The Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige is one smooth fellow that knows how to play a marketing game that won't cost him a penny. In two recent interviews, he has casually dropped two little info nuggets that have and will continue to inspire extensive thinkpieces from various movie news sites and keep social media blazing with rampant speculation. In an interview with Collider, Feige's elicited the buzzing and salivating by mention that he did not think there would be a Phase 4 but rather something entirely new instead. The phases are what the studio calls the stages of Marvel movies usually with a big event movie in May capping it off (the first phase climaxed with The Avengers). It really is just semantics over what you call the movie groupings, it can be called Phase 4 or Potato Salad, but Feige is implying that significant change is on the horizon. Does this mean that much like the comic books that a major event will occur that causes a reboot, which then ushers in new versions of the current major characters? Or does it mean all these characters stories will be done and a new slew of heroes will be given movies?
The buzz then electrified when he was asked why Marvel still hasn't given a catchy title to Avengers 4 (because you can't just do numbers anymore). The heads of every Marvel fan almost did a Scanner's head explosion when Feige said the reason for the delay was that the title for that movie will be a big giant spoiler for next summer's Avengers: Infinity War. Now, Feige was being very strategic by mentioning this and knows that saying such things has made the next Avengers into the biggest motion picture event yet. The plan is for it to be Marvel's highest grossing movie and become a massive smash hit, and it had a chance without Feige's revelation, but now we have a year's worth of salivating anticipation.
Feige and Marvel have been masters of the hype machine, because they know how to get people revved up but they also realize the suspense needs a worthwhile payoff. I don't see them pulling a No Good Deed where the studio said critics screening were cancelled because they didn't want them to spoil the major twist. Of course, the big twist was the movie found a way to make Idris Elba and Taraji Henson uninteresting. I don't see the title ending up being Avengers: Thanos' Revenge, with the big spoiler being the Avengers stopped him from destroying the world and now he wants to get payback. The bad guy losing in the end isn't much of a spoiler and even Avengers taking a hit to set up a sequel isn't, so I don't expect it to be Avengeance: Avengers Strike Back.
After the hype that has now being stirred up, something huge needs to go down next summer. Last year's Captain America: Civil War felt like it ended with real consequences and changes to the universe. The Avengers were now torn apart and scattered with relationships that had serious damage. It now looks like Marvel is going for changes with even more far-reaching implications, and something so big that no title or maybe even a trailer can spoil.
I believed it before Civil War and stand by it now, either a main character or one of the major supporting characters needs to die. If the death is title worthy, then my thinking is it is a character being played by someone whose contract is coming to an end like a Captain America or Iron Man. It would shake up the cinematic universe and force the series to have some heavy dramatic moments as the heroes need to deal with such a massive blow. I also think killing off a character allows for some real stakes and make the audience realize anyone could be in trouble and make the wars have a strong emotional impact as it could be the end of a beloved hero.
It also could be a betrayal or a major change in character such as Steve Rogers revealing he has been working with Hydra all along, which would coincide with a comic book storyline but make no sense based off things that happened in Captain America: Winter Soldier. It would shake up the universe and help freshen up some stories.
The other little nugget Feige revealed in the most recent interview was that there was a chance Thanos would not be in Avengers 4. Now, he didn't outright say that, but it was implied by answering "It is a whole new movie" when questioned if Thanos was in both. It would make next summer's movie a pretty major event if they blow off the biggest of big bads that they have been building up since the first Avengers. This also means they need to come up with an even bigger threat for the follow-up, which again could mean some kind of betrayal or unearthing of an unholy entity that is unlocked by the Infinity Gauntlet. Or this is the time for the massive crossover with 1980s iconic characters, the Snorks.
Feige has been successful in sparking the excitement and ensuring we talk about next summer's movie for the next year, and I'm sure there will be plenty to keep stoking those flames. The key now is for the pay off to be something gigantic and force some major changes. Otherwise, there probably will be a feeling of letdown or being mislead.
The other reality is that while Marvel Studios still produces some of the very best tentpoles of the past decade, the cracks and rust is beginning to show. Avengers: Age of Ultron was a step below the previous movie. Civil War wasn't quite at the caliber of Winter Soldier, despite it being sold as a major event movie. Ant-Man had a feeling of being different but it was a movie that was easier to forget than previous Marvel productions. Plus at this point the formula is beginning to show and while they're all very good movies, you can predict most of the beats and turns. With plans for three movies a year for several more years (or eternity if they can keep it going), the franchise needs to get back to high speed and feel like major events again. This year may do a lot to help a bit of the fatigue with Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok attempting to add some twists to the formula and having some distinct style and personality. Next summer's Avenger: Infinity War will likely set the tone and lay out the stories for several years.
I'm just hoping it then isn't revealed to be Avengers: Mac is Back.