“There will be two distinct periods,” studio boss Kevin Feige told Vanity Fair. “Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after.”
It’s the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. After more than 10 years and 20 movies starring heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, Marvel will conclude its current theatrical run with Avengers 4 in 2019.
That could mean saying goodbye to some of the superheroes that headline Marvel’s $13 billion movie universe. Marvel’s unprecedented and lengthy contracts with the actors who play the Avengers are coming to an end after the third Avengers: Infinity War film in 2018 and the fourth film in 2019, the publication reported.
- Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man): Seven movies down, two to go
- Chris Evans (Captain America): Six movies down (including the cameo in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but not Thor: Dark World and Ant-Man, which were uncredited), two to go
- Chris Hemsworth (Thor): Five movies down, two to go
- Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow): Five movies down, two to go
- Mark Ruffalo (Hulk): Three movies down, two to go
- Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye): Three movies down, two to go
- Tom Hiddleston (Loki): Four movies down, two to go
Downey Jr., Evans, and Hemsworth have each completed their own trilogies and will have starred in all four Avengers movies by 2019. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them walk away from the Marvel Universe. Evans already appeared as Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch in two Fantastic Four movies, and was reportedly reluctant to begin with to sign on for his initial six-picture deal as Captain America. He recently extended his contract to “wrap everything up” in the fourth Avengers film, he told the Telegraph (paywall).
So did Downey Jr., who has appeared in the most Marvel movies to date and who became incredibly rich off their unexpected success leading up to the first Avengers in 2012; his contracts are now mostly movie-to-movie. And Hemsworth, who finished his Thor trilogy this fall, is signed on through the last two Avengers movies.
That might not be the end of these bankable superheroes. In the comics, the mantle of Captain America is taken up at various times by Bucky Barnes a.k.a The Winter Soldier and the Falcon, two characters who have appeared in Marvel movies, for example.
Johansson could also conceivably stick around if she finally gets her own solo movie. Feige told Deadline in 2016 that he was committed “creatively and emotionally” to making a Black Widow film, but it has yet to be added to the roster. Renner also said he has a Hawkeye spinoff in his contract, but there are no plans for a solo movie as of now.
Whatever the case, it sounds like the Marvel Cinematic Universe will pass the torch onto new heroes in Phase 4 of its film strategy. New Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man movies are already confirmed. And other characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Doctor Strange may get sequels in the next chapter. The studio has a roster of more than 7,000 other characters to choose from in its comic-book portfolio, too. It should be just fine if a few stars go into retirement.