First things first, no spoilers - #ThanosDemandsYourSilence - it is really worth it to go in knowing as little as possible
I got to watch Avengers: Infinity War over the weekend and I am still amazed by what they have accomplished. It was a ridiculously great experience in the cinema. You can ask Jamie, I had at least one audible "YESSSSSSSSS" moment. And while long time comic fans knew THAT moment was possible, I do not think anyone imagined they way it was implemented. I cannot wait for next year to get here.
A few warnings about the film. Despite Marvel's change of title, this is most definitely a Part I film with Part II not coming until this time next year. Additionally, this is not a good film to jump into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time. This is most definitely a culmination of the past ten years and eighteen films, even more so than Avengers (1) was. In the first Avengers film, the previous solo films introduced you to the characters and one artifact, but did not dictate the story-line. Infinity War pulls together characters and subplots to deliver one big payoff. You are going to want some background coming into this.
With that addressed, my thoughts start going to Phase 4, i.e. what Marvel does after Avengers 4. This is kind of what will be addressed in the If I Were Disney CEO blog series for Marvel Studios, but this is a little more granular.
Here is what I would like to see in Phase 4:
New Heroes: While there are definitely sequels in the works (Guardians 3, Spider-man 2, Black Panther 2, and maybe Doctor Strange 2), there is a great opportunity to add new heroes to the film schedule. Make a Black Widow movie. Make a Hawkeye movie. Add Nova, Adam Warlock, She-Hulk, Captain Britain, Star Brand, Thunderstrike, and Ms. Marvel. These do not have to be in individual movies, but can be added as supporting cast where appropriate. Ms. Marvel in the Captain Marvel movie for that introduction.
New Imprints: Marvel has published a lot of comics in its history and has covered a lot of different genres. I would love to see a Marvel Edge line, maybe with a black background/red text logo, to cover the 1970s Marvel Monsters. Give me a connected Blade, Tomb of Dracula, Castle Frankenstein, and Werewolf by Night movie series, that can occur in a side pocket of the cinematic universe. It would be ironic if Marvel could beat Universal at its Dark Universe game.
#ItsReallyAllConnected: The early promise of the Marvel movies and television shows was that they were all connected. And there have been small links, some more effective than others. The connection between Captain America: Winter Soldier and the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. really turned that series around. The links have grown smaller and smaller over the years, with the suits declaring it to be a little too cumbersome. The sad part of this is that it really just needs someone helping coordinate. The ties do not have to be strangling, but a little can go a long way to make it all feel connected. For example, if someone could have just suggested a throwaway line for Thunderbolt Ross to say that people are getting powers from fish oil in Avengers: Age of Ultron as a reason for the Sokovia accords, that would have made a great impact.
Secret Invasion: I know this will be the start of phase 4, but you can really look at it as the start of the third arc for the Marvel story. Arc 1 runs from Iron Man to the Avengers. It really reflects the founding of the Avengers. Arc 2 runs from the Avengers through Avengers 4. It's the build up of the Infinity Stones leading to Thanos in Infinity War. There needs to be a shift in this upcoming phase/arc to have a different kind of approach. A new macguffin and a singular new bad guy would just feel repetitive. I would go with Secret Invasion. This would allow for a completely different style of subplot that allows for a freer exploration in each individual movie, while still providing some great HOLY S^&*!!!!! moments and reveals. Plus, the closing Avengers movie for it would be fantastic.
I do not know what is coming, but I am definitely excited for the ride. I'll be there opening weekend next year to see whatever Avengers 4 is called (No Surrender? Heroes Reborn? Avengers Forever?). I'm all in.