While Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of exciting projects like Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and a two-part Avengers: Infinity War event, at the same time it has the potential to be a bittersweet experience for longtime fans of the franchise. The contracts for many veteran Avengers, such as Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Evans, will be up by the time Earth's Mightiest Heroes do battle with Thanos, meaning that some of the mainstays may decide to move in a different direction.
Evans seemed the most likely to leave by the time his deal was finished, indicating last year that he was looking forward to leaving the MCU and turning his attention to directing. But more recently, he seems to have changed his tune, stating that he's "terrified" about stepping away from the role and teasing that he'd be open to an extension of his contract. Many fans are hoping that will happen, including Evans' co-star Anthony Mackie.
Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson/Falcon in the MCU, joined Evans at a panel during Salt Lake City Comic-Con (hat tip Salt Lake Tribune), where he answered many questions about Marvel movies. In addition to rather humorously suggesting that Falcon won the fight against Paul Rudd's Ant-Man in this summer's Ant-Man, he also offered his opinion on Captain America's future in the MCU.
"I don't think we need a new Cap. I don't think Cap needs to change. I think [Bucky's actor Sebastian Stan] would be a great Cap, but then we're left without Bucky. I think I'd be a great Cap, but then we're left without a Falcon."
The comics have established a precedent where both Bucky Barnes or Sam Wilson could take up the mantle of Captain America, should Steve Rogers be either killed off or retired. In particular, Stan has revealed he has a whopping nine-picture contract with the studio, suggesting that there are big things in store for the character. It's been widely speculated that Marvel is positioning Bucky to take over for Rogers, something that Stan joked about during his own panel at Salt Lake City Comic-Con (via Salt Lake Tribune):
"I'll say this: They sure like to dangle a cheese in front of my nose a lot. They're like 'Oh yeah, that's where you pick up the shield,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I've heard that one before. There it is again.'"
Stan also teased that he'd rather become the new Cap than see Mackie's Falcon with the shield (shocker), and perhaps the higher-ups at Marvel feel the same way. Bucky is going to be developed further in a big way during next year's Captain America: Civil War, so it would appear that the filmmakers are trying to flesh him out before the shift so audiences have another character they can get behind. And the post-credits scene in last year's Captain America: The Winter Soldier hinted that Bucky was starting a path down a heroic road, meaning there could be fire with this smoke.
But Mackie's comments are very interesting to consider. Whenever Evans does step away from the role, does the franchise need someone to assume the title and jump right in? Or would they be better served keeping their characters as they are? Having a wider variety of superheroes (in terms of their names) is always a good thing, and there are other ways to honor the legacy of Rogers than to have one of his best friends take over for him. Odds are someone will eventually become Captain America 2.0, but as Mackie says, it's not a necessity.
Captain America: Civil War opens in theaters May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016;Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.