HEAT VISION

'Avengers: Endgame' Final Path — the Journey of Captain America

The star-spangled superhero takes a final stand in 'Endgame,' but will Chris Evans still wield the shield when all is said and done?
Chris Evans in 'Avengers: Endgame'   |   Courtesy of Disney Enterprises
The star-spangled superhero takes a final stand in 'Endgame,' but will Chris Evans still wield the shield when all is said and done?

Iron ManHulkBlack WidowThorHawkeye, Captain America. The six founding Avengers are on a collision course with destiny in Avengers: Endgame, an adventure from which one or more of them may not walk away. As the end of the line draws near for the original heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Hollywood Reporter's Josh Wigler offers up predictions in a new series of Final Path columns, with all eyes on the six aforementioned Avengers and their deadliest enemy yet: Thanos. Up last in the series is Captain America.

Five years ago, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) brought deep-rooted corruption out of the shadows of SHIELD. Condemning Hydra and infusing his fellow patriots with a sense of duty and purpose, Rogers said: "The price of freedom is high. It always has been. It's a price I'm willing to pay. If I'm the only one, so be it, but I'm willing to bet I'm not."

Inspiring words — and instructive, as we look ahead toward the end of the line.

Heading into Avengers: Endgame, there are few characters who are in greater danger than Captain America. We're bound to lose heroes we love in the climactic closing chapter of Marvel's Infinity Saga, and Cap is right at the top of the list for many, due to reasons both in the context of the universe as well as outside of it. Will Steve die fighting Thanos (Josh Brolin)? Will he sacrifice his own life so others may live, be it in battle against the Mad Titan or through some other means of paying the high price for freedom? Is there any chance that the star-spangled super soldier will make it out of Endgame alive against all the odds?

We survey the possibilities ahead in the closing chapter of our Final Path series, while also looking back on Cap's journey leading up to Avengers: Endgame.

Name: Steve Rogers, the supersoldier known as Captain America.

Powers: A peak specimen of shield-slinging, hard-hitting, never-quitting perfection.

Defining Quote: "I can do this all day."

First Appearance: 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. In his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, a young and scrawny Steve Rogers wants nothing more than to fight on behalf of his country, his unlikely body type notwithstanding. Thanks to an experimental serum, his external form becomes as strong as his resolve, turning him into a walking, talking, shield-slinging symbol of patriotism — right up until a crash in the Arctic left him frozen in time for the next several decades at least.

Worst Appearance: He doesn't have one. Really! Some of the Marvel heroes' solo movie offerings leave much to be desired. In the case of Cap? Not a one. He's a highlight in all of his ensemble appearances as well. If we really need to name a name, does the Fantastic Four series count?

Best Appearance: 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. From certain vantage points, it's the best Marvel Cinematic Universe experience of them all. It was certainly the grittiest film in the Marvel odyssey up to that point, showing Cap's controversial war against corruption in SHIELD, all while fighting his own brainwashed best friend. Both from philosophical and action-oriented standpoints, Winter Soldier embodies the best of the Marvel experiment — thanks in no small part to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, the sibling filmmakers responsible for Captain America: Civil War, as well as Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.

Last Appearance: 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. Steve was last seen fighting against Thanos' forces on the fields of Wakanda, meeting Groot ("I am Steve Rogers" is a top 10 Marvel Cinematic Universe moment, and I will not hear otherwise), taking on the Mad Titan himself and sadly realizing the full weight of defeat — shortly after watching old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) fade away.

Best Friends: Bucky, as mentioned — the only person from his old life still around. Steve's friendship with Bucky has been tested by time and circumstance. In the modern era, Steve has made several new friends along the way: Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and just about everyone on the Avengers squad, even the ones he feuds with from time to time, such as…

Worst Enemies: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn't quite qualify as a nemesis, but the two old friends aren't exactly seeing eye to eye these days, following the events of Civil War. Luckily both of them seem primed and ready for a reunion in the face of Thanos. There may be another old enemy on Steve's path in the near future too. More on him in a minute.

His Most Heroic Moment: How do you pick just one heroic moment for Captain America? This is a guy who sacrificed decades of his life in order to protect the world, stepped out against authority on numerous occasions when he saw systemic wrongdoing in action… So maybe it's best to look smaller: scrawny Steve Rogers, still at boot camp, tossing himself onto a deadly grenade to make sure no one in the vicinity would get hurt. Before all the powers, underneath the super strength, Steve Rogers was already a hero to the core.

His Biggest Mistake: Shaving his beard for Endgame.

Final Predictions: Deep breath: Captain America is going to die.

What, you need more than that? Really? We need to go through the motions of how exactly we're going to lose the First Avenger? It's not enough to sit with the inevitability of it — we need to pick it apart, beat by beat?

Fine, here we go. Thanos snapped half of all life out of existence. There are strong, compelling theories that the dusted are trapped inside the Soul Stone still alive albeit inside a pocket dimension. Let's get on board with that. How to release them from the Soul World? The same way the stone was acquired in the first place: a visit to Vormir, the planet where the stone was kept for so long, attainable only by an all-out sacrifice. Guarding the stone: Red Skull, originally played by Hugo Weaving, these days left in the more than capable hands of Walking Dead star Ross Marquand. Who in the Avengers clan has an ax to grind with Red Skull, as well as a proven track record of sacrificing everything in order to achieve a greater good? You guessed it. No need to name names.

There have been countless stories surrounding Evans and his imminent end with the MCU. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Evans even joked about his character's possible demise: "It's going to be a long movie, that's for sure. The first edit clocked in over three hours. My funeral's like an hour." We can only hope he's kidding. We fear that he's not — maybe about the length of the funeral scene, sure, but not about the need for a funeral. Outside of these movies, Evans has come to represent so much of what makes Captain America great; I imagine he will continue having some affiliation with the role even after he abandons it.

The good news: I don't see a world where Captain America dies so decisively that he can't come back in some form many years from now should Evans choose to pick up the shield again. Cap's comic book journey has been filled with death and rebirth; why should his cinematic counterpart be any different?

Last Hope: For Steve to survive, of course. That's the primary hope. I love the scenario where he and Tony Stark fly off into the far reaches of space to pick up the baton from Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) while she remains on Earth as a new champion for the Avengers. Here's another possible happy ending for Cap: for him to somehow get stranded back in the 1940s for a happily-ever-after with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). It's a little harder to imagine because of established continuity within the MCU via Agent Carter and even the second two Captain America movies (let's not even go there with what it would mean for Sharon Carter; Jon Snow and Daenerys, eat your hearts out). But maybe — at the very least — Steve can find himself back in time for one last dance with the love of his life.

Follow THR.com/HeatVision for more on Avengers: Endgame, in theaters April 26.

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