With all eyes on “Captain America: Civil War” now that it’s finally available for fans to watch obsessively in theaters, some less-enthusiastic viewers might find themselves struggling to remember how the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) got here. With the movie promising more superheroes than the typical “Avengers” film, some may need a refresher on what the Star-Spangled hero has been up to in his two most recent appearances. 

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was last seen as part of the ensemble of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” However, prior to that he led a standalone sequel called “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Although “Civil War” will have the likes of Iron Man, actor Robert Downey Jr. has previously made it clear to Entertainment Weekly that the film is more the third “Captain America” installment than any other hero’s story. As a result, it’s important to understand where the hero left off before seeing the next part in his franchise. 

“The Winter Soldier” opened with Cap meeting the man who would become his trusty modern-day sidekick, Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Following the faked death of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Cap learned Hydra had infiltrated the government watchdog organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. throughout the decades since World War II. While the organization had to operate in the shadows, it is revealed it used one timeless agent to conduct its dirty work. That agent is known throughout the intelligence community as The Winter Soldier


After a cat-and-mouse game with the villain, Rogers finally gets to swap punches with him in the middle of Washington. During the fight, The Winter Soldier’s mask comes off revealing him to be Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). In the first Captain America movie, “The First Avenger,” Bucky is Rogers’ best friend. However, he died in a tragic fall before the war was over, or so it seemed. 

It turns out Hydra found Bucky and brainwashed him into being the ultimate weapon. Add in some cryogenic freezing and presto, The Winter Soldier exists in the modern day. The movie ends with the heroes bringing S.H.I.E.L.D. down, and subsequently Hydra, and a confused Bucky sparing Cap’s life for reasons he doesn’t quite understand. The last time he was seen on screen, he was a rogue agent trying to piece together his past. 

Fast forward to “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and Sam Wilson shows up briefly to reveal to his friend that the search for Bucky continues, unsuccessfully. With Falcon on the case, Rogers takes the opportunity to shut down Ultron (James Spader) and save the world. However, he does so at the expense of the city of Sokovia, which was destroyed in the villain’s grand plan, which is what “Civil War” will need to address. 

As the previous trailer teased, the movie forces the superheroes of the MCU to confront the massive amounts of destruction they’re responsible for, such as the metaphorical fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the literal fall of Sokovia. 

With Iron Man leading a faction of heroes in favor of the new regulations put forth by the U.N. to monitor superheroes and Captain America leading a separate faction that wants to maintain control of their own actions in the world, the former allies will become deeply divided. Meanwhile, Bucky will return, but it’s unclear what his mental state will be when he does. With powered-people trying to convince the world that they are no threat, the arrival of a rogue agent like The Winter Soldier may be unwelcome. Previously, a teaser clip showed him working against Cap after attacking Iron Man, Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). 

With so much pre-established history surrounding the characters of each film, only time will tell how the events of “Captain America: Civil War” play out and which group of friends the hero deems more sacred to him. 

Captain America “Captain America: Civil War” will build off of what was established in the hero’s second solo outing, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Photo: Marvel Studios