Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of ten years and 18 movies-worth of interconnected storytelling. But what’s next? We don’t mean Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, or the next Avengers 4 – those are set in stone, but after that – Phase 4 and beyond.
We interviewed Infinity War directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who have worked on multiple Marvel movies including Infinity War, and Marvel’s head honcho Kevin Feige, and asked them all about the future of the MCU. This was before we got to see the latest Avengers movie, so we couldn’t get stuck into specifics. Instead we asked them some larger questions about how Marvel may tackle things in the future.
Will the MCU Continue to Adapt Storylines from the Comics?
Kevin Feige: Well, I think we’ll continue to draw from them, for sure. I think it’s fun, now, having a continuity, 19 films in with Infinity War, that we can start to be inspired and take cues from MCU continuity. But in terms of characters, in terms of broad storylines, or at the very least, in terms of, you know, the conceits for big storylines, like Civil War, like the Infinity Gauntlet – the comics are an amazing resource. An amazing resource. So, there are certainly comics that we’ve loved in my 18 years at Marvel that we pulled aside years ago to say, ‘We can do something interesting with this that we haven’t done anything with yet’.
And I hope that the comics continue – and I know, I’m sure they will – coming up with new ideas and new conceits that we’ll go, like we did with Civil War, 10, 12 years ago, ‘Holy moly, wouldn’t it be cool to do this someday?’ And as we bring more characters to the screen and the MCU gets bigger and bigger, the opportunities for those kind of movies – we couldn’t have done this film any sooner, because there weren’t enough characters. And, go back and look at the Infinity Gauntlet, there are way more characters in that than there are in this. But we felt this was sort of the minimum level of characters you could have to even attempt to do a version of this story.
IGN: In the next phase of the MCU, will we see more team-up movies in the style of Thor: Ragnarok or single-character films like we have in past?
Feige: I think it’ll […] have the same variety that the first three phases have had. I think Ragnarok is a great example of a team-up, not just Hulk and Thor, but Loki and Korg, and … Hela, of course, but Valkyrie. There are a lot of great characters we wanna bring to the screen, not all of them will have their own movies. Not all of them can have sequels, for one reason or another, Hulk being most apparent. So putting them in other movies was sort of an experiment for us with Ragnarok. And Strange showing up briefly in Ragnarok.
Will the MCU Ever Launch an Original Hero?
So far all of Marvel’s lead characters have, rather unsurprisingly, been adapted from the panels of Marvel comics. Most of them can be even traced back to the trio of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko.
But with the MCU inarguably the most popular incarnation of the Marvel universe, would they ever consider launching an original hero for the movies first?
Anthony Russo: That’s a great question for the next phase of Marvel. I mean – look, we do take a lot of inspiration from the books. The story is never based directly on something that happened entirely in the books. These stories we’re telling take a huge departure from what the narrative was in the books. That’s a very interesting question have a completely original lead in a Marvel movie.
Joe Russo: I think Marvel has built up enough trust that they can just about introduce anybody at this point. I do think that part of what the ethos behind Marvel – the main tenet is interpreting the characters from the books. I feel like they have a limitless amount of IP to interpret, but without question, that’s an interesting idea. I don’t know if anybody’s ever talked about that before.
Feige: Maybe someday. I mean, there’d have to be a particular reason to do that. I think, more likely you can say, we wanna do this kind of a genre and this kind of a character. And then look through the books and go, this person kind of fits that bill and use that as a seed to build a new idea around. But again, maybe.
How Do You Handle Death in the MCU?
No one’s ever really dies in comic books. It’s a cliche. Due to the pressures of serialised storytelling, and the sheer amount of stories that exists, characters are resurrected with ease and regularity. The MCU hasn’t yet killed off one of its main heroes. Coulson died in the original Avengers, but was resurrected in the TV show SHIELD, arguably undercutting the emotional weight of his death in that movie. Quicksilver died in Age of Ultron, but was only introduced in that movie. With many fearing the death of Captain America or Iron Man in Infinity War, how will the MCU tackle the death of its heroes. Will they really die? Or will they be dead simply until they’re recast?
Joe: Yeah. Tony Stark in the books is ageless. You can just be redrawing him at the age of 40. We’re all ageing.
Anthony: I think that’s the major difference. Actors… when an actor embodies a character, it puts it in more specific place in time than on the page.
