While Avengers: Age of Ultron and what we know of the story of Captain America: Civil War offer a sense of doom and gloom, and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War seemingly building off of these events as a conclusion point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's absolutely not. This "war" may see the end of several major story arcs and a few notable heroes and villains familiar to Marvel movie fans, but it will also open the doors for what will be known as Phase 4. And what Phase 4 needs is new lead characters.
From what we understand, most members of the Avengers roster as we've known it have their contracts end with Avengers: Infinity War. That means it's possible there's no more Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, etc. after 2019 unless they re-sign for more pictures with Marvel Studios. Only a few current main characters have contracts that extend past that, like Mark Ruffalo, newcomers Benedict Cumberbatch (presumably) and Chadwick Boseman, and of course, Sebastian Stan.
A friend in Captain America: The First Avenger and a lethal enemy in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Stan's Bucky Barnes transformed from supporting character to one of the studio's greatest antagonists to date. And in Captain America Civil War, the character who's been in hiding since his last appearance finally returns. The how and why of it are interesting talking points, given that Stan has a nine-picture deal with Marvel Studios. Civil War is only his third appearance, and with Evans having just one more Avengers project on his contract, Marvel Comics readers will certainly have some big ideas for what happens next....
What We've Seen So Far
Captain America: The Winter Soldier ends with Bucky beginning to come to terms with who he is. He rescues Captain America from a crashing Helicarrier and is later seen (post-credits) in a WWII museum learning about his past. In the time since then, he's been in hiding while Cap and Falcon search for him on the side (as mentioned in a conversation between them in Avengers: Age of Ultron). In Captain America: Civil War, he returns, and while there are rumors that Black Panther is on the hunt for Bucky as well when introduced, Lainey Gossip claims that the Winter Soldier has a very substantial role.
Offering insight on the many Captain America 3 set photos coming out of Atlanta over the last week since production began - featuring the new Avengers (now also including Paul Rudd's Ant-Man) fighting Crossbones (Frank Grillo) - the report explains that the location is doubling for Nigeria where the first major action sequence takes place. This battle just so happens to be the "international incident" the official Captain America: Civil War synopsis refers to where civilians are killed in skirmish.
After the events in Sokovia saw a city lifted into the atmosphere in Age of Ultron - all thanks to the Avengers - this additional collateral damage pushes the world governments past the breaking point and there begins the Marvel Cinematic Universe's equivalent of the Superhero Registration Act. In the comics, the government aims to hold vigilantes responsible for their actions by offering them employment but they're forced to reveal their identities as such or face imprisonment.
In the MCU, secret identities aren't really a big thing because there aren't many superheroes (yet) but the core issues are the same. The governments of the world need the Avengers, and any powered people, to be registered and held accountable for their actions when there's such catastrophic collateral damage. Lainey Gossip claims that Tony Stark, just like in the source material, sides with the pro-registration government and Captain America sides against it. Black Panther, we're guessing, plays both sides at different points during the film. That, or he's operating independently of either side.
How The Winter Soldier Fits In
Their report adds vague details how Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier may fit into it all. Somehow, he and his Russian past become an issue during the Civil War conflict and every faction involved is after him.
- Captain America wants to help him and be best pals again.
- Tony Stark wants to hold Bucky responsible for killing his parents.
- Black Panther is hunting Bucky. We don't know why but guessed it could have to do Bucky operating in Wakanda at some point.
- Crossbones is after Bucky to re-condition him back into super assassin mode, like he was in the last movie.
Here's where it gets interesting and exciting:
"Civil War is a critical moment for Sebastian Stan and Bucky Barnes—he has to get everyone on his side by the end of this movie, because his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get a lot bigger."
We can't verify this yet, and we're not sure how they have this info if it's true, but most if it has already been speculated upon from what the films have setup thus far and what elements the film is seemingly taking from the comics. Still, if Bucky's role is about to get a lot bigger, we can only assume it's nearing the time by the end of this movie - or in his next one - that Sebastian Stan take up the mantle of Captain America just as he did in the amazing work of Ed Brubaker in the comics.
After the events of Civil War in the comics, Steve Rogers is seemingly assassinated, leaving Tony Stark and Bucky forced to secretly work together to set him up as the next star-spangled Avenger (featuring some suit upgrades to boot). It's temporary, and Rogers eventually returns, later passing the mantle to Falcon, but in the movies we can only hope that Bucky joins the tight-knit trio of Cap-Falcon-Black Widow going forward and enlists with the Avengers as a regular.
From Chris Evans' words about Civil War setting up the "real battle" of Avengers: Infinity War, expect Bucky Barnes to be a major part of that.
“Captain America: Civil War” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Community”) from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (“CaptainAmerica: The Winter Solider,” Marvel’s “Captain America: The First Avenger”). The film returns Chris Evans (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) as the iconic Super Hero character Steve Rogers/Captain America along with Robert Downey Jr. (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Marvel’s “Iron Man 3”) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “CaptainAmerica: The Winter Soldier”) as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Sebastian Stan (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: The First Avenger”) as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Paul Bettany (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Iron Man 3”) as The Vision, Jeremy Renner (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Marvel’s “The Avengers”) as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Don Cheadle (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Iron Man 3”) as Jim Rhodes/War Machine and Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Godzilla”) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is now in theaters, followed by Ant-Man on July 17 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Spider-Man on July 28, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Black Panther on July 6 2018, Captain Marvel on November 2 2018, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019 and Inhumans on July 12, 2019.
Source: Lainey Gossip (hat tip Tim)