‘Captain America 3′ Presents Marvelous Possibilities

Can returning directors Joe and Anthony Russo expand the Marvel Universe with another 'Captain America' movie?

In what can only be described as “ridiculously great news,” it’s been reported that Joe and Anthony Russo have been tapped to return as directors for “Captain America 3.” The news comes months before the release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in April, suggesting that Marvel has tremendous confidence in the Russo brothers’ vision.

There’s no real need to spell out why the “Captain America 3″ report is ridiculously great news for Marvel fans, is there? The indication is that “Winter Soldier” is fantastic enough for Marvel to bring the brothers back into the fold, a rare move by Marvel’s standards. (To date, only Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon have returned to direct multiple Marvel Studios pictures; others, like Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston, have been relied upon for done-in-one services.)

However, in the midst of the red-white-and-blue optimism, there’s reason for some caution. The big reason, of course, is that Marvel hasn’t confirmed the Russo news, or even the existence of “Captain America 3″ for that matter. But assuming the new reports are accurate, it’s worth wondering how a third “Captain America” could affect Marvel’s plans moving forward.

For many fans, the most exciting prospect of Marvel’s Phase Three plans is the introduction of brand-new heroes and solo films. There are countless projects rumored to debut in the next wave of Marvel movies post-”Age of Ultron,” including “Black Panther,” “Doctor Strange” and “Captain Marvel.” Indeed, the first Marvel movie after “Age of Ultron” is Edgar Wright’s “Ant-Man,” an unlikely character for a solo film by all accounts — but “unlikely” tends to be where Marvel shines.

Still, it’s expected and understandable that Marvel’s Phase Three will include some old favorites, like continuations of the “Thor” and “Captain America” franchises, if only to keep things safe and familiar for the casual fan. While the God of Thunder’s strengths tend to lean more toward the epic cosmos surrounding Asgard, the “Captain America” series seems to be an opportunity to explore uncharted corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Earth — a place where new heroes like, say, Falcon can emerge.

From the outside looking in, it almost feels as if “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” could be called “The Avengers 1.5,” given the amount of heroes in the mix. It’s not just the Steve Rogers show, though Chris Evans’ star-spangled super-soldier clearly and rightfully takes center stage. There are other major players to consider, from the aforementioned Falcon to S.H.I.E.L.D. stalwarts Nick Fury and Black Widow. There’s even the new-and-improved Bucky Barnes to consider, presumably in the mix going forward.

In other words, with “Winter Soldier,” it already feels like the Russos are launching a “team” franchise of their own, ala the “Avengers” films. If there are too many movie ideas in the air and not enough release dates between “Age of Ultron” and a third “Avengers” to fit them all, then perhaps the third “Captain America” could be an area of compromise. Imagine, for instance, “Captain America: Wakanda,” a film that sees Steve and Natasha running security detail during a political summit in Black Panther’s kingdom. Imagine, for instance, “Captain America: Captain Marvel” as a way of introducing Carol Danvers into the mythos. (Note to Marvel: think of a better title than that.)

Heck, Marvel could even go with “Captain America: Secret Avengers.” The tickets would sell themselves.

The “Captain America” series could be a way of introducing new major players into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ala “Avengers,” and with the added bonus of some name and franchise recognition. Of course, speculating about any of that feels premature until some kind of official confirmation from Marvel, or at least a suggestive wink-and-nod. But when it comes to the superhero scene, speculation is par for the course — so if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be right over here in our happy place, doing our best to will that Captain America-Black Panther fanfic movie into existence.

Are you excited about the opportunities “Captain America 3″ presents?

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@roundhoward