Avengers: Endgame is fast approaching, and we all know what it means for some of our favorite characters. For a lot of the fans, Captain America has been the heart and soul of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, with Chris Evans reportedly retiring the role after one last ride in Endgame, we unfortunately have to say goodbye to his character, one way or another. And what better way to commemorate just how much the Captain has made an impact in (and beyond) the MCU than with a retrospective?
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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America: The First Avenger serves as the Captain’s first foray into the MCU. Today, Cap seems like a character who’s always been so “perfect,” but this wasn’t always the case. The 2011 film introduces Steve Rogers to audiences not as the Captain, but rather as an ordinary cadet.
In what I think is an overlooked scene, Bucky actually asks him why he’s so eager to enlist in the military – because he had something to prove.
And while I do of course believe that Steve’s virtue has always been genuine, at some point, he was just like everyone else. He had insecurities, and most especially, he had something to prove.
Steve couldn’t sit idly by while men were laying down their lives – it wasn’t right to him. And that’s all he’s ever wanted to do with his life: to do what was right. However, people always told him he couldn’t, and he needed to prove to himself that he could. And thank God he did, because he wouldn’t eventually end up to be the Captain we know and love.
The Makings Of A Captain
And of course, who could forget the scene where he jumps on top of a grenade that he didn’t know was fake? This became his defining moment – the moment that convinces everyone that he had the makings of a hero before he was even “super.”
This was why Erskine chose him for his program. Steve knows what it’s like being beaten up and bullied. As such, he’s developed the ideal that power should only be used towards helping people. This turned into something he’s always shown to people around him throughout the rest of the film.
In his prime, Steve Rogers was a man of ideals. He was a man of ideals in a simpler time, but a man of ideals nonetheless.
The Avengers (2012)
After sacrificing himself to save thousands, Steve wakes up almost 70 years later to a different time. In The Avengers, he had trouble coming to terms with the years he’s lost. And I think he had such a hard time accepting the reality he’s in because he was rather disappointed at what the world has come to. The values he once knew were gone.
More importantly, it seemed such a hard bargain to remain “good” in a time where others could just as easily overpower the weak.
And that’s exactly why people needed him. And you know what, I think he needed this wake-up call as well. His arrival on our time served as a good way for him to get back into the world, and what better way to do it than by doing something he’s familiar with – saving the world?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Fans may consider Captain America: The Winter Soldier as arguably the best film in the MCU. Critics and viewers praise it for its take on modernity, change, and the “idealism” for a better world. However, what did the film mean for Captain America himself?
I’d like to think of this film as Steve trying to find his place in the present world. He’s had some time to catch up a bit (The Avengers). However, a questionable mission shows him exactly how much the world has really changed. He’s left asking himself – “is this really what the world is now?”
And most importantly, he questions whether his ideals are still worth anything.
He’s lost. He even goes to the Smithsonian and to Peggy to find a piece of himself. At this point, he didn’t know what was truly “right” anymore, and he’s not quite sure what to do with himself. He even considers retiring.
Bringing Back Old-Fashioned
Unfortunately, before he could really get into it, the proverbial poo hits the fan. He finds out that Hydra, who he gave his life to fighting, is still up and running. It’s in this moment when he realizes that in some aspects, the world hasn’t changed. They’re still fighting for the same goal: freedom. And it seemed he didn’t finish the job the first time, after all.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he finds out that Bucky – his best friend in the world, who he watched die – wasn’t just alive, but also with HYDRA. Almost everyone he trusted was gone, and everything he knew was a lie.
He decides he’s had enough and basically says “you know what, we’re going to do this my way, I’m bringing back ‘old-fashioned,’” and comes back to S.H.I.E.L.D. wearing his old suit, talking about freedom. He’s trying to finish the job he didn’t before, and this time, he does.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Avengers: Age Of Ultron takes Steve back to the Avengers, doing what he’s born to do. And for the time being, he’s content with it. That is, until Wanda gets in his head.
With Wanda’s “trick,” Steve sees visions of what kind of life he could’ve had – one he realizes he could never had anymore. He sees Clint’s home, and Tony talks about “finishing the job so they get to go home,” and realizes there was no home for him to get to. There was no “after” for him, and this was his life now.
Ultron even calls it, himself, “God’s righteous man, pretending you could live without a war.” And that was the tragic thing about Cap: he lost everything he never even got the chance to have.
In Winter Soldier, he struggled to find his place in the world, and it’s here in Age of Ultron that he accepts that not only was this his life now, but also that it was going to be for as long as he lives. And he was happy with that.
It even ends with a sort of promise for him, with him training a new batch of Avengers.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Now this is where it gets interesting. When the film came out, a lot of people thought it was just Avengers 2.5, and understandably so. The brilliant part of Civil War rests on the fact that you wouldn’t realize how big its impact is on Captain America himself until after you take a step back to look at the big picture.
A lot went down in the film. Stark tries to get the Avengers to sign the Sokovia Accords, which means they would be under someone else’s control. And considering what happened to S.H.I.E.L.D. in Winter Soldier, of course Steve wouldn’t sign. He’s far too traumatized by the idea of the world’s safety being entrusted to anyone else.
And then, there’s Bucky. Indeed, Bucky was Steve’s best friend, but there’s a lot more layers to unpack in their relationship. Bucky was also a fellow soldier – a man who, like Steve, laid down his life for his country. And for him to be branded as a terrorist through not fault of his own was not right. Steve couldn’t leave him like that, not with HYDRA still in his head. And that’s why when Crossbone confirms that Bucky’s still in there, he just had to save him.
Steve really just wanted to give Bucky peace.
Beyond Civil War
Now, Cap has always accepted the consequences of his actions. However, this time with the Accords out, the consequences were big. After Civil War, he got himself branded as a criminal. And later, in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Ant-Man and the Wasp, we find out that that’s what the world really thinks of him now: a disgraced war criminal where he was once such a symbol of home.
So much has changed for him. He had already lost so much, and after all he’s gone through to accept that he was going to be nothing else but an Avenger for as long as he lived, he loses that, too. This is when it really hit me: the film really was about Captain America.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The thing is, even after losing everything, he’s still at it. We learn from the prelude comic Avengers: Infinity War Prelude and from a Toys R Us action figure label* that after the events of Civil War, he’s still “saving the world one clandestine mission at a time.”
*bio from the Captain America Marvel Avengers: Infinity War Titan Hero Power FX 12 inch action figure
And who didn’t get goosebumps when he first appeared in Infinity War from behind the shadows? There’s also a little moment I loved so much where Vision says to him “Thank you, Captain.”
To Vision – to everyone else, really – he was still the Captain. And he really is; he hasn’t changed. He was still that little kid from Brooklyn standing up to the bully, even if there was no way he could ever win.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
So of course, everyone is preparing for the worst in Avengers: Endgame. If you ask me, there’s really no way Cap could ever exist in the world and not be an Avenger. He’s lost so much, but he’s always given the world nothing less than everything he had.
The night before his procedure, Erskine made him promise that he would remain the same inside, “not a perfect soldier, but a good man,” and he’s kept that promise (and I bet you he’s kept that in mind this whole time).
Captain America has had a good run in the MCU, and I think it’s about time his character was put to rest. He deserves that. I could personally not think of anyone better to have portrayed him than Chris Evans.
Thank you, Captain.