This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and several Marvel Comics storylines.
Few big screen superheroes ever get perfect endings. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne got one in The Dark Knight Rises, albeit one fans weren’t particularly pleased with. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark went out in heroic fashion during Avengers: Endgame, but it was bittersweet and at the cost of his life. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine got a haunting sendoff in Logan. And Chris Evans, the most successful actor to bring Steve Rogers to life on screen, also got a perfect moment to put an end to Captain America’s story, traveling back in time to live out his life with his soulmate, and handing off his shield to Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson.
It’s such a perfect moment in fact, that Kevin Feige and company chose Steve’s reunion with Peggy Carter as the final shot of a movie that wrapped up 11 years of storytelling. Sure, even an ending like that leaves the door open for all kinds of time traveling or multiversal shenanigans, but Cap earned his rest, and it was even more satisfying because his character pined for his lost love in virtually every film he appeared in. Heroes are usually expected to go out in a blaze of glory, but it’s rare that they get to pass on their legacy to someone they trust and get their heart’s desire out of the deal.
Which is why Deadline’s report that Evans is in early talks with Marvel Studios to reprise his role as Captain America is so puzzling. Evans is apparently set to return in “at least one Marvel property with the door open for a second film.” The word “property” is key here, as it would seem to mean that Evans could pop up in one of the many MCU Disney+ TV shows, as well as on the big screen. In any case, these wouldn’t be Captain America solo films, and his role would likely be more akin to how Downey continued to appear in Marvel projects after the Iron Man film trilogy wrapped up.
It’s not that anyone TRULY expected one of the most popular screen superheroes of recent years to stay off screen forever, especially when played by a star as bankable as Evans. It’s simply that we’re less than two years removed from Cap’s big exit, and only two months away from the premiere of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Disney+ MCU show that’s supposed to pick up on how Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes and Mackie’s Sam Wilson deal with Steve’s legacy, as well as Wilson’s journey to wielding the shield as the new Captain America (both men at various points have assumed the role in the comics).
If the hope is to position Sam as the new Captain America, it’s hard not to feel that this revelation would be overshadowed by Evans’ return to the role. There are, of course, other ways this can go. Steve Rogers remained quite active in Marvel Comics when Sam was wearing the red, white, and blue and carrying the shield. There’s no reason that can’t happen in the MCU, as well.
But Mackie has recently tempered expectations of whether he’ll take over the Captain America mantle in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Speaking on The Jesse Cagle Show Mackie remarked that “we don’t know” whether Sam will choose to become Captain America or not.
“The idea of the show is basically, you know, and at the end of Avengers: Endgame, Cap decided he was going into retirement and he asked me if I would take up the shield, but at no point in time, did I agree to or say that I would be Captain America,” he explained. “So [The Falcon and the Winter Soldier] walks the line of who is going to take up the shield and who’s going to be Captain America if Steve isn’t coming back.”
There are also other projects on the horizon at Marvel that could hint at when, why, and how Evans’ Rogers could return, potentially as a different version of Cap. Notably, Sam Raimi’s looming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a movie which is likely to open up the endless possibilities of the multiverse to the MCU. There’s also Secret Invasion, a Disney+ TV series that will feature Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury fighting alongside Ben Mendehlsohn’s friendly Skrull, Talos, as the shape-shifting alien race begin to infiltrate humanity for their own ends. It’s easy to see how Evans could return as an imposter Cap.
UPDATE: It’s worth pointing out that if these talks are happening, Evans claims he’s unaware of them.
In any case, Evans’ return isn’t so imminent that we’ll see him in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which hits Disney+ in March. Audiences (including this writer) would certainly love to see Steve Rogers on the screen again. But when Marvel has been making such great strides to introduce new characters, and create a legacy for the Captain America character, news of his return, coming just months before a TV series meant to deal with his absence, feels like strange timing. Will audiences remain as invested in Sam’s quest for the shield when they know Steve is waiting in the wings once again? We’ll find out soon enough.