Marvel Phase 4's Biggest Challenge is a New Captain America
Marvel Studios may be rebuilding themselves after the Infinity Saga concluded with Avengers: Endgame (2019), and amid their rebirth, the struggle to establish a new Captain America emerges.
After the passing of the shield from Steve "Captain America" Rogers (Chris Evans) to Sam "Falcon" Wilson (Anthony Mackie) at the very tail end of Avengers: Endgame, it is made quite clear that Wilson's next mission was to take up the mantle of Captain America, which transitions into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021)'s core plot.
Marvel punctuated their Infinity Saga by not only snapping away Thanos, The Mad Titan, and concluding the journies of core Avengers Tony "Iron Man" Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Unlike his fellow Avengers, Captain America's retirement was a choice, which was hotly debated by fans.
Because the shield was handed directly to Wilson instead of Bucky "The Winter Soldier" Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Marvel has set themselves up for a new challenge in a new phase of their franchise: selling the new storytelling scheme of passing titles of founding heroes to new successors is not only effective but sustainable.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will serve as the indicator for this specific scenario as Wilson's journey hopefully appeals to fans with the same endearing approach as his predecessor had. The concept of new heroes taking on old names is nowhere close to being a groundbreaking, bold move, as comic books have been practicing this tactic for decades. However, this is new for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they bring their books to life on the big screen.
Wilson and his new identity as Captain America in the MCU will be the domino that will topple the rest as the changeover of titles takes place. Though there are still a few original members of the Avengers that were left unscathed, there are still heritors that will be put into play and carry on these aliases. Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) will be introduced in Black Widow (2021), Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) will don her own suit to become the next Iron Man - in this case, Ironheart - and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) will protege under Clint "Hawkeye" Barton (Jeremy Renner)'s wing until she becomes Hawkeye herself. Tatiana Maslany will take on the role of Jennifer "She-Hulk" Walters while Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) passes along Mjolnir to Jane "Thor" Foster (Natalie Portman) in director Taika Waitit's Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).
The indication that Marvel's new strategy, the upheaval of power from one hero to the next, can either warrant the reactions that the studio anticipates, or it could twist their arm and force them to re-evaluate their new cinematic formula. With the MCU balancing itself on the interconnectivity of its macrocosm, there's the inevitability that these changes will cause a more influential ripple effect on both other projects, and the movie universe altogether.
This shifting of heroes and alter egos is a slow-but-steady burn as Marvel is not rushing too hastily into Phase 4. Done carefully so that there's no sudden overwhelming, confusing, drastic change, the MCU is setting up a wealth of new characters to take center stage. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiers on March 19, only on Disney+.