MCU Multiverse Arc to Follow the 'Time Runs Out' Narrative?

The first three Phases of the MCU — with some cinematic exceptions — mainly combined to culminate in an epic finish surrounding Thanos and the Infinity Stones. Stones appeared throughout the saga, and the long-gestating threat came into focus with Infinity War. Following Avengers: Endgame, it seems that the multiverse will be the MCU’s new focus — the new stones. But, what will the multiverse plotline (destined to fully ignite with Doctor Strange 2) build to, and how will the journey progress? Kevin Feige told Collider:

I always wanted to do time travel, which we finally got to do in Endgame. The multiverse is the next step in the evolution of the MCU and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is going to crack it open in ways that will have repercussions for a Disney+ series before it that’s not WandaVision and for movies after it in a big fun way.

According to Marvel President Kevin Feige, the multiverse is the future of the MCU — it’s a result of an evolving cinematic landscape. Based on his comments, one would presume that multiple realities and parallel universes may play heavily into the future of the franchise. So, what will the Endgame of the multiverse be? Will there be another major villain, or will the battle be against the forces of an uncontrollable multiverse? 

The ‘Time Runs Out’ narrative could make its way into the MCU 

Time Runs Out is a prelude to Secret Wars and, given all the rumors indicating that a Secret Wars movie is on the horizon, this may well be the narrative direction the MCU chooses to take. So, what happens in the Time Runs Out storyline? One Marvel enthusiast, in a Reddit discussion concerning Feige’s most recent announcement, explained: 

There’s a very high concept…storyline called Time Runs Out. Basically, the idea is that the multiverse is collapsing and the different realities are merging together… except it’s more a collision centred on earth, and if one of the earths isn’t destroyed both realities are destroyed.

To set that up, the equivalents of the Infinity Stones would be the members of the Illuminati (which may or may not be comics accurate). You’d start by getting the characters in universe (atm we’ve only got T’Challa and Doctor Strange since Tony’s dead) and then you’d transition into showing them doing less… heroic things. So, for example, if Namor’s introduced as a villain, you might have characters co-operate with Namor. Then, you’d bring the characters together to act as the Illuminati (definitely including Namor) and finally you’d do two-three movies on the incursions (and the titular Time Runs Out notion… i.e. two universes left).

The idea of two different earths and the imminent destruction of one over the other could make for a fascinating story, overflowing with internal conflicts and moral ambiguities — a bit of gray in the too-often black and white moral depictions inherent to MCU installments.

Apparently, Time Runs Out also calls for a lot more characters, which could be useful in introducing the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, as such an introduction would provide these characters with overarching importance to the finishing product.

Would the Marvel head honchos go down this road to set up the highly-anticipated Secret Wars, or is it a bit too dark for the franchise under the Disney umbrella? We will have to wait and see; however, a threat unbounded by a singular villainous force could bring the MCU into new territories, spicing up a world that is frequently derided for its formulaic strategy.

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