Captain America’s closing scene in Avengers: Endgame has led to a lot of questions from moviegoers who aren’t exactly sure what it means.
The truth is, there are deliberate mysteries built into that sequence, which directors Joe and Anthony Russo suggested are setting up future stories.
Here’s what they can answer now …
Zade Rosenthal/© Marvel Studios 2018
Does Cap go back to live in the past — or does he go and live in another dimension?
The directors say it’s the latter.
“If Cap were to go back into the past and live there, he would create a branched reality,” Joe explained. “The question then becomes, how is he back in this reality to give the shield away?”
The brothers smile.
“Interesting question, right?” Joe said. “Maybe there’s a story there. There’s a lot of layers built into this movie and we spent three years thinking through it, so it’s fun to talk about it and hopefully fill in holes for people so they understand what we’re thinking.”
Also, they confirm — Bucky knew. When Cap was preparing to for the trip, which is only supposed to last a few seconds in the main timeline, his old friend from the Brooklyn days gives him a surprisingly heavy farewell.
Somehow, and it’s probably more than just intuition, he was aware that Cap was going to live in the past. “Especially when he says goodbye,” Joe explained. “He says, ‘I’ll miss you.’ Clearly he knows something.”
But how? Has Winter Soldier already met with Old Cap at some previous point? It seems like that may be the case.
On the other hand, Joe adds, “Sam doesn’t know something.” Falcon has no idea about Old Cap, which is why The Winter Soldier urges him to go up and talk to the now-elderly Steve Rogers. Bucky already has the answer to the questions Sam is going to ask.
Maybe we’ll get our own answered in the streaming series called Falcon and Winter Soldier which is in the works for the Disney+ service.
“How does it feel?”
That’s what Old Cap asks Falcon after he gives him the vibranium shield.
“Like it’s someone else’s,” Falcon answers.
“It isn’t,” Cap tells him.
Does Rogers mean this as in, “it is yours now,” or is he telling the literal truth? After all, his shield was shredded by Thanos in the final battle of Endgame.
It’s possible in the timeline where Old Cap has been living that the shield he gave him actually belonged to that dimension’s Sam Wilson. Based on the chronology, by the time that Sam would have been fighting age, Steve Rogers would already be elderly and probably ready to hand off the mantle.
If so, what became of that Sam, since the shield has now been brought to this timeline?
These are all valid questions, but we don’t have answers to them yet. It sounds like the Russos and the Marvel Studios braintrust have a plan to resolve them down the road.
The Captain’s Wife
Falcon notices the wedding band on Old Cap’s finger and asks if he’ll tell him about her. “No… no, I don’t think I will,” the old man replies.
We know from the final shot of the movie that Cap went back and found Peggy Carter, and we know the Russo brothers say he went to live in a branch timeline, not the prime one.
Still, many fans wonder if Steve Rogers didn’t find a way to make the timelines realign, allowing him to live in the shadows as Peggy’s “secret husband” who has been acknowledged but gone unidentified so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This seems unlikely based on the fact that the Russos said one of the outlying questions is “how is he back in this reality?”
Having him live quietly for decades in the prime reality also creates a lot of paradoxes: Why doesn’t he disrupt Hyrdra’s infiltration of SHIELD sooner? Why doesn’t he warn the Avengers about the coming alien invasion in 2012? Why doesn’t he interfere in all the major tragedies and conflicts that we know about?
Maybe he does do those things, but it would be in the alternate universe. When he politely declines to tell Sam about his wife, it may be a nod to the audience: You don’t get to know any of it either.
Still, maybe we will. Marvel Studios has already broken new ground with interlocked storytelling, so perhaps the next experiment is tiered storytelling — alternate versions of familiar tales.
For instance, the whole “where did Cap go?” question could very well be answered in the animated What If series that Marvel is developing for Disney+, based on something it’s been doing in comics for a while.
The first announced title explores what would happen if Peggy Carter got the super-soldier injection. So … what if that What If world of this show happens to be the one our Steve Rogers from the prime timeline came to inhabit?
What if, what if, what if …
At this point, unfortunately, all we can say about What If is “it’s possible” and “who knows?”
Making Old Cap
Another question some moviegoers have about this final scene is — was that really Chris Evans as Old Man Cap, or a lookalike who was actually elderly?
It was all Evans, created through a mix of prosthetics on his face and digital touchups to thin it all down.
“Obviously, if it doesn’t work perfectly, it can undermine the emotional intention of the scene,” says Anthony Russo. “We did a lot of practical effects, so it was a very elaborate makeup job that was then augmented with CG, because there’s certain things that you can’t do with makeup in order to make Cap credibly that age.”
For example, he added: “You can’t shrink Chris Evans’ neck on set, you know what I mean? He’s still got that yoke neck.”
“He’s still a muscular man,” Joe added.
“Yeah, so [CG helps] things that you can’t achieve, like the way the face drops,” Anthony said. “It’s a balance we want to always strike between making him feel credibly aged, but also not compromising the performance.”
Evans even managed to change his voice into a hushed rasp without any audio adjustments.
“We didn’t alter his voice at all,” Joe explained.
“We always say this about Chris — he’s so technically sophisticated as an actor and you can see it in that scene when he plays an old man,” Anthony added.
“Everything you’re seeing is exactly his performance, just with his face aged. That’s it,” Joe said. “We didn’t change anything about it.”
Just like the past, you can’t alter it too much or it becomes unrecognizable.