Marvel Cinematic Universe: Captain America: Winter Soldier

SPOILERS!!!!!! This is a full review of Captain America: Winter Soldier where I give everything about the film away. Please be sure to check it out before reading this. It’s pretty good!

Click here to read my Ant Man review, here for Avenger:  Age of Ultron and here for Guardians of the Galaxy.

Alright. Let’s talk Captain America: Winter Soldier. One of the most beloved films in the MCU.

Origins

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Plans for a sequel to Captain America: First Avenger were in the pipeline before that film was even released.  First Avenger writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely were hired by Marvel to write the sequel beforehand. Joe Johnston’s involvement was a little bit ropier. While he was signed on to do two movies, his talks with the writing duo were more geared towards setting a story in the 40s again, possibly during the three years Cap was with the Howling Commandos during his own film. He also stated this was dependant on whether or not people liked Cap in the present Day in The Avengers.  What was interesting, however, was that, even back then, Johnston was interested in implementing Winter Soldier into his potential movie. Alas, eventually Marvel released a shortlist of potential Cap 2 directors, and Johnston’s name was not on it, having moved on to direct Not Safe for Work. Whether there was bad blood behind the scenes or there was just a lack of interest on Johnston and/or Marvel to continue their working relationship, he is 4 for 5 of the Phase One directors not to return for Phase Two (and even the one who did, Joss Whedon, only lasted one more film).

What directors were shortlisted? F. Gary Gray, George Nolfi, and Joe and Anthony Russo. The Russo Brothers were the least likely of this bunch, as their background was television comedies like Arrested Development and Community. Their feature credits prior to this included their student film Pieces, a forgotten Sodenbergh/Clooney-produced crime-comedy Welcome to Collinwood and Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson vehicle You, Me and Dupree, which has…not a favourable critical consensus. In contrast, F. Gary Gray had nearly 20 years of experience with film, a plethora of this included action films like Set it Off, A Man Apart and Law Abiding Citizen. He had even previously worked with Samuel L. Jackson, who was returning to the film as Nick Fury, in The Negotiator. However, he withdrew his name from consideration to focus on Straight Outta Compton. Noffi, fresh off The Adjustment Bureau and having written scripts for heist movies like Ocean’s Twelve and conspiracy thrillers like The Bourne Ultimatum, seemed like the most natural choice. However, the Russos won out and were signed on to direct.

I just went over all that to illustrate just how left field this decision was. Not that they’re not experienced-on top of their films, they have a fuckton of TV under their belt-but action is not what anyone would have anticipated from the Russo Brothers. Those people, of course, never watched the paintball episodes in Community*. It was another gamble Marvel/Disney made that really paid off, as the Russos would end up becoming two of the most important directors in the MCU. Also it looks like a push towards lesser established and known directors from the company, having started this trend with Thor: The Dark World and it continuing with their more recent fare.

*by the way, no joke, the paintball two parter at the end of season 2 of Community is why the Russos were sought after for Cap 2

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I’m sure “Your mother’s lover!” was what made Marvel go “These guys can tackle a superhero flick”.

Let’s swing back to writing. Markus & McFeely have a rather advantageous stance on this film in comparison to Iron Man and Thor’s sequels (incidentally, they also wrote The Dark World). Those two films already had established tones, supporting casts and directions that had to be followed, and robbed the films of that exploration of character and world that made their debuts so exciting. Cap, however, was very permanently removed from his time period and everything that dressed his first film up. This is also why it’s good that the first film jettisoned the idea to set half in World War 2 and half in present day, and if they were ever planning to set the sequel in the 40s that was quickly abandoned. Because exploring Cap’s present day life allowed for a new cast, setting and tone to be explored and to keep sequel rot from setting. The direction they take Cap in is a conspiracy thriller with him as an agent of SHIELD, which carries on both his soul searching and his animosity towards Fury in The Avengers.

