Thor: Ragnarok is the 17th movie in the MCU, a franchise that began less than a decade ago (with 2008's Iron Man). Friday the 13th only has 12 films, and it began 37 years ago. Think about that for a second. Now, before you start getting all bent out of shape in the comments, this isn't another "there are too many superhero movies" article, but rather a pat on the back for Marvel, as that level of productivity is, well, a marvel. The aforementioned slasher series was churning entries out at the rate of one per year at its peak, and folks totally burned out on those body count movies (mostly, because they're bad). The fact that the MCU has continued at this rate and still kept up such a staggering level of qualitative and economic success is near miraculous.
Still, all good things must some to an end, and it seems Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige is cognizant of that fact. While doing press for Ragnarok, Uproxx's Mike Ryan asked what fans should expect after Phase Three concludes with the last (still untitled) Avengers picture. Though Ryan notes that Feige has stated before (regarding the conclusions of Phases One and Two) that the MCU would feel "different" in the past, there was something more committed about his comments here:
"Well, all I'll say is the films we are working on now - which take us through to the Avengers Untitled in May of '19 - that's really all we are focusing on. And we are focusing on bringing, by that point, an unprecedented, 22-movie, continuous shared fictional narrative to a conclusion in a satisfying way."
Now, that's a somewhat fascinating thing to say. Although it's been rumored in the past that Phase Three would mark the end of the MCU (as we know it), this feels like the first public confirmation that this final Avengers picture will tie everything up for Cap, Tony, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Natasha. Yet once those credits roll, it sounds like Feige & Co. are still undecided as to where exactly Phase Four (if there even is a Phase Four) will pick up:
"And where we go beyond that? Of course we will go places beyond that. And, of course, we have ideas of where we go beyond that. But, really, it is all good stories. And as the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation said 'all good things must come to an end.' And part of what makes them special, there is a finite quality to the best of fictional stories through history. And we wanted to do that at the end of our first three phases and 22 movies. How we start anew and wherever we go beyond that is a story for another time. This is really about 10 years on, bringing something to a head in a satisfying and unexpected way."
This sort of cageiness is incredibly fun, and also shows a level of brilliance in Feige that even the staunchest critics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (such as myself) still knew was present. Beyond actors' contracts and production costs, there's a recognition that every story must end. Though the very nature of comic book narratives is serialization into infinty, the best arcs deal with finality in ways we do not necessarily expect, and to hear that there's a definite end to these characters' arcs in sight only shows that Marvel truly cares about telling the best tale possible. After all, no legend is memorable without a brilliant final act, and this ultimate Avengers hopefully delivers in a way that's fun, exciting and surprising.
Furthermore, Feige also notes in the interview that an incessant marketing campaign for future titles we know nothing about can be exausting, as Marvel already has the biggest impending slate in town. When asked why there hasn't been an announcement beyond Phase Three's '14 reveal:
"...that was a particular event to really announce and showcase Phase Three and I guess set up the expectation of doing something like that every few years. But the notion we are sitting here talking and have, what, six films yet to be released? That's more than almost any other single production entity in town has on the docket. That should be enough."
But if there was an announcement, where would you guys want to see the MCU go next? Behind the scenes at BMD, we've already had this debate, tossing everything out there from recasting (which our own Young Master Siddhant, Comic Book PhD thinks is "a bad idea"), to which characters they could boot up a Phase Four with (Scott Wampler votes Deathlok, which feels fitting). Where do y'all land in this debate?