We all knew this day was coming, and now the news is all but official. Chris Evans is done playing Captain America.
Last week, the actor tweeted that he had finished filming reshoots for Avengers 4, adding that he was "eternally grateful" for his eight years as Steve Rogers. Even though Evans has talked about leaving the role before, the news of his likely departure inspired works of art and made other movie stars cry.
Even though Thanos snapped away half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Avengers: Infinity War, Evans' departure feels more real, and more final. It could also leave the MCU without one of its truly central players for the first time. Like his comic book counterpart, Evans' Captain America is the cornerstone of the Avengers, where he serves as a shining beacon of selfless morality. Whether Evans' Rogers walks off into the sunset with Peggy Carter or makes the ultimate sacrifice, some new characters are going to have to step up to fill the leadership vacuum created by his absence.
Of all of the original Avengers, Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man is probably the only one who could fill Cap's practical ideological roles. While he didn't start out as a selfless hero, Tony Stark has grown into a mature leader and unlikely father figure. Despite all that, there's no guarantee that Tony Stark will make it out of Avengers 4, either. According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, the film will be "a conclusion" to the first ten years of the MCU. Since his first movie kicked off the MCU, no one represents that decade more than Iron Man. If Avengers 4 really is the end of an era, it wouldn't be surprising to see Stark or any of the other original Avengers on the chopping block.
Who Will Wield the Shield?
While Steve Rogers might be gone after Avengers 4, Captain America may live on. Both of Captain America's on-screen partners, Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes and Anthony Mackie's Falcon, had successful turns as Captain America in comics. Assuming they return in Avengers 4, either one of them could take up his mantle in the MCU.
After spending decades in comic book limbo, Bucky became Captain America just two years after he returned to the Marvel Universe as the Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers seeming perished at the end of Marvel's Civil War, Tony Stark honored Rogers' last wishes by asking Bucky to become the new Captain America. Given Bucky and Stark's complex relationship in the MCU, it's not hard imagining a similar moment playing out between the two heroes on the big screen. Even after Avengers 4, Stan will still have several films left on the nine-film contract he signed with Marvel.
While it's not clear how many movies Mackie has left on his contract, Falcon seems equally qualified to suit up as Captain America. After serving as Captain America's modern partner for decades, Sam Wilson had a successful run as Captain America from 2014 to 2017, where he became a key player on several Avengers teams. In comics and film, Sam and Bucky make a solid team, and the two heroes seem destined to work together again, no matter who has Cap's shield.