Understanding Captain America In the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Captain America

Credit: Marvel Studios

Steve Rogers. Sam Wilson. John Walker. The three men who have (or will) take up the mantle of Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

However, what do you really know about the most patriotic superhero around? Here’s everything you need to know about America’s darling, Captain America.

Captain America the Winter Soldier
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Captain America’s origin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Who created Captain America?

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America was crated by a combination of Dr. Abraham Erskine, Peggy Carter, and Howard Stark — father of Tony Stark / Iron Man. Long before he was colliding with Thanos and letting Black Panther scratch up his shield, Captain America was a test subject for “Project Rebirth”.

Project Rebirth was designed to create the ultimate soldier — a super soldier, if you will. This hero would eventually become Captain America, a symbol for good, justice, and the American dream. In essence, Captain America would be the very first Avenger, but without the official title.

Captain America was infused with the super soldier serum, which physically transformed him into a man at the peak of human endurance. This all took place in one of the earliest Marvel Cinematic Universe movies: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).

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Abraham Erskine
Credit: Marvel Studios

What is Captain America’s secret identity?

The original Captain America was a young man named Steve Rogers. Steve was born in Brooklyn, New York to Joseph and Sarah Rogers in 1918. He was a sickly boy, something he shared with his mother, who suffered from tuberculosis. Rogers’s father was a soldier and was killed during World War I prior to his birth.

Though the future Captain America was always put down due to his weak body and ill health, his mother reassured him that his heart was ten times as strong. Eventually, his mother, too, passed of her disease and Steve Rogers was left alone in the world.

Yet, he found a friend in a young man named Bucky Barnes. Bucky intervened as Steve was being beaten after standing up to some bullies. As Bucky helped the far physically weaker Steve, the future Captain America aided him by striking the bullies with a round trash can, foreshadowing how he would use a shield in his future as an Avenger. Indeed, though Bucky seemingly died in the events of his first Marvel movie, he and Captain America would cross paths again as he was transformed into the Winter Soldier.

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steve rogers
Credit: Marvel Studios

How did Steve Rogers become Captain America?

Long before Ultron, the Avengers Civil War, and the Winter Soldier, Steve was just a regular boy looking to serve his country. He attempted to sign up for the army and join Bucky in serving the United States on the front lines during World War II. He was determined to stop Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi party.

By 1943, however, Rogers was still being rejected due to his ill-health, in particular, his asthma. Eventually, however, the future Captain America was approached by Dr. Abraham Erskine who had overheard him talking about how desperate he was to sign up with Bucky. Erskine asked the young Rogers if he wanted to join up to kill Nazis. Rogers replied that he’d rather not kill anybody.

Impressed by his noble attitude, Erskine signed him up as a candidate for Project Rebirth. Eventually, the serum was successfully injected and Steve Rogers emerged as the first ever super soldier — Captain America.

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steve rogers
Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain America’s primary personality traits in the MCU

What type of person is Captain America?

The character traits most commonly associated with Captain America are his honor and selflessness. Steve Rogers was selected for Project Rebirth after he selflessly jumped on a dud grenade (thinking it was real) to save his fellow soldiers.

He believed in truth and justice and would not back down or conform to something that he felt was unjust. In fact, this stubbornness saw him clash with fellow Avengers, most notably Iron Man, when he refused to go along with the Sokovia Accords. The character is among the most honorable in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and has always done what’s right to protect the “little guy”.

It is these qualities, paired with his status as a master tactician, that made Steve Rogers’s Captain America the de-facto leader of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Marvel has consistently portrayed the character as an affable-yet-serious man who will sacrifice his own life to save others.

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Steve Rogers grenade
Credit: Marvel Studios

What are Captain America’s biggest motivations?

Steve always hated bullies, something he shares with another Captain America, Sam Wilson. In fact, it was the rise of Nazi Germany that drove the young Steve Rogers to join the United States military in the first place, as he couldn’t stand to see people being oppressed.

steve rogers giving sam wilson captain america's shield
Credit: Marvel Studios

Much like Black Panther, the character fought for his homeland, but more importantly, his people. He had a great love for America, but wouldn’t go along with what the government wanted if he felt its intentions were unjust, as we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).This one-track mind is what sometimes put him at odds with fellow Avengers like Iron Man, who view sacrifices of civil liberties as occasionally necessary for progress.

