Captain America is a staple of Marvel Comics and has been ever since his introduction in 1941. From being a colorful war hero to a modern-day symbol of hope, Steve Rogers has been through quite a lot. Except, of course, from the 50s up until… well, originally, he woke up in the 60s.

With the current Marvel timeline, though, tracking things can be a bit tricky, but you get the idea. Steve was asleep for a while and missed a lot of important cultural moments. Nevertheless, he’s seen tons of action in his time as Captain America. You know what’s not hard to track, though? His history in the MCU! Portrayed by Chris Evans, Steve Rogers has had a harrowing journey through the MCU.

Like his comic book counterpart, scrawny Steve Rogers became the world’s first superhero, thanks to a super soldier serum developed by Dr. Abraham Erskine. He valiantly fought against Hydra during WWII, then went into an icy sleep for 70 years. Jump to the present day, and Cap’s story just kept getting crazier. Between joining up with the Avengers, dealing with an insurgent Hydra, and fighting killer robots and his own friends, Captain America has been busy.

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With AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR on the horizon, and Chris Evans parting ways with the character after AVENGERS 4, now’s as good a time as any to take a retrospective look at Steve Rogers and how he’s evolved over the course of his MCU appearances. More importantly, we’ll take a look at exactly what it is that Captain America stands for.

Becoming the First Avenger

Steve Rogers
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

What better place to start than the beginning? CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, directed by Joe Johnston, was released in 2011. The film takes place during WWII in the year 1942. The film set a somber tone for the Star-Spangled Avenger and featured tons of great action and characters.

After numerous failed attempts to enlist in the army, Steve Rogers was lucky enough to be chosen for a procedure that would turn him into a super soldier. Shortly thereafter, he dawned the mantle of Captain America. After a short-lived acting career, Steve rallied together his Howling Commandos and took the fight to the Red Skull and Hydra. At the end of the film, Cap found himself on ice. He slept for 70 years, then woke up in the present and met Nick Fury.

What We Learn About Steve Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

From the onset of his introduction, you know exactly who Steve Rogers is. He’s a man with a big heart and wants to do what he thinks is right. He’s brave, and he never knows when to give up. Sure, that probably gets him into more trouble than necessary, but nevertheless, it shows off just how staunch he can be.

His catchphrase, “I can do this all day,” is paramount to his character. It’s one of Cap’s key character traits, and since his introduction, it hasn’t faded. It may have been absent during WINTER SOLDIER, but otherwise, it’s been a long-standing part of who Steve Rogers is.

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is fairly tame, compared to most of the other MCU films. This helps ground Steve from the get-go. He lives in a world that’s filled with evil, evil that he actively wants to fight against. As he tells Erskine, he doesn’t like bullies. He wants to protect people. He believes in ideas that any sensible person can get behind. Yes, he’s a soldier who follows orders, but he’s not blind. He has a firm grip on reality, and more than anything else, he is duty bound to the things he believes in.

Steve Rogers has never needed the shield to rally people to his cause. His personality and beliefs alone are enough to inspire confidence. Thanks to its grounded storytelling, THE FIRST AVENGER does a great job of initially establishing Steve Rogers’ character.

Avengers Assemble: Steve Rogers in MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

Steve Rogers
From MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

After waking up in the present day, Steve took some time to get acquainted with his new environment. This, of course, leads to MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS. Released in 2012, and directed by Joss Whedon, this film was immediately hailed as one of the greatest superhero films of all time. It’s filled with witty humor, interesting character development, and some of the best action sequences you’ll ever find in cinema.

This film doesn’t specifically follow Steve Rogers, of course. It loosely follows him, as well as his fellow Avengers, including Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. After Loki makes a surprise visit to Earth and steals the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury must find a way to get these vastly different heroes to come together as a team and save the world.

At this point, Steve was still following the boy scout archetype. However, this was also when Steve started to question the higher authorities he was so used to putting stock into. He started to realize that he couldn’t so easily place his trust in others. This idea is dabbled on just enough in THE AVENGERS to get you thinking more about his character, but not so much that it’s overwhelming or feels out of place.

