Where and when will Captain America fight again now that Marvel Studios has launched the super-soldier as a cinematic superhero franchise? We know that Chris Evans’ shield-baring hero will become a charter member of director Joss Whedon’s The Avengers opening next summer. (What did you think of that teaser-trailer?) But think beyond that. With box office pundits currently predicting that Captain America: The First Avenger will generate a bigger opening weekend than Marvel’s sequel-bound summertime smash Thor, another dedicated Captain America adventure would seem inevitable. (The writers of the first film, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are already working on a script.) But where in the world – and where in history – will the masked marvel find himself in his next big-screen outing?
If you’ve seen Captain America: The First Avenger (and MASSIVE SPOILERS loom ahead for anyone who hasn’t), you know that the movie concluded with the World War II hero crashing the Red Skull’s stealth-winged flying fortress in the Arctic, then waking up in present day New York City. The implication: Steve Rogers was frozen alive and then discovered, thawed and revived by agents of SHIELD, the super-secret espionage outfit run by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. We might assume that future stories will track the time-tossed patriot’s attempts to adjust to the modern world, plus battle other old WWII foes that somehow, someway also managed to cheat death. (I really want to see Toby Jones’ Arnim Zola make this bizarre, life-extending transformation.)
And yet, the movie never gave us the visual that most Marvel fanboys were expecting: A shot of Captain America trapped in ice. We saw his vibranium shield excavated from the Skull’s snow-filled bomber – but no body. All we got was a long beat of black screen between Cap’s crash in the Arctic and NYC wake-up. (Unless I dozed off and missed it; I saw a midnight screening after a long day at Comic-Con.)
So here’s a hypothesis: What if Captain America did not remain a human popsicle for 70 years? What if he was discovered by Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad, played by Dominic Cooper) and continued to fight for his country and romance his true love Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) well into the Cold War? What if future yarns reveal that Cap was placed into cryogenic sleep in some other sci-fi way… or that modern-day, Avengers-era Cap isn’t the “real” Cap, but a clone, one that’s been given the persona and memories of WWII-era Cap? While the last line of the movie would seem to subvert this speculation, with Steve bemoaning his missed date with Peggy, I wonder if we were being set up for what will become a recurring gag in the next Captain America tale, with Steve always missing dates with his Peggy because of his super-secret super-soldier wetwork.
I’m enamored with this theoretical train of thought because I loved the evocation of mid-century America that director Joe Johnston created for Captain America: The First Avenger; I’m hoping (maybe in vain) that Marvel can find a credible way to tell more Captain America stories in that time period. But regardless of where and when Captain America will fight again in his own franchise, I predict he’ll be clashing with his best friend, Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan. We saw him plummet to his death… but we never got a shot of his corpse, either. In the recent Captain America comics written by award-winning scribe Ed Brubaker, Cap’s WWII-era BFF is also alive in the present: After his apparent demise, Bucky’s body was recovered and transformed into “The Winter Soldier,” a long-lived brainwashed sleeper agent/assassin. Also: Bionic arm! A movie pitting these wintry super-soldiers – former friends and allies turned rival agents of clashing superpowers — would make for a great sequel, no matter what time period it’s set. But how about you? Did you like Captain America: The First Avenger enough to enlist for a sequel? And do you want to see a story set in the past or in the present?