Harrison Ford"s New World Order Role Is Bad News For The Leader"s Return

Captain America: New World Order will see Harrison Ford step into the role of General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, but his highly anticipated role may be bad news for another villain who is also set to return in the upcoming film. The Marvel Cinematic Universe's fourth Captain America film is set to feature Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in a heated battle against Ross, who is now the President of the United States. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has indicated that Ross will be a significant villain in New World Order, which could spell disaster for Tim Blake Nelson's long-awaited return as the Leader.
The MCU has been revisiting characters from The Incredible Hulk after years of radio silence from many of the key players in the 2008 film. Phase 4 made a particularly concerted effort to revisit the events of the often forgotten MCU movies, chiefly in the return of Tim Roth's Abomination in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Captain America: New World Order aims to continue this trend with the return of Dr. Samuel Sterns, a.k.a. the Leader, who hasn't been seen since his grotesque transformation during the events of The Incredible Hulk. Tim Blake Nelson's character was initially announced as the upcoming film's main villain, but recent indications may prove otherwise.
Thaddeus Ross May Overshadow The Leader's Return With New World Order expanding Thunderbolt Ross's role in the MCU, the film risks overshadowing the Leader's long-awaited return to the franchise. After William Hurt, the original actor to portray Ross in the MCU, passed away in 2022, Marvel Studios elected to recast the role with Harrison Ford, an A-list actor whose casting indicates big plans for the character's future in the franchise. If Ross does indeed serve a larger purpose in the MCU beyond New World Order, there is a serious risk of the Leader's return making a much smaller impact and ultimately proving to be disappointing after spending over a decade offscreen.
Furthermore, if theories prove true that General Ross will become Red Hulk in New World Order, the film will undoubtedly focus on the debut of this new and exciting MCU villain rather than on the return of a long-forgotten one like the Leader. While there is certainly precedence for multiple villains to work in a single superhero movie, it is also quite common for one to outshine the other. Unfortunately for the Leader, the amount of build-up dedicated to the Red Hulk's reveal is simply too great to yield to the begrudging answer to The Incredible Hulk's most egregious hanging plot thread.
Marvel Can't Afford To Waste The Leader's Return The Leader's MCU return can't be wasted in New World Order. The Incredible Hulk ultimately failed the Leader in his live-action debut, teasing the arrival of Dr. Sterns's villainous counterpart without ever following through in a later film. The franchise then proceeded to neglect the supervillain, along with most other characters from The Incredible Hulk, for over a decade as it focused on other characters and other stories. If the MCU is to bring Samuel Sterns back into the fold, his story has to be worth the sixteen-year wait, or else it might have been better had the franchise not brought him back at all.
The Leader is simply too important a villain to bring back out of obligation, only to be thrown away for a second time. New World Order must not only explain what happened to the Leader after The Incredible Hulk but also build the character up as a worthy adaptation of his comic book counterpart, who remains one of the Hulk's most terrifying villains of all time. The return of Samuel Sterns must be treated as the massive event that it truly is, not only doing justice to his character in a single film but also setting him up for a role in future projects as well.


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