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Other than this initial questioning of authority, though, not much else about Steve Rogers changes in THE AVENGERS. The film plays a lot with how out of touch Steve is in the present, but that didn’t intimately change anything about his character. Really, at this point, everyone was still so obsessed with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. It wasn’t until CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER that people realized that Cap is infinitely better than Iron Man (try changing my mind).

Echoes from the Past

Steve Rogers
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is, arguably, the best film of the MCU (again, try changing my mind). Released in 2014, and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, this film fundamentally changed the way viewers watched superhero films. It wasn’t just a spectacular superhero movie, it was a spectacular movie, period.

Steve Rogers now acts under the command of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. But, when Hydra reveals that it has secretly been rebuilding itself from within S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve makes a grand stand against his enemies from the past. Not to mention, he goes toe-to-toe against his greatest adversary yet: The Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes.

Every facet of this film is well-thought-out and deftly executed. From the story, the characters, the drama, and the fight sequences, this film succeeds on just about every level.

What We Learn About Steve Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

WINTER SOLDIER is probably where we see some of the greatest character development for Steve, as the film builds upon everything established in THE AVENGERS. Though we initially see him following orders and acting as a good soldier, Steve is immediately on the offensive against the higher-ups.

When the film’s opening mission takes an odd turn, Steve turns his attention to the ever-evasive Nick Fury. Cap is growing appropriately more aggravated by the way Fury runs things. He’s also getting more comfortable with actively confronting others and calling them out on their bullshit.

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A pivotal moment in this film, though, is when Steve goes to see Peggy Carter. This scene perfectly sums up Steve Rogers’ path moving forward. Steve tells Peggy he isn’t sure what is right anymore. He thought he was ready to jump back in, follow orders, and serve again, but it’s not the same.

If you had to trace the primary arc for Captain America throughout the MCU, it would be an arc related to his shifting loyalties. From FIRST AVENGER to CIVIL WAR, he goes from loyal soldier to peerless rebel. WINTER SOLDIER takes the first big steps towards that peerless rebel side of things in a very good way.

Steve’s conflict is legitimate and palpable. It’s easy to understand his internal conflict and his unsure attitude towards things he once thought were so easy to understand. He grew up in one world and got shoved into another one. And yet, the conflict doesn’t feel forced at all. It’s smooth and flows perfectly. It’s a very human conflict, one which pushes the character forward in a very interesting direction.

Killer Robots Galore: Steve Rogers in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

Steve Rogers
From AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

After the dramatic conclusion of WINTER SOLDIER, Steve Rogers would return in 2015 for AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Directed by Joss Whedon, this film saw the introduction of an iconic Marvel villain. Though the film certainly has a mixed reception, it’s still important to note in the overall arc of Steve Rogers.

AGE OF ULTRON stars all the familiar faces from before, plus a few new ones. After Tony Stark belligerently screws up and creates a murder robot named Ultron, the Avengers must assemble once again to take down this new threat before it annihilates all of mankind.

As in THE AVENGERS, Cap isn’t the primary focus of the film. Again, he shares the focus with his fellow Avengers. However, there are a few takeaways from this film, in terms of Cap’s development in the MCU.

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The most important one is Cap’s fear, as shown to him by the Scarlet Witch. Captain America is a soldier. Fighting is in his blood; remember, he was created for the sake of winning a war. His fear is a life without a war to fight. The idea of “going home” and ending the fight scares him because he doesn’t know what else to do with his life.

Like the internal conflict of WINTER SOLDIER, Cap’s fear is deeply believable. It fits his character (arc), and further grounds and humanizes his character. It separates the soldier from the man in a very clean way.

Civil War

Steve Rogers
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The most recent film in Steve Rogers’ timeline is CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Like WINTER SOLDIER, arguments have been made that this is the best film of the MCU. Personally, I’m a bigger WINTER SOLDIER fan, but I certainly have no shortage of love for CIVIL WAR.

Released in 2016, and directed by the returning Russo Brothers, this film starred yet another ensemble cast, with two particularly new and amazing faces. The consequences of the Avengers’ heroic deeds come home to roost. The governments of the world want to put a leash on the team. Captain America isn’t having any of it, but Iron Man is going right along for the ride. As you can imagine, this puts the two at odds and splits the Avengers right down the middle. Thus, you’ve got a nice little superhero civil war on your hands.

