After a mammoth 23 films and 11 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wrapped up the long-running “Infinity Saga”, the main story that the franchise had been building towards. Characters like Iron Man and Captain America reached the end of their arcs. The Infinity Stones were dealt with, and big bad Thanos was defeated. Phase 3 ended with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” as it’s epilogue.
Although the main characters and big plotlines were resolved, the story isn’t over. After all, heroes like Thor, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange all have films coming, continuing their adventures. However, there are some threads that seem to have been forgotten. Will Phase 4 resolve them?
Samuel Sterns – The Incredible Hulk
While not remembered as fondly as some of the other films, The Incredible Hulk is one of the most interesting. Acting as a psuedo-sequel/reboot, the film finds Banner on the run from the military and trying to cure his “condition”. He enlists the help of Samuel Sterns to help him, who later starts to mutate into his alter ego “The Leader”.
We haven’t seen him again since, and there hasn’t been a small reference to the character. The Incredible Hulk occupies a strange place in the franchise’s history, with the character tied up in a rights issue and Banner being recast for subsequent appearances. General Ross reappeared in Civil War, and the events have been referenced, but no mention of Sterns as yet. Interestingly the actor was contracted for 3 appearances, so he could still return one day. Kevin Fiege himself has ruled it out, it’s just a matter of finding the right place for him, with no sequel in sight, that isn’t the easiest task.
The Mandarin – Iron Man 3
The controversial Iron Man 3 saw Tony deal with PTSD after the battle of New York. While a new terrorist group led by the Mandarin attacks. Tony discovers that the Mandarin is actually a character, played by an out of work actor. Aldrich Killian then claims to be the villain in the finale, but the one-shot “All Hail the King” reveals that another, more comic accurate version, is the true one.
Tony Leung has been cast as the Mandarin in “Shang-Chi and the legend of the ten rings” which should hopefully connect some of the dots. “All Hail The King” ends with Trevor being taken to see the real Mandarin, which is presumbly the one who will appear in Shang-Chi. Whether the Iron Man 3 versions were inspired by or just using his name remains to be seen
Ultron Lives? – Avengers: Age Of Ultron
The second Avengers film sees the team reunite to defeat Tony’s rogue A.I protector. Ultron quickly hacks the internet, makes thousands of copies of himself and plans humanity’s extinction. The Avengers defeat him with the help of Vision, an android Ultron intends to use as a new body. Vision removes Ultron from the internet and is left alone with the last drone.
It’s made clear in Age of Ultron that if one drone survives then he could return at full strength. The final exchange between Ultron and Vision is left ambiguous, but it’s fair to assume Vision destroyed him. Where it gets murkier is the apperance of an Ultron head in “Spider-Man: Homecoming”. The final battle with Ultron took place in Sokovia, so why is there a head in New York? Further, it’s in the posession of Adrian Toomes and crew, so it’s not on it’s way to be destroyed. While this could be little more than an easter egg, it would be interesting to know where it ended up.
Time Travel – Avengers: Endgame
After their devastating defeat at the hands of Thanos, The Avengers are lost. Half of all life in the universe has been extinguished, and the world mourns. After 5 years, with some helo from Ant-Man, Tony Stark discovers time travel, allowing them a second chance. The Avengers perform a “time heist” to gather The Infinity Stones, to bring everyone back. After, Captain America returns the stones to their proper place in the timeline.
It’s unclear if the Avengers tell the public about their time travel adventure. But it’s possible that some people like Nick Fury are aware. Bruce Banner is still a public figure and time travel is a huge scientific breakthrough, so what are they going to do with it? It’s hard to believe the Avengers are just going to let it sit in their base gathering dust, but they can’t exactly use it for guided tours. It’s established that they can’t affect the future with time travel, but that wouldn’t stop them from looking at events in the past to solve mysteries or crimes. It’s likely this one won’t be resolved for a while until they need it again.