Source: Marvel Studios

It’s been two years since Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige stood in front of a packed El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and announced Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, some release dates have shuffled, two films were added (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp), one film was dropped (Inhumans), and Avengers: Infinity War went from being a two-part film to being one Avengers: Infinity War and another completely separate, yet to be titled Avengers movie. Even so, the plan has remained largely intact.

Phase Three is only just getting started with its first film—Captain America: Civil War—having been released last May and its second film—Doctor Strange—arriving on November 4. There are still eight films left to go, the last of which, the now untitled fourth Avengers movie, is set to be released on May 3, 2019. This is the MCU, however, so fans and the movie press are always wondering what the future holds.

We know there is life after Phase Three since Marvel Studios has three release dates booked for 2020 (May 1, July 10, November 6). According to Feige, he and his Marvel team know what they want those movies to be, but it’s far too early to set anything in stone, which he told Collider.

It’s a combination. We know what we’d like them to be for 2020. Over the years, where we’re aiming we’ve been lucky enough that it’s usually been the same thing but we always leave ourselves the opportunity to bob and weave and adapt if we have to. But we know where we’re headed for 2020 and we have ideas and were beginning to solidify the years beyond that.”

Part of figuring out what those movies will be is knowing which actors will still be around after the untitled fourth Avengers movie. It’s been widely reported that Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) all have contracts that expire with the final Phase Three film. According to Feige, there’s too much work to be done with those actors in the meantime to really focus on that.

“Sure, I mean, it’s weird to say ‘at the end of their deals’ when in some cases they have three whole movies to go. So we don’t usually think about it until necessary. I can’t remember the last time we did it but it was like with Robert, after Avengers came out, we were dealing with his next movie so we have a long way before we have to worry about that.”

I have a feeling—and it’s only a feeling—that the original Avengers from Phase One will all be back, unless any of those characters die in Infinity War or Avengers 4. Downey has already said he’s open to a fourth Iron Man movie, Scarlett Johansson wants to make a series of Black Widow films, and Evans and Hemsworth both seem to be having too much fun to stop now.

One option for all of these actors is that anyone who’s not interested in making more solo films with his or her character could, as long as Marvel Studios doesn’t need solo films with those characters, sign on only for team-ups. That plan becomes more feasible with each new franchise Marvel successfully launches. As Feige notes, Marvel’s plan over the past few years has been to mix up its slate with brand new characters and new adventures for established favorites.

“I think anything is possible. I think absolutely you’ve seen our model this year last year that we like a new adventure in the ongoing stories of existing characters and then something completely new and completely different. I think next year you will see it with Guardians. Then frankly, I almost count Homecoming and Ragnarok as two almost entirely different and brand new thing— even though there’s been other Spider-Man films and two other Thor films. They’re [both] very, very, different.”

It’s interesting to hear Feige talk about Thor: Ragnarok as “brand new” despite being the third film in that franchise. Could it be so different and successful that it completely renews the franchise and sets up a whole new direction for additional sequels? That’s probably the hope and could lead to the Thor franchise grabbing one of those 2020 release dates.

While it’s too early to close the door on more sequels from the Phase One superheroes, the best glimpse at the MCU’s mid and long-term future may come from its recent past, present, and near future. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looks like a surefire hit next May, which means Marvel would probably love to have the third film in that franchise ready for 2020. There’s just the matter of getting director James Gunn back, as he’s expressed interest in possibly doing something else before going back to GotG, if he wants to come back at all and he hasn’t decided yet.

If all goes well with Doctor Strange next month, Marvel Studios will likely move quickly on a sequel, setting it for one of those 2020 dates or perhaps sooner. Marvel Studios originally planned to release three films in 2019 until Inhumans was dropped from the schedule. It’s unlikely a second Doctor Strange movie will take Inhumans‘ former July 12, 2019 date since Disney has set the fifth Indiana Jones movie for just a week after that. A later release date in 2019, however, would not be out of the question.

Sony would probably be happy to take one of those 2020 dates from Disney/Marvel for a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Other candidates for the 2020 dates include a third Ant-Man film and a Black Panther sequel, assuming everything goes well for those franchises in 2018. With Black Panther releasing in February of 2018, it’s not inconceivable that a sequel could be turned around in time for July or November of 2020. Ant-Man and the Wasp is set for July 2018, which means that a third film in the series could make it out by November 2020 if needed.

One more massively important part of the MCU’s prospects in the 2020s is the future of Feige himself. His contract with Marvel Studios covers Phase Three, but not after. That makes it feel like Feige’s contract is ending soon, but he doesn’t see it that way.

I don’t feel like we’re nearing the end of it because there’s ten films in phase three and we’ve released one of them.

Yeah, I mean it’s years, a couple years.”

There is just too much work still to be done in Phase Three for Feige and company to focus so much on Phase Four. They’re thinking about Phase Four, obviously, but any deal-making and contract negotiations are still a bit premature. As for Feige’s own status with Marvel Studios, I just can’t see him leaving to take another job that would remove him from Marvel entirely.

There is definitely a possibility that he will be promoted within the larger Disney organization and that could take him away from a lot of his day-to-day tasks at Marvel Studios, but he would still oversee the MCU and work with whoever his successor would end up being.

All of those possibilities are years away, though, and in the meantime, Feige has a job to do and he’s doing it.