WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
In times of great hardship and loss, we always need something or someone to keep us going and show us that there is something to fight for and there is hope to cling on to. In the context of the real World War II, powerful and inspiring figures like Sir Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were the shining example of hope for the masses of the Allied nations. In Marvel’s fictional version of the war, the mentioned leaders played an influential role nonetheless, on the battlegrounds, there was only one figure who played the true hero and ended up ‘paying the ultimate price for it.’
Keeping up with the theme of undeserved inclusion in a massive war that I mentioned in the Hawk-Eye character highlight, Steve Rogers/Captain America initially did not have a right to enlist for the army. America needed strong and healthy soldiers in the battlefield to thwart the immense threat of the Nazi and HYDRA; Steve Rogers could barely achieve those thresholds. He was scrawny, weak and could barely do as many push-ups as a man his age could easily do.
That said, he had the willpower and determination to keep enlisting in the hope that someone will overlook his physique and see the value of his character. Lo and behold, someone very influential in the army recruitment system sees the kind of character Steve is and decides to choose him as the ultimate contender for the super-soldier program. Despite the backlash and hesitation from soldiers as well as high ranking officials in the army, Dr. Erskine sticks to his guns and eventually administers the super-soldier serum to Steve because he knew that a weak man knows the true value of power and will use it for good.
Even with Erskine’s dying breath, he finds the energy to remind Rogers of the importance of staying true to who he really is and going forward, Rogers does not disappoint him. He uses his newly-found abilities to, among others, lead a rescue mission of American soldiers confined in enemy lines as well as save America from an imminent danger; an action that sees him get trapped in the ice for several decades.
Once he is discovered 70 years on, he finds a very different but at the same time, indifferent world than the one he left back during the war. Different in the sense that technology has advanced massively, music genres are more diverse etc. and indifferent in the sense that war is still prevalent in the world with governments and governmental bodies orchestrating them. The latter is portrayed in the events of Captain America; The Winter Soldier where he not only finds out that HYDRA was still thriving, but also that ‘Project INSIGHT’ was a disguised initiative for HYDRA to eliminate innocent humans.
Two years later, with the discovery of HYDRA’s existence still fresh in his mind, Rogers refuses to sign the Sokovia Accords on the basis of the fact that governments have agendas and therefore the Avengers are better off operating on their own. This, of course, didn’t sit well with a sizeable number of the superhero team and it leads to a civil war. Additionally, Cap’s protection of his wartime friend and former HYDRA assassin in Bucky didn’t help his cause.
In spite of all the drama and chaos that ensued, Rogers remained steadfast in the difficult times because he was still governed by the beliefs and values that Dr. Erskine saw and invested in all those years ago. He was still a man who didn’t want to kill anyone but at the same time didn’t like bullies; fighting almost to the death to make sure good triumphed over evil. Unbeknownst to him, a much different bully in the form of Thanos comes into the fray and manages to wipe out half of life in the universe; this time, evil triumphed over good.
Nevertheless, 5 years later, Captain America still has hope that they can undo the snap, restore the status quo and therefore is not fazed by Scott Lang’s bizarre proposal of a theoretical ‘time heist’. For a moment, his hope begins to dwindle seeing that Proffessor Hulk couldn’t build a time machine for the mission but sooner rather than later, that hope is restored by Tony. It’s hope that goes on to transcend a seemingly failed mission by Stark in 2012 New York, the death of his long-time ally Black Widow in Vormir as well as the resurgence of Thanos, a 2014 version of him at least. Finally, good defeats evil as it should in Cap’s eyes.
Captain America’s journey throughout the M.C.U is one that screams hope, resilience and determination; positive themes that an audience member can take home and apply in his or her daily life. In consideration of his service for his country, the world as well as the universe, it was fitting of him to reward himself with a happy and fulfilled life with Peggy Carter via time travel. Furthermore, him jumping back to the present time and passing the mantle to Sam Wilson was a superb way to ‘Cap’ off his character arc, pun intended.