In typical Marvel fashion, this film featured a fun story, incredible character development, an intriguing villain, and a fight sequence that just about tops the one from THE AVENGERS. It’s the perfect film to cap off (no pun intended) the Captain America film trilogy.

What We Learn About Steve Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

Many will argue that CIVIL WAR should have been AVENGERS 2.5 because the film feels very much like an Avengers film. This is a very reasonable argument. I was of the same mindset, at first, until I took a good, long look at the film. At its core, CIVIL WAR is a Captain America film. The movie is about Steve Rogers. It’s about his beliefs, his life, and him moving forward as both a person and a hero.

I use the word hero very specifically because this is when Captain America officially stops being a soldier and starts just being a hero. This is when Steve completely flips on the ideals he held for so long about authority and following orders. It was those ideas that bound him to the mantle of a soldier. But, with Steve going down the path of a valiant rogue, the soldier motif fades away, and we are left with the truest of heroes.

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The Captain America that fights throughout the duration of CIVIL WAR is extremely different from the Captain America we saw in the past four films. He still fights for what he believes in, but his cause feels more righteous, probably because we can’t help but root for the outcast. Or, you know, because he’s just Captain America. Not to mention, the film doesn’t do a great job at painting Tony as sensible and in the right, but that’s a whole other argument.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was the point of no return for Steve Rogers. At least, in terms of how you might define the character. He’s both changed and remained loyal to the person he is since he first appeared in FIRST AVENGER. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still room for him to evolve even further.

Steve Rogers’ Biggest Flaw

Before we get to where the character may go next, I think it’s important to note Cap’s biggest flaw. This is even more important than his greatest fear. It has to do with Cap’s ideals. Steve Rogers is a very idealistic person. He has a picture of a peaceful, free world. At least, free of tyranny and people who would recklessly endanger others. If you find yourself on the opposing end of that shield, whether it be physically or morally, then you better be ready for a fight.

But that’s the problem. For Steve, there’s not much middle ground, in terms of how the world should be. It’s either you listen to and agree with Steve, or you’re a fool and don’t understand what it means to fight for what’s right. Steve Rogers is a character who can never be wrong. This, of course, gets him into a whole lot of trouble, both with authority and his friends.

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And this isn’t just a thing the movies do. This has been in the comics forever. CIVIL WAR and the entire latter half of Jonathan Hickman’s AVENGERS are some examples of how Steve standing by his ideals too firmly causes a lot of problems. Now, is this flaw a bad thing? Well, no, not necessarily.

It’s bad for Cap in the world because it puts him at odds with others. But, as a character trait, no, it’s not bad at all. It’s the perfect flaw for a guy like Steve Rogers. In certain instances, it makes him look heroic as hell. In others, it makes him look arrogant and short-sighted. It’s the kind of flaw that helps ground him and make him an even better character.

Where Does Steve Rogers Go from Here?

Steve Rogers
Promotional art for AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is right around the corner, and things are looking to get pretty explosive for Captain America. In light of Chris Evans’ imminent departure from the character after AVENGERS 4, it stands to reason that Steve Rogers may take a back seat in the MCU for a long while. But before then, a number of things could happen.

However, speculating on everything that could go down in INFINITY WAR regarding Cap is another list in and of itself, so I’ll leave you to your own speculations. What I do know is that the final fight with Thanos in AVENGERS 4 will be absolutely epic, as it will feature the return of Steve as Captain America. It will also be preceded by the long-awaited hailing of “Avengers Assemble!” on the big screen.

I’m telling you, they’re saving it for AVENGERS 4. Don’t get your hopes up for INFINITY WAR. Regardless of what happens, we can rest easy knowing that Steve Rogers will forever be a character we can all look up to. He’s valiant, brave, has a big heart, and is never willing to back down from a fight.

And though it might make him look like a walking cliché, he stands for everything good in the world. Captain America is a true hero, and I don’t expect him to be going anywhere anytime soon.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR hits theaters April, 27th! 

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