Joe: Marvel has been writing a book for the last ten years. This is the final chapter of the book. And of course there are going to be some endings and they’re going to be some new beginnings but we’re guys who believe in stakes. It’s what we like in our storytelling. We like emotional realism. It’s what we like bringing to comic book films. It’s the one consistency you’ll see between all four of our movies and, you know, there’s going to be some surprises. And we keep saying to the audience, ‘Be prepared. Get ready.’
IGN: Was that a thing you said when you sat down, ‘Someone’s got to die. Someone big’s got to die.’
Joe: If you’re going to end the book, you want to end it satisfactorily. And… you know, for conflict with a villain. If a villain wants something so insane as wipe out life in half the universe, and that villain is virtually invincible, what’s it going to cost you to beat that villain?
It’s going to cost you a lot. And that’s the point of the storytelling – it’s balance. It’s just metrics of storytelling.
Anthony: The way we found our way through the story is just thinking about each character and thinking about their arc in the MCU and really thinking about where that character, where can we end that character’s storyline, you know. That maybe includes death and maybe it doesn’t. But really thinking about what is the completion of this journey this character’s been on and finding the right one for each character.
How Will the FOX Acquisition Affect the MCU?
Disney has a deal in the works that would see them acquire 20th Century Fox, which currently owns the movie rights to several Marvel characters due to a deal that existed prior to the MCU. These characters include the X-Men and The Fantastic Four.
Joe: If the FOX deal goes through at Disney, that’s a whole other array of characters that become available and combinations with characters that we would salivate over. I’m sure other fans would. I think that’s probably mission two is like. Black Panther was an amazing success. They have new characters coming in through FOX, if the deal closes. They have new characters that are just exploding in popularity around the world. So I think they have a direction to head in for the next phase.
IGN: How long before the impact of that deal will be felt in the MCU?
Feige: I don’t know. We’re presuming – right now we’re not thinking about it. It’s not a done deal. If it becomes a done deal, we’ll start thinking about it, but only if and when it becomes a done deal. So, as you say, I don’t know, is that a year from now? I’m not sure. People who understand production schedules can start to do math at that point, but we won’t be doing anything until we get a phone call from people far above us saying, go! But that’s not the case right now.
IGN: Which of the FOX-owned characters would you guys love to play around with?
Joe: One of my prized possessions is Incredible Hulk #181. It’s the introduction of Wolverine. I think he’d be an amazing character to introduce into this world. The X-Men, the Byrne run from the 90s was a big book for me. I’d love to see Fantastic Four done in a way that I would understand as a comic book fan.
Will the Russos Be a Part of the MCU’s Next Phase?
Joe: We love working with Marvel. We haven’t talked about anything beyond Avengers 4. But certainly to do another movie with them… but the question is what would we do after Infinity War. You’ve either got to go really small or really, really big.
IGN: That’s the thing. You’re doing one of the biggest storylines ever. You reckon you could ever strip it back and be like, ‘We’re going to do this tiny little character? We’re going to do Howard the Duck.’
Joe: We could.
Anthony: I think so. Joe and I throughout our whole careers if you look at our road that we’ve traveled as filmmakers, you know, we started with very low budget Indie film makings. That has evolved into like TV and big films, small films. We love to shift gears. That’s part of like what keeps us creatively energised. We keep changing things up on ourselves, providing us new mediums to play in, new sandboxes to play in. That’s something that we would welcome. We loved doing what we’re doing. We definitely developed a lot of skill for this type of film making and we love it. But changing it up is always good too.
Diversity and the MCU
IGN: You have made great strides with diversity, bringing so many new characters and representing different cultures. There are fans that would love to see an openly gay character or an Asian superhero. Do you see that on the horizon?
Feige: Definitively. Yes. With one hundred percent certainty. It is Panther and Captain Marvel – and, you know, a lot of the characters, as you said, people who had been supporting characters in the past. […] I mean, that, both in front of and behind the camera, that […] is the start of the new world. It’s the world around us, it’s the real world, it’s the world we want to be reflected on the screen. And in some cases, the world of the comics has done that, and has been doing that, and was very progressive in doing that in certain years and slower to act in other years. But it is … the joy that audiences get from seeing themselves reflected back on that screen. We want everybody to feel that.