige did say that Avengers 4 will mark the end of one distinct period and the beginning of another. Here's what he had to say about it.
"[Avengers 4] bring things you've never seen in superhero films: a finale. There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting."
That's not to say that Marvel Studios is going to stop making movies. Quite the opposite. They are already planning 20 movies beyond Avengers 4, but things are going to look vastly different. Part of that change will involve saying goodbye to many of the actors and characters that got us through these first 10 years. As noted in the feature piece on Marvel Studios, the contracts with most of the core actors are set to end after Avengers 4. As such, some of them will be "hanging up their capes and shields."
"That's partially because the Marvel contracts with the actors who play them, Evans (Captain America), Ruffalo (Hulk), Downey (Iron Man), Johansson (Black Widow), Hemsworth (Thor), and Renner (Hawkeye), are coming to an end."
It's entirely possible that Marvel could renew or extend some of these contracts, but it's made clear that we are going to see some of these characters end their runs in the MCU. We're going to have to move on and embrace the future. If even half of those actors leave, the landscape of the Marvel universe on film is going to feel a lot different. Not to mention whatever implications exist with what events transpire in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4. Thanos has been teased for a long time and that's likely to come with big consequences.
Whatever shape the Marvel universe takes beyond Avengers 4, which is set to arrive on May 3, 2019, we're still going to get plenty more movies. We know that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel are going to be part of Phase 4, or whatever it ends up being called, but that's about it. Kevin Feige is planning a very different future for fans and we're going to have to wait to find out what that future holds. You can read more with Kevin Feige over at Vanity Fair.