It would have been nice if Chris Evans could lead one more Captain America movie again before the end.
Chris Evans made the world love Steve Rogers / Captain America. The MCU was but a little seedling of a franchise when he was cast, and it was dubious as to whether a character named so patriotically after a single country could become a universally relatable onscreen presence. But Evans became synonymous with the Cap brand, embodying the goodness and resilience of the character that perfectly counteracted the gargantuan nature of Iron Man and the intergalactic family dramatics of Thor.
Evans, having played Captain America since Captain America: The First Avenger, has confirmed in a New York Times profile that he has no plans on reprising the role after the untitled fourth Avengers film. This doesn’t feel like new news; more like a confirmation of the inevitable. As The Hollywood Reporter points out, interviews about the highly-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War already make Captain America’s place in Marvel’s Phase Four uncertain. A bunch of other veteran MCU cast members has hinted at retiring these classic characters in some form or another, and Evans is really just next in line.
According to Evans:
“You want to get off the train before they push you off.”
If anything, this quote is reminiscent of the kind of advice that Jerry Seinfeld apparently gave Hugh Jackman before the latter decided to put down the Wolverine claws for good after a final outing in Logan: “Leave the party before it gets too late.”
The fact that both Evans and Jackman are delivering similar sentiments is unsurprising. Eventually — when considering both the needs of a growing franchise and every actor’s personal work goals — leaving iconic roles behind not only makes sense; it’s vital. Audiences have simply reached a moment in time when many staple superheroes are hanging up their capes and passing on the mantle.
Wolverine and Captain America got two very different introductions into their respective superhero universes. Jackman was cast in a team-up film from the get-go, while Evans began his journey in an origin story. As their tenures approach(ed) their endings, Jackman and Evans have featured in so many sequels in either starring or cameo capacity, proving their ultimate staying power in these franchises. If anything, both characters deserve big send-offs to match their status as beloved characters. Jackman certainly got that with Logan, but there is cause to be concerned that Avengers 4 may be too crowded and unfocused to really signal an appropriate farewell for one of the original heroes of the MCU.
Frankly, it’s going to be hard not to compare final films to Logan. FSR references the film a lot, and not just because director James Mangold is currently everywhere either. The X-Men franchise has never been known for grounded storytelling in particular. Logan broke the mold and ushered in a new era of mutants while telling a character-driven story that lets Wolverine’s violent past catch up with him. Prior to Logan, Jackman’s best Wolverine work mostly played out with a plethora of other characters involved. X-Men Origins: Wolverine failed to give the character a proper origin story. The Wolverine, another Mangold production, did at least toy with the character’s solo potential. But it was only with Logan that the character moved beyond his mutant abilities and became truly human.
Captain America, on the flip-side, has had a better solo run than any of the Avengers team-ups would let on. The First Avenger set up a dramatic, almost mythical ideal for the character to strive towards, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier worked to uproot his motivations and allegiances. The Winter Soldier deftly challenges the very concept of “Captain America” to a Steve that has live in a modern society he doesn’t recognize. He crumbles from the myth to the man, setting up the events for Captain America: Civil War. Yet unfortunately, there isn’t enough Cap in that particularly Cap movie. Civil War a proficient film that unpacks the question of what it means to be a superhero, but it definitely functions as a better, more in-depth approach to an Avengers movie than a good Captain America film.
So, it definitely feels like we haven’t really seen a solo Captain America film since 2014. If there wasn’t already a lot riding on both Infinity War and Avengers 4 to be epic spectacles, they also have the responsibility to round off Steve Rogers’ entire storyline in a satisfactory way. Evans may not have been in the MCU for 17 years like Jackman was with the X-Men, but Captain America still speaks volumes to many fans of the MCU and deserves a denouement worthy of the surprisingly complicated character that he turned out to be.