What the Captain America Revelation Means for the Future of Marvel Cinematic Universe

'Captain America: Civil War' — $190.4 million
<p>Directors Joe and Anthony Russo continued their winning streak in China with their latest Marvel juggernaut, <em>Captain America: Civil War</em>. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a fixture of the Chinese box office&#39;s boom period. The <span data-scaytid="123" word="Russos"><span data-scaytid="7" word="Russos"><span data-scaytid="13" word="Russos"><span data-scayt_word="Russos" data-scaytid="13">Russos</span></span></span></span>&nbsp;recently even <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/captain-america-civil-war-director-886842" target="_blank">launched their own Chinese film studio</a>, which plans to back a <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/captain-america-filmmakers-produce-chinese-892352" target="_blank">Chinese superhero project</a> not dissimilar to their work with Marvel.&nbsp;</p>   |   Disney
Steve Rogers is out as Marvel's onscreen patriotic superhero, so what next?

It's official: As suspected at the time, the end of Captain America: Civil War means that Steve Rogers has, indeed, given up being Captain America.

"I think him dropping that shield is him letting go of that identity," Joe Russo told The Huffington Post, saying that the scene was Rogers (Chris Evans) "admitting that certainly the identity of Captain America was in conflict with the very personal choice that he was making."

To comic book fans, this isn't a big deal; Rogers not only has quit being Captain America a bunch of times, he's been replaced by another hero each and every time. Yet, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is that even possible?

After all, the only two characters who have stepped into Captain America's boots in recent comic book mythology that also exist in the MCU aren't exactly about to take on the gig. Falcon finished Civil War on the run with Rogers, and Bucky closed out the movie back in stasis, as well as still programmed to become a brainwashed murder machine whenever he hears a particular combination of words — hardly what anyone wants from their patriotic superhero of choice.

Even beyond that, though, is the simple fact that the movie version of Rogers — even more than the comic book incarnation, as unlikely as it may seem — is irreplaceable from a moral perspective, at least when it comes to the superpowered set (if we're including anyone, then Peggy Carter at least comes close). The movie Avengers need Rogers on a very basic level: Without him, especially with the second-generation team seen in Civil War, they're a group of inexperienced newcomers under the lead of someone who has no problem bringing a high school kid into life-threatening combat because he can climb walls.

When the comic book Cap is replaced, the story is almost always, at least on some level, about how impossible it is to live up to the standards of Rogers — the ways in which no one manages to match him when it comes to the combination of morals and physical ability, even if they can compete in one of those two areas. Steve Englehart, the writer who wrote the first story in which Steve quit in the 1970s, had fun with that premise on a number of levels; not only did he include a parade of failed wannabe Caps before Rogers returned to the role, he also brought back a replacement Cap from the 1950s whose sanity had failed as a result of exposure to the Super-Soldier formula that gave him his powers.

(One of the fun things about the current Cap-is-actually-working-for-Hydra twist is that it frees Sam Wilson of the not-as-good-as-Rogers dilemma, because even Cap has fallen short of his own standards as the result of in-story history revising.)

The problem with replacing Cap in the movies is that there's no space to tell that story right now — there isn't another Captain America movie on the schedule, with Evans next scheduled to appear as Rogers in the two upcoming Avengers movies beginning with 2018's Avengers: Infinity War — so all that really can be done is showing the absence of Cap and the void he leaves behind, before he comes back to save the day in suitably spectacular fashion.

The question isn't whether Rogers will return as Captain America; it'd be disappointing if he doesn't, if only to provide a stirring closure to the rift between him and Iron Man in Civil War. Instead, it's what happens afterward. With Evans having hinted that he might give up acting to direct full time, wouldn't it be particularly cruel to show how important Rogers is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only to write him out forever via a suitably heroic death?

Avengers: Infinity War will be released in 2018. Captain America: Civil War will be released on Blu-ray Sept. 13.

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