A few weeks ago, Marvel blew up the internet to the squealing cries of joy from Marvel fans everywhere by revealing their movie plans until 2019. Easily one of the highlights of this little shindig was the announcement of Captain America: Civil War, the third Captain America film. Civil War was a massive crossover event that pitted Iron Man against Captain America on the issues of security vs. liberty. Basically, Iron Man wanted to register all superheroes as public government agents while Captain America believed that this was a step too far.
Without getting too much into the actual comic plot, let me give you a brief rundown of the important bits. Both Iron Man and Captain America assembled their own teams to fight the good fight against each other. While the story itself was a truly unique and game changing event, it was rendered nearly inconsequential by the subsequent retconning to reestablish the status quo. Most importantly, this event ended with the arrest and death of Captain America.
If you are at all familiar with comics, death is less of a permanent sentence and more of vacation to Tahiti. When looking at comics the list of major characters that have actually stayed dead is small and is mostly occupied by Uncle Ben. So far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has followed suit. Take a moment and figure out how many main characters in the Marvel Avenger’s movies have actually stayed dead. I count about four or five, all of whom are villains and some of whose deaths are still up to debate. While this can work in the comic world, Hollywood is a little less forgiving.
When these heroes don’t die and continually return from the dead, the stakes are exponentially lowered with each return. This can only be sustained for so long in a narrative sense and even less when you take into account that these actors are on contracts which must end eventually. This leaves Marvel with really three choices: shell out more money to renew contracts, recast their now iconic characters, or kill them off. Marvel has already showed that renewing contracts is not their favorite thing, just look at the RDJ negotiations. Recasting these characters is extremely dangerous. Imagine someone else playing Tony Stark other than RDJ, you can’t can you. That’s because his portrayal defined that character for both comic and non-comic fans everywhere. With these two options less than optimal, Marvel has one option left.
Now, I’m not saying that they should just kill everybody off. Some, such as Thor, could simply go somewhere else or is somehow pushed out of the way to reappear at a later date or as a cameo. However, even that isn’t permanent solution since if they’re still alive, fans will want to see them again. Thus killing characters is really the only choice they have left. Marvel has a huge roster to choose from which they could have already started expanding to change up the team. Instead of just adding characters on top of old ones, they need to rotate out characters. This is where Captain America’s death comes in.
As I said, Captain America’s death is a direct result from Civil War. It allows for the perfect setup and the perfect window to give us the first permanent Marvel death. This death will have more than a few impacts. Cap is first and foremost a symbol. That is where his strength lies when he is fighting alongside gods and monsters. He represents hope, freedom, and well America in general. His death would have a very deep emotional impact on just about everyone. Keeping him dead would raise the stakes for our other heroes.
He also acts as the Jiminy Cricket of the Avengers. Since he is this symbol of goodness, his death would be the death of that as well. This then has ramifications for the rest of our heroes who A. are angry and hurt at the fact that one of their friends is now dead and B. they now have no one to really stop them. This isn’t to say that without Captain America the Avengers become villains. Simply that they are missing a key part of their moral compass.
Lastly, it completes the idea that Captain America is a symbol. Again, this is a guy who was super in WWII fighting alongside regular soldiers. When compared to his teammates who consist of gods and monsters Captain America and his fellow “regular” heroes, quickly lose their effectiveness in this world. If Captain America dies, he becomes greater than all of his other teammates. He becomes a perfect symbol through his death, no longer judged by his human qualities but remembered for his near perfect ideals.
So far, something big is going to happen to Captain America in the upcoming Avengers films. Joss Whedon has already teased that death will be a part of Age of Ultron. Kevin Feige has also stated that the Avengers roster will be changed by the end of Age of Ultron. Not to mention that Chris Evans is contracted for 6 major film appearances, this includes The First Avenger, Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, and Civil War. This leaves one more film. While Infinity War Pt. 1 is the likely candidate, I would hope they could still work in his death before this film. For instance, since we know Black Panther will be a major player in Civil War, what if Cap has a major role in Panthers solo feature which results in his death. In the comics Captain America’s shield is made of vibranium which comes from Wakanda, the country Black Panther rules over. If Cap’s shield is truly broken he may journey to Wakanda to get it repaired. Not to mention that we might be introduced to Wakanda as early as Age Of Ultron if that is Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) in the trailer.
My whole point here is that Captain America doesn’t quite fit with all of these other super-powered beings. Sure he is super to us but compared to his team mates he doesn’t quite hold up. He is an effective leader and all that but his true power lies in his inherent symbolism. For me, the natural progression to fully utilize this is to kill him off so he becomes a pure symbol to inspire and bond his team. Much like the affect Phil Coulson’s death had but on a larger scale due to Cap’s greater significance.
The only other plausible option is to have Cap take Widow and Hawkeye and have team based more on espionage than fighting aliens. As we saw in The Winter Soldier this idea actually works really well. This again though has the problem that if they are still alive, they will be pulled back in.
However this all plays out, I have faith Marvel will come up with an appropriate solution. They so far have shaken up the formula either by approving sequels far before their first films were even released or by bringing obscure characters/actors to the big screen. I believe that whatever happens will make sense and be true to the fans.