Marvel Cinematic Universe profile: A look at Chris Evans’ career

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 22: Chris Evans attends Audi Arrives At The World Premiere Of "Avengers: Endgame" on April 22, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Audi)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 22: Chris Evans attends Audi Arrives At The World Premiere Of "Avengers: Endgame" on April 22, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Audi) /

Chris Evans was the heart and soul of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for almost an entire decade. He starred as Captain America in seven films from 2011 to 2019.

On the surface, Captain America can appear like a pretty straightforward superhero, but Marvel pulled off something remarkable with the character in the MCU, and it all started with the unexpected casting of Chris Evans. With not very many weighty roles under his belt, and after portraying the blithe Human Torch in the Fantastic Four two-fer, Steve Rogers took Evans’ career down a new path, and ultimately cemented his place in cinematic history.

It all started with Captain America: The First Avenger which, in its own funny way, is the last of the pre-Avengers lead up movies before the team is brought together. And what makes The First Avenger extra special is that it takes place in the 1940s as a war-time adventure story. In hindsight, this setting meant everything for this character. Unlike in the Iron Man movies, there are no gray areas about how others felt wronged by our hero, and unlike in Thor, the protagonist is not vain and there is little empathy for the antagonist. When fighting Hydra (otherwise known as Nazis) the plot of The First Avenger revolves around pure good vs. evil.

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But when dealing with the all-American boy scout type like Steve Rogers, the difficult part is not getting audiences to root for the hero, it is figuring out ways to make him interesting. Chris Evans passes this test with flying colors. He infuses the ante-super soldier Steve with great purpose and determination and proves that he is worthy to be a hero because of his character rather than his physique. With Evans at the forefront, we never doubt Steve’s dedication to fighting for the little guy and to helping his friends, especially Bucky. His honesty is believable and his devotion is inspiring, which compels most to fall in love with Cap, in particular Peggy Carter, which distinctively becomes one of the great romances of modern cinema.

Captain America’s inclusion in The Avengers pushes the hero’s story forward while dropping him into a new and uncertain world. Steve is the man out of time as he wakes up 70 years later and is almost immediately asked to help save the world from Loki and alien invaders. His valor never wavers and his title of “captain” is further showcased as he grows into a leader for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Evans shines in The Avengers when bumping up against other heavy hitters like Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson; Cap questions Iron Man’s character and condemns Fury’s secrets.

Captain America is also pivotal in The Avengers because of how he interacts with every important character. He attempts to alleviate tensions between Iron Man and Thor, he shows Bruce Banner respect, he enlists Black Widow and Hawkeye to join him in battle, and he directs each of his teammates to use their abilities in the most effective ways. Out of all the actors on set, Chris Evans may seem like an improbable leader, yet he wears that badge with integrity and pride.

Evans would go on to star in two more Captain America features and three Avengers epics, with a few pleasingly humorous cameos in Thor: The Dark World and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Things take a murkier turn in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when the organization he works for, SHIELD, is infiltrated by Hydra and his best friend is discovered to be a brain-washed assassin. The transition in genre from war film to spy thriller is masterful and Evans again steps up his game as he is forced to be distrustful without losing his innocence. His chemistry with Scarlett Johansson is flawless and his dynamic with old and new partners, Bucky and Falcon, adds yet another dimension to his character.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron Steve consistently remains the voice of reason and righteousness. Evans adeptly recognizes how to create delicate tension, as best illustrated in the scene when Cap squabbles with Tony about the best way to protect Earth. This builds right into Captain America: Civil War, which is Evans at his most intense. Civil War continues the Winter Soldier storyline as our hero struggles to protect someone that others perceive to be a deadly threat. The Avengers airport battle is immensely impressive to watch, but it is the final fight between Iron Man and Cap, with Bucky by his side, that is emotionally monumental.

Civil War ends with Cap and his secret Avengers on the run; therefore, he is appropriately not in the spotlight early on in Avengers: Infinity War. This only makes his clandestine entrance that much more exciting. Again, he is the man with a plan, as he leads the Avengers to Wakanda, where he valiantly fights alongside King T’Challa. Evans exhibits such dire desperation when facing Thanos and utter despair when they are defeated.

Avengers: Endgame is the first Avenger’s grand farewell and Evans gives it his all. His grief is palpable, while flickers of optimism always break through. Cap’s friendship with Tony is ultimately solidified and his romance with Peggy gets some unexpected closure, with the final frame of the film focusing in on their long overdue dance and a kiss. Endgame also marks the only time the super solider delivers the Avengers Assemble rallying cry; Evans commits to the phrase with poise and confidence.

Years prior, Chris Evans was known mostly for action and comedy. His career started with a failed sitcom and a few small parts in movies, with his breakout being in the excruciatingly clumsy Not Another Teen Movie. Evans’ dry humor was the best thing about the crude spoof, so it actually propelled his career in the right direction. He would later flex his comedic chops as Lucas Lee in a much better written film, Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

He landed larger roles in halfway decent movies like The Perfect Score and Cellular before featuring as the Human Torch in two Fantastic Fours. As Johnny Storm, Evans is sprightly, amusing, and impulsive, or in other words, quite perfect for the part.  Around that time, he worked with the exceptional ensemble of Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller Sunshine, where Evans plays against type and really starts to break out of his mold.

Before playing Captain America, Evans participated in a string of crime/action films that unfortunately blend into each other when recalling his cinematic work, such as Street Kings, Push, and The Losers, with the latter being Evans’ most entertaining and memorable performance of the three. Since the late 2000s he has bounced between that genre, romantic comedies, and heavier dramas. Lighter roles in The Nanny Diaries, What’s Your Number, and Playing it Cool are serviceable fillers in his filmography, while he is absolutely transformative in Puncture as a legal counsellor with a drug addiction.

Evans also stuns as the lead in Bong Joon Ho’s graphic novel adaptation Snowpiercer, which contemplates class structure through a post-apocalyptic lens. He more recently starred in Marc Webb’s Gifted, showing off his emotional range, and The Red Sea Diving Resort, where he borrows some of his Captain America persona to stand up against bullies by helping refugees escape persecution.

Chris Evans’ Top 10 Movie Roles

1. Captain America/Steve Rogers in the MCU
2. Mike Weiss in Puncture
3. Curtis Everett in Snowpiercer
4. Ransom Drysdale in Knives Out
5. Mr. Freezy/Robert Pronge in The Iceman
6. Human Torch/Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four series
7. Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
8. James Mace in Sunshine
9. Frank Adler in Gifted
10. Ari Levinson in The Red Sea Diving Resort

A pair of Chris Evans’ increasingly infrequent supporting turns round out his best works, The Iceman and Knives Out . In both he plays eccentric killers, although he is an exuberant real-life assassin in the former and a scheming murderer in the latter. Evans’ ability to play second fiddle also strengthens the four Avengers films, particularly because his natural charisma always finds a way to wiggle its way into the forefront of any project he is a part of. On the other hand, his star power is one of the main reasons why the quality of the Captain America trilogy is an equally extraordinary piece of the MCU.

With Steve Rogers handing the Captain America shield to Sam Wilson, Evans is likely retired from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But with Anthony Mackie set to star in a fourth Captain America feature, there is always a possibility that Evans may return in a minor capacity.

dark. Next. MCU actors: Jeremy Renner

Are you a fan of the Captain America franchise? What is your favorite Chris Evans movie? Let us know in the comments below!