The fate of Captain America is in question — mostly because Chris Evans keeps changing his tune as to whether or not he wants to continue playing the scrawny military man-turned-superhero, or hang up the shield for good.
The latest news is positive: Joe Russo, co-director of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4, has assured fans that Evans's story within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not over yet. But before we get too comfortable with this latest twist, let's not forget the dizzying back-and-forth that went down to bring us to this place.
The frustrating saga began in March 2017, when an interview with Esquire inferred that Evans would be done with the franchise after his six-film contractual obligation was complete. (Avengers 4 will actually be the seventh MCU film for the actor, but who's counting?) "He wanted to direct, he wanted to play other characters," the piece read — something that is extremely difficult when you're tied up with projects as hefty as these.
But the following week, Evans softened his earlier sentiments. Speaking this time to Collider, the first Avenger insisted that whether or not he continues is "really not up to me," passing the ball to Marvel's court. "The only reason it would end is ‘cause my contract is up. After Avengers 4, my contract is done," he insisted. "Talk to Marvel. If we engage further, I’d be open to it. I love the character."
Evans let the news rest for a whole year after that, not saying another word until one sneaky little parenthetical quote appeared in a larger profile the New York Times printed in March of this year.
Looking back at his strong and virtuous roles, the newspaper mentioned that Evans had finished filming the final two Avengers films for which he was contracted the previous summer. "For now, he has no plans to return to the franchise ('You want to get off the train before they push you off,' he said), and expects that planned reshoots in the fall will mark the end of his tenure in the familiar red, white and blue super suit," they reported, sounding ominously similar to the logic expressed one year prior in Esquire.
The waffling reached a new extreme when Evans spoke with Variety in April 2018. When pressed on his potential participation in Marvel movies beyond Avengers 4, the man who had made a moving train analogy one month prior replied, "Tough to say."
Evans continued, "Part of you almost kind of thinks: Well, if we end on the right note… and I think it really kind of does. The scripts they have are really beautiful and really well written," giving the impression that on May 3, 2019 — the film's release date — audiences will be satisfied with Steve Rogers's story. Until moments later, when he added, "I guess it depends. It’s hard to know where your head’s gonna be at in a few years."
Then, in October, right after Evans finished his contractual obligation, he fired off an tweet that many interpreted as a sign-off — and perhaps a death sentence for Captain America. "Officially wrapped on Avengers 4. It was an emotional day to say the least," he wrote. "Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor. To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories! Eternally grateful."
In what we can now deem a tale as old as time, just over one week later, the actor clarified his tweet while at ACE Comic Con in Chicago, saying that his Twitter musing only seemed like a spoiler regarding his character's fate, but "regardless of how Avengers 4 ends, I would have tweeted the exact same thing."
He continued by noting the high emotions that come with "almost 10 years of filming and 22 movies," and that he "felt it was appropriate to share the gratitude," then closed with a classic reiteration: "I am neither confirming or denying anything."
It may appear that the saga should end there, but we have one more stop — the aforementioned, courtesy of Russo. The director addressed Evans's "emotional" tweet while speaking with the Associated Press in November, adding another whiplash-inducing soundbite to the chronicle.
"I think it was more emotional for him than us, only because, you know, he's not done yet," Russo said, quickly stifling his diabolical laugh. "And I won't explain what that means, but the audience will soon understand what I'm talking about."
Is this confirmation that Avengers 4 isn't the end for Steve Rogers? Maybe, but Evans and the rest of the cast still have a few months to flip-flop on the issue before we all know for sure.