"The connectivity never leads the creative charge but it enhances it for us," Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told ComicBook.com ahead of the release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This "connectivity" started with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 lead to The Avengers in 2012, bringing together six super heroes who debuted across five prior films. Fast forward to 2018 and more than 30 super heroes are on the poster for Avengers: Infinity War and the next year Avengers: Endgame becomes the biggest box office hit of all time. It is all fueled by characters, actors, and filmmakers which audiences became attached to over the course of a decade, complimented by the interconnected nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following the success, it will likely be quite some time before audiences get to assemble for a fifth (and quite different) Avengers movie.
In 2019, Marvel Studios took to San Diego Comic-Con with what many fans treat as the massive gathering's main event. On the Con's Saturday night, Feige took the stage and rolled out title after title with promises of new characters, movies, shows, and crossovers. One thing was missing: an Avengers movie. Each phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies has been capped off with an Avengers event. Phase 1 had The Avengers, Phase 2 had Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Phase 3 had Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. So, where is the Avengers movie that is going to tie together the stories laid out in Shang-Chi, Eternals, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and the rest of the titles announced on that day?
"Well, we got a Falcon and Winter Soldier show. We got a WandaVision show," Feige told Comicbook.com following the 2019 SDCC panel, highlighting all of the newly announced crossovers and staying quiet about where the Avengers title was. "We're introducing Monica Rambeau in that WandaVision show. Wanda Maximoff is probably near the upper echelons of power... I contend she would've taken down Thanos if he hadn't called [Rain Fire]...So, her being the Scarlet Witch now, as Lizzie [Olsen] said on stage, full unabashed power base coming into the Doctor Strange movie, that is two heroes coming together in a fun way."
If Marvel Studios has shown anything through their years of success, it seems to be that they have quite a bit of patience. "Avengers 4 was called Endgame for a reason," Nate Moore, VP of Production & Development at Marvel Studios, told press on the set of Eternals in January of 2020. "We haven't really talked in a real way about what an Avengers 5 would be even." As a result, it will still be a more than a couple of years until we see a fifth Avengers movie and, when it does come around, it will be quite different from its predecessors. "I think audiences also kind of want to be surprised," Moore said. "So, to some degree, we don't want to say, 'You saw that trick, let's do that trick again.' What's the new way to surprise people if, and when we did an Avengers movie, what would be the funnest version of that?"
Now, years after Moore's comments about ideas for Avengers 5, the picture of how different such an ensemble film will be is becoming more clear and there are a number of ways it can go. Story details like Jonathan Majors being introduced as Kang the Conqueror in the Loki finale before appearing next in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania brings up the opportunity for a time-traveling battle against a menacing and powerful villain, something 2015's Age of Ultron left out when loosely adaptinga comic by the same name. A Kang-as-the-villain Avengers film seems like an organic step on the MCU's journey to what could be something larger, much like Ultron was on the way to a final feud against Thanos.
The culminating event could be Secret Wars, a comic which is primed for a movie event adaptation. It's a multiverse story which pits heroes and villains from entirely different universes against each other and seems to be coming to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in a sense. It's one of few comic stories that would actually call for a scale that would be larger than that of Endgame, with all of the MCU's roster getting involved, MCU actors playing variant versions of their own characters, cast members from previous X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and other Marvel movie franchises possibly popping in, and brand new cast members playing new heroes from alternate worlds. It's massive. Infinity War and Endgame directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo have been quite open about their interest in directing such a film. Most recently, Joe Russo told ComicBook.com at the Spider-Man: No Way Home premiere in December of 2021, "We'll have to see how all this shakes out. I don't know what they're going to do with all these characters!" He also wouldn't deny that he and Anthony are already talking with Marvel Studios about another project.
Then, there are all of the teams that seem to be forming or, at least, made possible in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A Thunderbolts (or Dark Avengers) roster can come together with Baron Zemo, Sharon Carter, John Walker, Yelena Belova, Thaddeus Ross as Red Hulk, and others. The Ultimates can form with Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau. Ms. Marvel, an Blue Marvel (if he arrives in 2023's The Marvels). Young Avengers are popping up left and right, like Ms. Marvel, El Bradley, Cassie Lang, Kate Bishop, Billy and Tommy Maximoff, Kid Loki, and Miss America. Then, there's the chance at a New Avengers, which is a sensible title after the first saga was wrapped up and can include heroes like Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Sam Wilson's Captain America, White Vision, Shang-Chi, and more. At this point, a Midnight Sons can start to form with Blade, Dane Whitman as Black Knight, Moon Knight, and Ghost Rider (the only listed character who has not been promised from Marvel Studios yet).
Let's not forget two other groups which are due for introductions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Avengers vs. X-Men is a title which certainly draws everyone back to the movies a major Marvel event. Then again, the connectivity not leading the charge as Feige explained would call for a more organic and believable path to the two juggernaut Marvel factions doing battle, something the comic series by the same name lacked. All of this to say; the next Avengers film might not be merely a crossover of heroes but a crossover of various hero factions that can form in the MCU.
In any case, Moore's sentiment about making a fifth Avengers movie different seems to be the way Marvel Studios is heading. Feige's dodge of acknowledging the fifth Avengers back in 2019 does point to the massive amounts of crossover we're seeing in movies and Disney+ shows, like Black Widow's Florence Pugh joining the cast of Hawkeye, the Black Panther's Dora Milaje showing up in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and What If...?'s Strange Supreme possibly going on to appear in the live-action Doctor Strange sequel.
Whatever shape the story takes, be it one of the above, all of the above, or none of the above – one thing seems clear: Avengers 5 is still years away. With Fantastic Four being No Way Home director Jon Watts' next movie, the earliest it could arrive is 2024. Is it possible Marvel wrangles its casts and throws them together into an Avengers 5 which releases the same year as Fantastic Four? Sure. They have dropped Black Panther, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man: Far From Home in the same years as an Avengers films. However, given Feige's recent remarks about wanting to have some space between Endgame and the next Avengers outing, it seems that patience is about to come into play and the audiences will have to share some of it. As Feige and his team allow the story to drive the connectivity, 2025 through 2027 is undoubtedly the best window for the next big crossover event, with likelihood seeming greater the further out you get. It gives the biggest movie of all time some space to breathe, audiences time to build anticipation again, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe plenty of time to fill up with more heroes, teams, and storylines which call for such a saga to being again.
When do you think a new Avengers movie will hit theaters? Who do you want to see as the villain? Drop your thoughts in the comment section or send them my way on Instagram. Also, be sure to subscribe to ComicBook.com's MCU podcast Phase Zero for some great Marvel conversations, news, theories, games, and more – available on any major podcast platform.