It’s been a big week for Marvel fans. First, the company unveiled the new Thor, a woman who takes over the title and responsibilities of the God of Thunder after the current Thor is deemed unworthy to wield Mjolnir, and then the first look at the villains of The Avengers: Age of Ultron was revealed along with their new, Iron Man-centric backstories. But Marvel wasn’t quite done yet, and on Wednesday night, they turned to The Colbert Show to reveal that Sam Wilson, better known as Falcon, would be carrying the shield as the new Captain America.
The shift-in-power comes after Steve Rogers’ body has been drained of the super serum that turned him into Cap in the first place, which resulted in him rapidly ageing to better reflect his 95 years of age. Since he’s no longer to be the hero that America deserves, the mantle falls to his good buddy Sam, who will officially make his debut in the stars and stripes in All New Captain America #1. Iron Man will also be getting a makeover alongside Thor and Cap, and in the Superior Iron Man #1, fans will see Tony Stark move to San Francisco in his new, shiny silver suit, in order to make some changes that not all of the Bay Area’s residents take to, resulting in a darker, more temperamental hero. Of course, all of these changes lead to one big question: how will this affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus far, the two have operated as separate continuities, but both the solo and Avengers films take their cues from the comics. But while it’s likely that Tony’s new attitude might bleed over into his movie counterpart, the real thing that fans are wondering is whether or not Anthony Mackie will get to inherit the shield from Chris Evans. And it’s a possibility we’ve been thinking a lot about as well.
Why We Might See Mackie as Captain America: Though it’s the first time that Falcon has inherited the title of Captain America, he has a long history of carrying the shield whenever Steve is hurt or otherwise incapacitated, and has temporarily filled in for Cap multiple times over his fifty year run in the comics. Although Bucky Barnes’ stint as Cap is better known, Sam actually has a bigger history in the stars and stripes to draw from. Picking Sam as the new Cap would open up a lot more possibilities for the writers in terms of the stories they could tell and the comic books they could draw from.
Depending on how many movies Evans has left in his contract, it could also allow them to switch to a new Cap sooner than they could with Bucky, who at the end of The Winter Soldier still doesn’t remember anything about his life before becoming a HYDRA super-assassin. Passing the mantle to Falcon would allow them more time with Bucky’s story, and they wouldn’t need to rush through his discovery and recovery process in order to get him into Cap’s uniform quickly. Bucky’s story is a complex, compelling one, and it would be a shame to see the films bypass a lot of what makes it so interesting simply to rush him into a new uniform. The recent films’ focus on the psychological consequences of being a superhero has been one of the most engaging and entertaining parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Bucky is a prime candidate to explore more of those issues, and to add new layers to the story.
At this point in the films, Sam is in a better position to take over for Cap. His dedication to helping Steve, no questions asked, and to supporting him on his quest to repair the damage that HYDRA has done to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the American people is very reminiscent of Steve’s willingness to do anything to protect America, its ideals, and its people. Like Steve, he is a good guy through and through, the kind of person who would protect, inspire and encourage the American people, which is exactly what Captain America is supposed to do. Sam already embodies much of what makes Captain America the hero he is, just a little flashier and a little louder. Mackie is also in a slightly better position to inherit the franchise than Sebastian Stan is. Though both are talented actors who have been working for a long time, and are just starting to break through to the mainstream, Mackie is a bit more well-known and dynamic than Stan, which will no doubt come in handy with all of the press and fan attention that the actor who plays Captain America will have to deal with. And like both Evans and Stan, Mackie is a fan favorite, having won over everyone with his enthusiasm for his character. Nobody loves Falcon more than Mackie, and nobody would love being Cap more than Mackie would.
Why We Probably Won’t See Mackie As Captain America: Unfortunately, it seems seriously unlikely that we will ever see Sam inherit the title of Captain America on the big screen. Since Marvel plans out every part of their Cinematic Universe well in advance of the films’ release, they have been laying the seeds for Bucky to take over for Cap for some time now, dropping hints in both Captain America films that foreshadow his eventual ascent to the title. It seems unlikely that they would abandon the foundations that they have been laying for years now in order to give Sam the shield, even if it would be a smart decision.
Making Falcon the new Captain America would also risk angering the very vocal subset of fans who are reluctant to see any drastic changes made to the characters that they have become so comfortable with. Any time a character’s race gets changed – like when Miles Morales became Spider Man or Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four or Samuel L. Jackson was picked to play Nick Fury – some fans get upset about it, and because their negative outlook gets attention from both press and other fans, the studios become convinced that their position is the one that the entire fandom holds. Studios aren’t going to want to risk alienating a major part of their audience, and so they continue to make the safest choices imaginable. Why else do you think it’s taken so long for us to get a female-fronted superhero film?
Despite the quality of their films and the diversity of the heroes and comic books they have to offer, Marvel is still focused on pleasing their fans in order to make money. That means that if they think that audiences will be happier watching the white dudes they’re comfortable with save the world, that’s what they’re going to give them. It doesn’t matter how many issues Sam’s tenure as Captain America sells, or how much praise the books get, transitioning from Evans to Stan is the safer choice, and therefore the one most likely to make the most moviegoers happy. By catering to the fans who make the most noise, even if they’re the smallest subset of the fandom, Marvel will feel like it’s catering to the entire fanbase, which is why it’s so difficult to get Hollywood studios to break away from their standard formula.
On top of that, there’s no telling exactly how long Sam’s run as Cap will last. Comic books are constantly revamping and rebooting themselves, which means that plots are constantly being retconned and changed. If Sam is only going to have a short run as Cap, then the filmmakers might be hesitant to restructure the films around this new development, especially if they’re worried about how fans will react. Yes, Bucky’s time as Cap wasn’t particularly long, but the shift in power has been around long enough that they not only know how fans feel about it, but they’ve also been able to work out how best to incorporate it into the films.
We might only get to see Sam as Captain America in the comic books, but at least we have the knowledge that even that is enough to make Anthony Mackie the happiest person on earth right now. And when Mackie's happy, everyone is.