Avengers 4 will act as a point of demarcation for the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe, bringing its first ten-year chapter to a close — along with numerous contracts belonging to its biggest stars.
“The contract is done. A lot of our contracts are through,” Captain America star Chris Evans told Good Morning America when promoting Avengers: Infinity War, explaining his contract expires alongside longtime Iron Man and Thor stars Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth.
“Myself, Downey, Hemsworth, we all kind of started roughly at the same time, and I think we all, through Avengers 4, kind of wrap it up,” Evans said. “So at this point, I don’t know what’s next, but yeah, by 2019, that’s it.”
A November profile of Marvel Studios by Vanity Fair noted the contractual obligations of the big three are fulfilled in Avengers 4 alongside fellow franchise stars Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), who has already signed on to reprise her role as the deadly spy-turned-superhero in a standalone prequel set before the events of 2012’s The Avengers.
When asked what happens when the MCU’s stars choose to move on, Marvel Studios chief and master planner Kevin Feige said that’s something the studio “can look to in the comics.”
“And that's why these characters are so relevant. I talk about 10 years of movies, but it’s 50-plus years of comics. And they’re just as relevant and popular,” Feige told the Costco Connection in August.
“And that’s because they do get updated. They do change with the times. I have no doubt that all of our actors, who are in peak physical shape, have got another 50 years in them to be heroes. In terms of the specifics of how we will evolve the characters, thankfully I don’t have to really think about it yet. ‘Cause we’re still finishing what we started here with Avengers: Infinity War.”
Feige previously suggested the franchise would turn an eye towards recasting when it came to actor turnover, as it has when swapping out Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle as War Machine in 2010’s Iron Man 2 and Edward Norton for Ruffalo in The Avengers.
“Look to history: We have a new Spider-Man right now who was in our [Captain America: Civil War], and is in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and the audience has embraced it,” he told Variety in 2016.
“And you can look to Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Batman as characters that last longer than any one actor playing them. There’s a precedent for it in other franchises that suggests it’s possible.”
In 2017, Feige acknowledged some members of his stable of stars stepping away in the future as “inevitable,” particularly Downey, who in the past inked deals to appear in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. “I do think Iron Man, like Spider-Man, like Batman, like Superman, like James Bond has existed long before most of us were around and will exist long after most of us are gone,” he told the Toronto Sun.
“So it’s inevitable at some point, but certainly nothing I have to think about anytime soon.”
Downey has since flirted with retiring the role, and Avengers 4 could force his hand if his armored Avenger meets his end when saving the universe from Thanos (Josh Brolin).
The star told Empire Magazine he could stay on, “spiking it in the end zone until I have to be carried off,” or let the role run its natural course. “I’m looking forward to whatever resolution is in the cards,” he said.
Speculation is rampant Evans is finished with Captain America after the star published a sentimental tweet Thursday following his wrapping filming on Avengers 4 reshoots. The tweet reads as a goodbye to the role.
Evans, like Downey, has mulled over not staying in his superhero role too long.
“You want to get off the train before they push you off,” Evans told the New York Times earlier this year.
But staying on, Evans told Collider, is “really not up to me.”
“My contract is up. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘No more,’” Evans said. “I think Hugh Jackman has made 47 Wolverine movies, and they somehow keep getting better. It’s a character I love, and it’s a factory that really knows what they’re doing. The system is sound, over there. They make great movies. If they weren't kicking out quality, I’d have a different opinion. But everything Marvel does seems to be cinema gold.”
Evans signed on to Avengers 4 — an addendum to his initial contract that otherwise would have expired with Infinity War — because “it made sense,” he said. “It’s going to wrap everything up.”
Hemsworth, who admitted he grew bored of playing his golden-haired demigod before the character was rejuvenated with Thor: Ragnarok, said he hopes to stay on in his role as he now feels “a renewed sense of excitement and enthusiasm, and more so than ever.”
“Two or three films ago I was like, ‘Okay, a couple more.’ I was enjoying it, but I was like… I felt a little restricted,” he told IGN after finishing the initial round of Avengers 4 reshoots in January.
“And after this last experience with Taika [Waititi, director of Ragnarok], and actually these last two Avengers, I feel like we’ve reinvented the character a number of times — even in these next two, he evolves again, and you don't get that opportunity often in a franchise.” He added: “If I had the opportunity to do it again, I think I’d love to.”
Feige, meanwhile, characterized Avengers 4 as an ending point for the first chapter of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“The entire intention of Infinity War and the next Avengers film next year was to have an ending — to bring a conclusion to 10-plus years, 22-movie narrative in a way that hadn’t been done before in this particular type of film,” Feige told Uproxx.
“It’s been done before in films where there are a finite number of books, and they finish telling the story for the books, so they come to an ending. Characters like Spider-Man or Batman or James Bond or Iron Man, who have been around for so long and are always refreshed in comic books or novels or movies, you don’t necessarily get that kind of an endpoint — and we wanted to do that, which is what these next two Avengers films are.”4comments
Feige said the franchise will continue — release dates are staked out through 2022 and future movies are planned through 2028 — but “the narrative that started when we began 10 years ago will have a conclusion.”
Avengers 4 opens May 3, 2019.