What’s Marvel’s Game After Endgame?

Avengers: Endgame is a triumph. It has great reviews, it’s breaking box office records, and fans love it. So…. what now?

(Spoilers follow, you’ve been warned.)

Endgame is a rare moment of closure in a universe designed for open-ended storytelling. By the time the credits roll, we’ve said good-bye to the keystone characters of the last 20+ movies. The six main Avengers actors have signed off on their work, and they’re probably wise enough not to come back for an awkward baton-passing cameo.

The sense of finality makes for a great movie. But Disney literally can’t afford for Endgame to be the end of an $18 billion franchise. So how do you jump-start a new set of adventures?

Did Endgame Launch the Next Generation?e

Infinity War made a canny decision with Thanos’s finger snap. By reducing most of Marvel’s newer heroes to dust, it kept Endgame firmly focused on the original Avengers. This pays off in the second act, which jackrabbits through time and space but still feels character-driven.

Everyone comes back, of course, and I’ve heard choruses from friends and family about how thrilled they were to see their particular favorites. (One thing Endgame does an outstanding job with is providing a Big Moment for each and every one of its viewers. No wonder it’s over three hours long.) But Endgame really isn’t about the new faces.

Instead, Disney made the wise decision of letting the last few movies do the work of building up the new characters. Check out the image that’s been going around of the first 20 MCU movie posters:

The changing of the guard began a while ago.

The top half of the poster is all Iron Man and Thor and Cap. The MCU gets a lot broader in the bottom half, and most of those characters are just coming into their own. And this image is from before Carol Danvers joins the gang.

Look for Disney to Play It Safe

Disney could do anything in the wake of Endgame — but it probably won’t. The company has been wildly innovative in its creative output and business practices, but that’s over a scale of decades. On a day-to-day basis, it is a deeply conservative company where rule one is to not screw up brands that have lasted generations.

Endgame rocked the MCU boat, and Disney is going to let the waves settle down for a while. It’s no accident that they’re closing out their 2019 movies with Spider-Man, an incredibly reliable character who has headlined seven (!) movies over the last twenty years.

Spidey, Black Panther, and Captain Marvel are more than capable of holding up Marvel’s tentpoles for the next three to five years. Dr. Strange is ripe for further development, and Scott and Hope and the Guardians will probably be in the mix somewhere. But don’t expect any bold strides forward or major character introductions.

That’s a little disappointing, especially in a time when the MCU is theoretically about new beginnings and renewal. Disney could do better, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusion. (Sorry guys, one nameless guy talking about a potential boyfriend is NOT a big step forward for LGBTQ characters in the MCU, even if the director plays the guy. Bring on Aneka and Ayo!)

The MCU has the resources and fan following to play a long game, though. The movies reliably deliver exciting action and humor, and lets them — slowly! — expand their range of characters and genres. I can live with a long game, even if I’m still holding out for something Fantastic near the end of phase Four.

Comments 1