The fourth Avengers film could be the last in the franchise, the head of Marvel Studios has hinted.

Studio president Kevin Feige has suggested that the Marvel Cinematic Universe – the narrative series which began in 2008 with Iron Man – will reach its "finale" with the as-yet-untitled Avengers film, set for release in 2018.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Photo / Supplied
Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Photo / Supplied

The fourth Avengers film will "bring things you've never seen in superhero films: a finale," Feige told Vanity Fair. "There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting."

Chris Hemsworth, who plays Norse god Thor, also suggested that it could be the end for his character. Speaking at a photoshoot on the film's set, with co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson, Hemsworth said: "We're all aware that this is going to be the last time we get to hang out like this."

"I feel a lot of joy for the next generation," Johansson added. "It's a bittersweet feeling, but a positive one."

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A scene from Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Photo / Supplied
A scene from Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Photo / Supplied

Fans have speculated that franchise villain Thanos, who was first introduced in 2012 in Avengers Assemble, could kill one or more major characters in this concluding instalment.

The third Avengers film, Avengers: Infinity War, is set for release in UK cinemas from April 27, 2018.

It will unite the Avengers – including Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk – with the stars of the Guardians of the Galaxyfilm franchise, before a dramatic confrontation with Thanos. In an early teaser for the film, Thanos is shown causing a collision between a moon and a nearby planet.

Next year, Marvel Studios is also set to release Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman), and Ant-Man and the Wasp (starring Paul Rudd).