With Captain America 2 securing a 2014 release date – the first Spring release date for Marvel Studios – and recently hiring directors, it’s time for the news and speculation to shift towards characters and stories. More than Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, the Captain America sequel deals with the direct aftermath of The Avengers.

Captain America is now in the modern era and known to the world. He has to become reacclimatized to society after being on ice for 70 years, while at the same time serving as a soldier of S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect it. The sequel is in the very early stages of production, but if the latest rumors can be believed, Captain America 2 may explore the stories of more characters than just its titular hero.

There’s been quite a lot of talk about a Black Widow film for Scarlett Johansson, even some chatter about a Hawkeye spin-off, but neither are realistic options for Marvel Studios to pursue. With their production capacity limited to two films a year (perhaps three in the near future), there’s simply no room for either character to get a solo story where there are so many other projects on the go, vying for those release dates (Black Panther, Doctor Strange, etc.).

Since the team-up formula worked wonders for the studio, expect more partnerships between characters in the traditional solo films. I suggested that instead of going the solo route for Hawkeye/Black Widow, it’d make more sense to include them and their backstories in a S.H.I.E.L.D. film – a project Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) has been name-dropping for years. Such a movie would work wonders to give more screen time to the non-super-powered heroes of the Marvel universe, providing Fury, Maria Hill, Hawkeye and Black Widow more spotlight, while also potentially introducing/including other key S.H.I.E.L.D. members like Ant-Man and Wasp.

Imagine a ‘Year of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, so to speak, come 2014. The following statement was included with the April press release from Marvel announcing the release date for Captain America 2, and if Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man (who’s an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and a SHIELD movie were the other 2014 releases, that would offer an interesting change in pace and opportunities to setup characters for The Avengers 2 come 2015.

From the Cap 2 press release:

The second installment will pick-up where the highly anticipated Marvel’s The Avengers (May 4, 2012) leaves off, as Steve Rogers continues his affiliation with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D and struggles to embrace his role in the modern world.

As it turns out, Captain America 2 and the SHIELD movie are one and the same, and that tidbit above is our first clue. It confirms Samuel L. Jackson will return, and if his organization is heavily involved – which it is since Steve Rogers works for them – then we can expect others, like Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) to factor in as well.

SPOILERS!!!

According to The Playlist, Black Widow and Hawkeye may also be involved in Captain America 2 and there will be some romance between them. The pair of agents shared plenty of screen time with Captain America in The Avengers, and having them fight together again works within the context of a modern-set Captain America story – and would ideally help boost the box office appeal for a film that’s otherwise slightly less bankable than Thor 2 and Iron Man 3.

Those aren’t the only familiar faces expected to return, though. In an attempt to bridge continuity with the rest of the “Phase 1″ Marvel Studios films, General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) from The Incredible Hulk may make an appearance, along with several key characters from the first Captain America. At this point, consider these RUMORS and speculation:

  • Bucky could be back as Winter Soldier, a Russian Spy. This is something we’ve speculated here on Screen Rant due to actor Sebastian Stan’s multi-picture contract with Marvel Studios and the character’s recent importance in Captain America comics.
  • Hayley Atwell, who played Peggy Carter in Captain America and who has a multi-picture contract, may return to play her own character’s niece, Sharon Carter. Sharon Carter will undoubtedly be the new (save with different hair color?) love interest for Steve Rogers and is another agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • The villainous Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who served as the scientist responsible for harnessing the power of the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube for the Red Skull, may return in a new form, perhaps something more familiar to his appearances in the books (see below). Writer Christopher Markus expressed interest in including MODOK (Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing) in Captain America 2 as a villain, and he’s a creation of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) which we know is featured in Iron Man 3 from recent set photos. It’s conceivable that the characters of MODOK and Dr. Arnim Zola could be combined, or that MODOK’s origins could be connected to Zola’s work.

Nick Fury may get some of his origin story fleshed out as well, which would theoretically lend itself to flashbacks to World War II (which could see other familiar faces returning, including Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark) since WWII elements are almost an absolute for the Captain America sequel.

From the sounds of it, there are potentially a lot of characters and plot threads to balance, so how much of this is certain – or even accurate – remains to be seen, especially considering that Captain America 2 only just found its directors in Anthony and Joe Russo and the script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is still in its early stages.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: The Playlist

Header image edited from art by A13XANDER.