The character has also been defined by his commitment to his friends, particularly Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson (The Falcon). As he often tells them, “I’m with you ’til the end of the line”.

Captain America was even prepared to let Barnes kill him as he pleaded with his friend to remember who he was and recover from the HYDRA programming that turned him into the Winter Soldier.

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Captain America
Credit: Marvel Studios

How does the modern Captain America differ from his Golden and Silver Age counterparts?

The character of Captain America is much the same in his Marvel comic book introduction. However, in the comic universe, he is notable for acting as much more of a propaganda machine. Indeed, the character spent much of his time in the golden age of Marvel comics beating up Nazis for the sake of American morale in World War II.

References to the Nazis were, of course, present in Captain America: The First Avenger, but they were significantly reduced and the main enemy became HYDRA and the Red Skull instead of the Nazis and Hitler.

Notably, the hero also took on Imperial Japan in many comics, which directly referenced the ongoing struggles of World War II during that era. 

Notably, the character also worked as part of a team known as The Invaders. He and Bucky fought alongside an android version of the Human Torch and Namor the Submariner to take down the super-powered villains of the 1940s. Additionally, Steve would also meet a future Avenger — not the Hulk or Doctor Strange — but a man named James Howlett, otherwise known as Wolverine.

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Captain America Silver age
Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain America’s abilities and tools in the MCU

What abilities did Captain America develop as a result of the super serum?

Captain America may not be able to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Thor and Captain Marvel, but the super soldier serum bestowed him with some pretty amazing enhancements. Much like the comic book character, the Marvel Studios version of Rogers develops enhanced speed, strength, and agility as a result of the serum.

The formula also grants him a greatly expanded tactical mind, as well as nearly endless charisma. Furthermore, much like other heroes, including Deadpool and the aforementioned Wolverine, Steve Rogers has the ability to heal injuries, such as when he takes a Chitari gun shot to the stomach and quickly recovers. It’s worth noting that his healing factor is not on the same level as Deadpool or Wolverine, however. Both are these characters are almost invincible.

After becoming the first Avenger, Steve ultimately gained the ability to survive much more than an average soldier could. His bones became far more durable and, as he often liked to say in battle, “I can do this all day”. This increased strength and durability was on display in his famous fight with Iron Man, in which he won despite the latter’s mech-suit.

Indeed, Stark’s AI, Friday, even warns him that he can’t beat Captain America in hand-to-hand combat. However, Rogers did have help from fellow super soldier, the Winter Soldier.

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Captain America
Credit: Marvel Studios

What are the limitations of Captain America’s abilities?

Captain America is not invincible. There are plenty of villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who could take him out for good, in spite of the super soldier serum flowing through his veins.

For one thing, Avengers: Infinity War (2018) showed that a fully-powered Thanos could obliterate the All-American hero without much trouble at all. Additionally, going up against the fully-vibranium robot, Ultron, also raised some issues for the Captain.

The character is also limited by his own morality. Though Cap’s selflessness is his defining feature, he may surrender to an enemy force if it means saving the lives of civilians or his fellow heroes. Furthermore, Cap’s strength and speed only go so far. He’s got nothing on the Incredible Hulk or Captain Marvel, for example. With as much Marvel content is out there these days, it’s unsurprising that the first Avenger isn’t necessarily the most powerful character in the MCU, objectively speaking. 

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The Winter Soldier
Credit: Marvel Studios

What are the features of Captain America’s uniform and tools?

The Captain America suit gives Steve an additional layer of protection from gunfire and, presumably, knife attacks. Additionally, his helmet provides further protection (and has the added benefit of looking amazing).

Yet Cap’s most famous tool isn’t his uniform. It’s his vibranium shield with the American flag pattern. This shield is almost unbreakable and has only been damaged by a handful of characters including Black Panther and Thanos. Steve’s shield was made during Project Rebirth and it proved an essential tool throughout his years as both a soldier and an Avenger. The shield was particularly useful when fighting Iron Man, as it gave Cap a defense against his repulser blasts.

Mjolnir
Source: Marvel Studios

Steve didn’t have the shield during the events of Avengers: Infinity War and instead had to rely on a Wakandan shield. However, after Thanos won the war and wiped out half of reality, Iron Man finally returned his original shield. This was then used in the final battle against Thanos, before the Mad Titan destroyed it by hitting it repeatedly with his sword. After the battle, he eventually gave the shield to his friend and ally, Sam Wilson.

