We're about to see two Steve Rogers' step down from the mantle of Captain America. Chris Evans is expected to put down the shield at the end of The Avengers 3, which is expected to hit theaters in 2017 or 2018. But before that, another Steve Rogers has already taken a knee, as Marvel Comics has removed the Super Soldier Serum from Rogers' body, turning him into a ninety year old man both physically and emotionally. We'll have to wait a while to find out who will end up being Evans' replacement, but in October, Captain America #25 hits the stands with a younger alternative in the red, white and blue.
Marvel hasn't come out and said who will don the mantle of Captain America for this new chapter in the hero's saga, which by now dates back seventy-three years. But some outlets (like THR and EW) believe it will be Sam Wilson, Captain America's fellow Avenger who goes by the name The Falcon. Wilson has been around for 45 years now, and can rightfully be considered a "legacy" character - the mainstream comic world's first-ever African-American superhero. Recently, Anthony Mackie brought the Falcon to life in in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There's even an image of artwork from an upcoming Avengers comic storyline, "Time Runs Out," that allegedly shows Sam Wilson holding Cap's shield.
Is it possible Marvel Studios is grooming him to strap on the shield? Could Sam Wilson be the next Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Mackie, 35, has been logging hours in various Hollywood movies for a while now. While never a bankable leading man, he's shown up in a variety of big budget films, from 8 Mile (his debut) to The Manchurian Candidate, to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He's also starred in a couple of films that won Best Picture at the Oscars, Million Dollar Baby and The Hurt Locker (where, one could argue, he deserved the award attention and subsequent leading man career of co-star Jeremy Renner). But his best work has been on the indie circuit. He's brought humor, humanity and intensity to films as diverse as Spike Lee's delirious She Hate Me, the Ryan Gosling film Half Nelson and the star-studded 10 Years. If you want to see a lesson in charisma, watch Mackie dance and twirl circles around non-entities Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake in Runner, Runner. And a very-much-underseen drama that deserves a little extra attention is Night Catches Us, where Mackie plays a conflicted former Black Panther.
If anything, Mackie is overqualified for a lead role in a big budget film. But will it be a future Captain America? The assumption from fans is that it is Sam Wilson in the Cap uniform in early leaked images, but it could easily be misdirection. And, like all comic book characters, Captain America is usually resistant to change: he "died" in 2008 and was replaced by Bucky, The Winter Soldier. One could easily see this happening in the movies if Sebastian Stan, who plays the Winter Soldier, had the sort of resume that Mackie has. But he doesn't, and the comics eventually restored Rogers as the living legend. Stan is signed for nine Marvel movies, and he'd be the obvious choice to be the next Captain America. Maybe that's the plan instead. Maybe there will be a revolving door of Caps, and Stan's Bucky will get a shot.
In fact, Marvel has shown an increasing desire to make their comics look much like their much-more-famous film counterparts, going so far as to integrate Clark Gregg's Phil Coulson into the books, while slowly transitioning Nick Fury into Nick Fury Jr., his earlier-unknown son. Installing the Falcon as Captain America in the comics would make an easier onscreen transition. It would also bat back the fans who would myopically complain that there was only one Captain America, and he was/is white. Somehow, saying, "It happened in the comics first" gives you leeway to pretty much do anything.
But synergy remains important to Marvel Studios, and next summer brings Avengers: Age Of Ultron, where Evans again plays Captain America. In fact, we'll be seeing Evans' Steve Rogers at least three more times on screen, with two more Avengers movies expected in the next few years and 2016's Captain America 3.
Are Marvel Comics really going to keep Sam Wilson as the Captain while Chris Evans plays the character for another four years on screen? Probably not, to be honest: these sorts of changes in the status quo have limited shelf lives, and the fanbase usually clamors for a return to the norm. This, in a way, is justifiable: unlike many of his comic counterparts, Steve Rogers is a real character, a remnant of World War II struggling to find his way in an increasingly upsetting modern world. There's always somewhere to take a character like that.
The movie universe does not have the benefit of perpetual continuity, however. Steve Rogers may have been Captain America for nearly three quarters of a century on the page, but we'll likely say goodbye to Chris Evans' Captain America soon. Marvel heroes have been recast before (hey, Don Cheadle!), but those decisions were made before Marvel realized they weren't in a $500 million business, but a billion dollar business. One of these actors, whether it be Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johansson, is going to step offscreen one day, and step back on looking like a completely different person. Is that person going to say, "It's me, the hero you already knew"? Or are they going to say, "It's me, a totally new hero taking on the guise of a character you already knew"? Perhaps having someone like Anthony Mackie around, as the already-established Falcon, is a way to split the difference.