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The Russos’ Big Captain America Change Avoided A Superman Problem

Thanks to the Russo brothers, the MCU’s Captain America avoided a problem that Superman has struggled with for ages. As outlandish as the MCU can be, the franchise has succeeded in putting all kinds of superheroes in a realistic sandbox. From an armored billionaire to a multiversal sorcerer, each Marvel character is first and foremost a unique individual with a distinct personality. Among the MCU’s countless characters, Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers/Captain America stands out due to the compelling conflict between his golden-age hero ideals and his struggle to fit into the modern world.

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Chris Evans’s Captain America went from a patriotic icon in the 1940s-set Captain America: The First Avenger to a true paragon of hope in Avengers: Endgame, but his ideals always centered around self-sacrifice. However, he was also forced to constantly change his worldview across his seven movie appearances. Captain America lost his role in the war, his friends, his team, and his trust on S.H.I.E.L.D. and the government. All of this pushed Steve Rogers/Captain America to constantly reinvent himself throughout the three MCU Phases of the Infinity Saga, making him a Marvel icon that holds a special place in the heart of fans.


Related: Spider-Man’s Biggest MCU Missed Opportunity Was Captain America’s Fault

Superman shares Captain America’s status as an incorruptible symbol of hope and freedom, but his live-action portrayals have failed to develop as many subtleties as Chris Evans’s Captain America. Each iteration has focused only on a couple of the character’s qualities, and Henry Cavill’s Kal-El, who was supposed to be the definitive big-screen Superman, hasn’t been safe from controversy due to his tendency for grittiness. Both Superman and Captain America’s stories have shone a light on the world’s darker side. However, the Russo brothers’ take on Steve Rogers since the ’70s-movie-influenced Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave the character the chance to hold different perspectives across various appearances. “We began pitching the sort of ’70s deconstructionist version of what Captain America is,” Anthony Russo recently explained, “a character who just wants to serve his country. How do you put that character in a place where he has to basically do the opposite of that?” (via GQ). The Russos’ approach is effective not because Steve Rogers is more cynical as an individual, but because his MCU journey reflects the real-life complexity of the ideals he represents.


Why MCU Captain America & DCEU Superman Fan Reactions Are So Different

Superman differs drastically between Christopher Reeves’s lighthearted portrayal and Henry Cavill’s grittier take. Both iterations show valid sides of the character, but neither of them paints the complete picture. The MCU gave Captain America eight appearances and more than four hours of screen time, whereas Henry Cavill’s Superman has spent too long waiting for a continuation of his story, with only three appearances in nearly 10 years. Captain America adjusted to the modern world between Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, challenged authority in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, became a full-fledged superhero leader in Avengers: Age of Ultron, refused to abandon his ideals in Captain America: Civil War, and met defeat in Avengers: Infinity War. Then he had five more years to evolve before Avengers: Endgame, where he helped save the universe and finally learned to prioritize his own wellbeing.


The DCEU’s Superman had a promising start with Man of Steel, but unfortunately, he couldn’t win over the general audience due to the DCEU’s lack of Superman follow-ups. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice explored a skeptical story in the vein of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but its focus on expanding the wider DCEU left Superman with little time to experience its more complex themes. Justice League‘s theatrical cut attempted to overcompensate Batman v Superman‘s dark story — to disastrous results — and Zack Snyder’s Justice League gave Superman a well-deserved overhaul, but ever since then, Superman’s story has only been revisited by stand-in actors in cameo appearances.


Captain America: The First Avenger was essential in making Captain America a three-dimensional character, though Cap’s origin story isn’t often included in his praise because it only laid the foundations for Captain America’s MCU journey, which was fleshed out by Joe and Anthony Russo. Man of Steel did the same for Henry Cavill’s Superman, but its efforts are yet to be built upon to the fullest. Captain America would have met the same fate as Superman had his journey stopped in The Avengers, and Superman would have received a character arc as comprehensive as Steve Rogers’s with a Man of Steel trilogy and a full Justice League franchise. The key, as always, lies in the execution.

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