Just as all seemed lost, Cap made every Marvel fan‘s wish come true by wielding Thor‘s hammer, Mjolnir. As hinted at in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Cap is worthy enough to wield the hammer and thus temporarily gains the powers of Thor. The Marvel universe version of Thor is able to control the weather, shoot lightning, and is practically invulnerable. Cap thus briefly has every power that Thor has, which makes his fight with Thanos much more fair. In fact, he and Thor even swap weapons during the final battle and Cap also wields Stormbreaker — another axe / hammer with the power of Thor. That would’ve been useful when he was fighting the Winter Soldier!

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Captain America The First Avenger

Captain America’s companions and roles in the MCU

Which Marvel movies does Captain America appear in?

The character history of Steve Rogers spans many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unsurprisingly, Cap first appears in Captain America: The First Avenger, where he’s given the super soldier serum and becomes the titular hero. He next shows up in 2012’s The Avengers, followed by The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame (2019).

He also features in the post-credits scenes of Ant-Man (2015) and Captain Marvel (2019). Furthermore, there’s a picture of him alongside the other fallen Avengers (Iron Man and Black Widow) in Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Rogers is also mentioned in Iron Man 2 (2010), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), and Marvel’s Disney+ streaming series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Chris Evans returns as the character — sort of — in Thor: The Dark World (2013) as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) briefly takes on his appearance. Though not the real Captain America, the scene is iconic and pretty darn funny!

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Avengers Assemble
Credit: Marvel Studios

Who are Captain America’s sidekicks?

Captain America worked with many different heroes, many of whom go on to formally join The Avengers. However, he’s best known for working with Bucky Barnes, the man who would later become the Winter Soldier. Bucky was his best friend and the only person he knew from his original time period. He also took the super serum and was, therefore, a super soldier too. Once he managed to undo his HYDRA conditioning, Bucky again became Steve’s most trusted ally. He is sometimes known as the White Wolf. Cap was also ably assisted by his love interest Agent Carter, who he eventually married by going back in the MCU timeline in his final Marvel film.

Before Bucky returns, however, Captain America befriended another hero, Sam Wilson / The Falcon. Sam, also an ex-military man, quickly struck a rapport with Rogers. Indeed, it’s Sam who helped him and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow when they were on the run from SHIELD, which had been infested with HYDRA agents. Sam remained Steve’s confidante and trusted friend, going on the run with him and Natasha again after the events of Captain America: Civil War.

civil war fight iron man cap bucky
Credit: Marvel Studios

Cap also worked closely with Tony Stark / Iron Man, though the two regularly butted heads. Tony’s reliance on technology and obsession with progress clashed with Steve’s old-fashioned ways of doing things and his belief in justice and truth. Indeed, this lead to a conflict between the two and the Winter Soldier during the events of Civil War. The two later repaired their damaged friendship and, after Iron Man sacrifices himself using the Infinity Gauntlet, Steve mourns him at his funeral.

Captain America also worked closely with Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow in The Winter Soldier, Civil War, and Infinity War. Natasha helped Steve and Sam during the events of The Winter Soldier. She also went “off the grid” with them before the events of Infinity War. The two even kissed whilst undercover.

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Falcon and Winter Soldier
Credit: Marvel/Disney

Who are Captain America’s main antagonists?

Johann Schmidt / The Red Skull is Captain America‘s most famous antagonist. He is the leader of HYDRA and planned to use an infinity stone to achieve his nefarious goals. He was defeated by Rogers and eventually transported to Vormir, where he became an advisor to Thanos and the protector of the soul stone. However, he seemingly lost much of his personality and became a husk of his former self. He could levitate though, so that’s cool.

Red skull
Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain America: The Winter Soldier revealed that one of Red Skull’s allies, Zola, actually lived on as a computer AI and secretly rebuilt HYDRA from the shadows. It’s at this time that Cap’s former (at the time) friend, Bucky Barnes, was shown as being alive, now working under the codename the Winter Soldier.

daniel bruhl as baron zemo in captain america civil war
Credit: Marvel Studios

Furthermore, Iron Man briefly became an enemy, of sorts, as he and Cap were turned against each other by the evil Baron Zemo, who made his official return to the MCU in the second episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Zemo is set to cause more issues for Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson, who will eventually become the new Captain America. Cap has also tangled with several villains from other Marvel series, including Loki and Thanos.

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