It was seven years ago when Steve Rogers, better known by his superhero alter-ego Captain America, made his Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) debut in director Joe Johnston's The First Avenger.
Rogers has come a remarkably long way since fighting the good fight against the evil forces of Hydra during World War II. He's soon to do battle with another extraterrestrial threat to Earth and humanity in Avengers: Infinity War, so let's take a look at where Captain America has been, where he is now, and why he's now grown an enviable beard...
From weed to warrior
First, we must take ourselves all the way back to World War II, and the events of The First Avenger. We meet a lowly Brooklyn man named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he desperately tries for the hundredth time to join the United States Army.
Despite his ill health and small stature, Rogers is all courage. Unfortunately this is simply not enough, and is ejected once again. Hopeless, stick-thin and desperate, Rogers is offered the unusual opportunity of joining a top secret research project led by Dr Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and soon-to-be love interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
Having proven his worth not as a soldier but as a good man, Rogers is chosen to undergo the Super Soldier programme, which mainly involves a large metal coffin and a series of steroid injections. Emerging from the machine clouded in smoke, Rogers has grown considerably taller and broader, ready to take on the mantle of Captain America and fight those Nazi scum.
Best friend lost
After a spell of performing on stage in an embarrassing costume (all part of a promotional drive to raise war bonds), Rogers' potential is eventually realised as he leads a rescue mission and forms a rag-tag team known as the 'Howling Commandos'.
Among the team is Rogers' childhood pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who sadly meets his demise on one of the Commandos' more ill-fated missions. When Bucky tragically falls to his death, Rogers learns a valuable lesson about loss and the consequences of war. But this is not the last we will see of Bucky Barnes…
Put on ice
Captain America's final mission during World War II finds our intrepid hero piloting a weaponised aircraft on a collision course with America. With no other option, Rogers takes control of the plane and crashes it into the freezing Arctic, a fate that would consign mere mortals to oblivion.
Of course, this being Captain America, the crushing ice and freezing temperatures are not enough to stop him, and he wakes up in modern day New York. Having been frozen in time, he's persuaded by S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to join a new initiative known as the Avengers and do what he does best: dispense justice.
Following the explosive events of Avengers Assemble, in which Rogers is compelled to make a fractious alliance with the maverick likes of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), we come to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
While struggling to adjust to the morally murky climate of the 21st century, patriotic Steve is also confronted by an unexpected face from his past. To Rogers' (and the audience's) surprise, his beloved pal Bucky Barnes survived his fall and, thanks to some Hydra-inspired experimentation, now comes with a brand new metal arm, heightened strength, and the desire and skill to kill pretty much anybody.
Now known as the Winter Soldier, the brainwashed Bucky has been assassinating his way through history before coming face to face with the best friend he doesn't remember. After several highly impressive fist fights, a glimmer of the old Bucky is witnessed by Rogers aboard a crashing helicarrier. Further down the line, this troubled friendship will come to define them both.
The Avengers divided
After several successful Avengers missions (including in Age of Ultron), the tension between leaders Tony Stark and Steve Rogers finally comes to a head in Captain America: Civil War. The upstanding Rogers' mistrust of modern government power is now well established thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s questionable practices, and the implementation of superhero registration only pushes him further away.
Throw in old pal Bucky, now a vigilante to whom he remains loyal, and suddenly Cap finds himself a fully-fledged criminal. Willing to do anything to protect his friend, a wedge is driven within the team as fellow heroes are forced to pick sides. This culminates in a ginormous battle in which the lines are drawn between Team Iron Man and Team Cap. After this point, it is certain that things will never be the same again.
Bearded, badass and ready for Infinity War
At the climax of Civil War, Steve goes on the lam, having formed a new alliance with Wakandan King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who agrees to protect Bucky and find a cure for his brainwashing.
Having seemingly cast aside his Captain America mantle, the Rogers of Infinity War now has one of the most impressive beards to ever hit the big screen. With his unwavering stance on right and wrong now rendered in shades of grey, this will undoubtedly be a Steve Rogers unlike we have seen before.
The question remains: will this starless Rogers and the consistently stubborn Tony Stark make amends in time to save us all from the forces of supervillain Thanos? Let's hope so. One thing's for sure: T'Challa's line, "Get this man a shield", implies they're going to be one seriously kick-ass duo.
Avengers: Infinity War is released on 27th April.
Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.