Captain America 4: The Leader’s MCU history makes him a formidable villain

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05: Actor/director/writer Tim Blake Nelson attends the Build Series at Build Studio on November 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 05: Actor/director/writer Tim Blake Nelson attends the Build Series at Build Studio on November 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images) /

Unexpectedly, a familiar face from Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe returns in Captain America 4. How will The Leader play into New World Order?

The Marvel panel for this year’s D23 event featured some updates to the upcoming Phases 5 and 6 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which had previously been announced at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con event). As reported by Variety, an unexpected casting announcement for Captain America: New World Order was made.

The upcoming sequel to Disney Plus’ miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will include Tim Blake Nelson, who is set to reprise his role of Dr. Samuel Sterns from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. This time, he will appear as a sinister, gamma-infused, egg-headed alter-ego, The Leader.

Anthony Mackie, Danny Ramirez, and Carl Lumbly will reprise their roles as Sam Wilson/Captain America, Joaquin Torres/Falcon, and Isaiah Bradley respectively. Shira Haas has joined the cast as Sabra.

When did we last see The Leader in the MCU?

The last time we met The Leader within the MCU was way back in 2008 in the Edward Norton-led The Incredible Hulk film helmed by Transporter director Louis Letterier. Moviegoers met The Leader as his civilian identity, cellular biologist and Grayburn College professor Dr. Samuel Sterns. He searched for a cure for Dr. Bruce Banner who struggled to control the Hulk.

Towards the climax of the film, after only being partially successful in providing a temporary antidote, Sterns was forced to experiment on Emil Blonsky and transform him into the Abomination. However, Sterns was affected by Banner’s own gamma-mutated blood, which foreshadowed his metamorphosis into The Leader.

With The Abomination having finally returned to screens in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and currently appearing on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law for Disney+, it was only a matter of time before Sterns made his grand return as the cerebral villain in some way, shape or form.

The Leader’s role in Captain America 4

So far, we are uncertain as to whether The Leader will become the Big Bad of Captain America 4, but the film’s director Julius Onah did provide some teases as to what Mackie’s star-spangled and high-flying Avenger may face, telling Phase Zero (H/T: Murphy’s Multiverse):

"“One of the things that really drew me to this project is The Leader is a man who operates from intellect. And it’s so great to have an adversary who is working with this incredible intellect to really put Sam through the wringer in this story.”“And again, it’s a paranoid thriller; it’s this grounded adventure where I think everything that happens in this film feels so real and intense because of who this adversary is. What he’s going to have to go through in this film is because he’s got an adversary who is so terrifyingly intelligent.”"

So, as you can read from Onah’s statement, it sounds like The Leader will be integral to the film as a threat to Sam Wilson.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Spellman, the co-screenwriter of Captain America 4, once compared Sam’s new challenge of becoming the next Captain America to the Die Hard films, particularly after Sam’s choice not to take the super-soldier serum in TFATWS. Spellman stated in an interview with Everyone Loves A Good Story:

"“In the action genre, what made Die Hard a classic wasn’t who Bruce Willis beat, it was what he went through to beat them. He’s walking through glass with no shoes on, you know what I’m saying?”"

It certainly sounds like Sam is going to have a tough battle (and opponent) ahead of him in New World Order but he’s more than capable of taking the fight to them!

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What do you think of Tim Blake Nelson reprising his role as The Leader? Are you looking forward to watching Captain America: New World Order in theaters? Do you like The Leader as a villain? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!