The ‘new’ cast was essentially a mix of characters from his own movie and Avengers. Alongside Fury, Black Widow and Maria Hill return.  As said before, with Iron Man and Thor having already such established casts, Cap got the stragglers from SHIELD in his movie. While there were talks of having Hawkeye in the movie, Renner’s schedule and finding a function for his character made this rather unworkable. Returning First Avengers characters include Peggy Carter, Armin Zola, and  Bucky.

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Peggy is only in one scene, but………yeah, they only needed one.

Pre-production started in 2012, with Jackson the first cast member announced to return (outside of Chris Evans, of course). While incorporating contemporary issues into their narrative to fit the conspiracy tone, the NSA leak added a lot more weight to what they were developing. Anthony Mackie went into talks to play Cap’s right hand man Falcon, and Sebastian Stan confirmed his return as Bucky/The Winter Soldier. Their source material this time around was, naturally, the Winter Soldier arc by Ed Brubacker.  Scarlett Johansson later was confirmed to return as Black Widow, as well as Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Frank Grillo was announced to play Crossbones.  Toby Jones announced his return, with Emily VanCamp cast as Agent Sharon Carter. Robert Redford was eventually cast as the villain of the picture.

Production began on April of 2013 and lasted three months. After the post-credit scene was filmed, and many other post-production issues sorted out, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released without much behind-the-scenes drama weighing it down. The following year, in March/April 2014, it got its official release.

Man, talking about this movie is kind of daunting. It’s an MCU film that people who hate the MCU seem to like. I guess we’ll start with arguably the most striking element of the film:

The Superhero is Political

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Transitioning Captain America into the present day for a solo story is a daunting task. His story is intrinsically linked to World War 2, and his character has a connection to a certain sense of American patriotism that really doesn’t resonate as strongly today as it did 70 years ago. What they went for instead was conspiracy thriller in the spirit of the 70s. This ended up being a stroke of genius as it gave the character a new lease on life while feeling true to his ethos. It also made this one of the most overtly political films in the MCU canon, and would remain so until Black Panther.

First off, I’m glad they vetoed the ‘fish out of water’ aspect to Steve Rogers. They made a few passing comments and jokes in Avengers, and I really think that’s enough. We see it in his conversation at the beginning of the film with Sam where he talks about the internet and not just boiling food. He’s a very adaptable guy who seems genuinely interested in the world he’s out of time in. That still does not mean he can fully absorb the changes the societal attitudes and modern perspectives, however. One of the major themes of the story is how the echoes of Steve’s past shape his story, both emotionally and more literally. I’ll get to the emotional angle in a minute, but let’s talk about the Hydra twist. Also spoilers I guess.

I’m not sure who came up with the twist of SHIELD being covertly influenced by Hydra to run their bidding, but it’s brilliant and brings in the questions of the actual corruption of American intelligence agencies and how societal attitudes towards fear and control tend to be influenced by ulterior agendas and not an actual need for security.  Zola displays that Hydra are very much motivated by ideology, not something that can be easily broken down by reason or bribery, and it makes them more dangerous.  While his  speech lays it on too thick, it does lay the groundwork as to how Hydra  took over from the shadows. Slowly, but surely, people traded their freedom for a comfortable, predictable future. This played right into their philosophy that human beings cannot be responsible for their own destiny by their own hand.

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All told by Mr Computer Head

This is the biggest conflict in the movie: security at the cost of freedom. Is it better to live your life free but run the risk of constant attack, or have that threat contained as much as physically possible but completely lose your autonomy? It’s not an easy thing to answer. In a lot of ways, Steve chooses the comfort over freedom: he sticks with SHIELD when he has no reason to, he holds onto Peggy who is senile and near death, he visits a museum dedicated to himself. There’s clearly a security here on an emotional level, but this really comes to a head when his ideals are eventually challenged. The conflict of the movie is happening within our lead whether he’s ready to admit it or not. Both his need for liberty (freedom) and reliance (protection) are brought out by specific characters.

Let’s talk about Fury. ireally appreciate them bringing over the conflict between Cap and Fury from The Avengers, as he was the one most vocal about SHIELD using the Tesserect to create tech. This tension is re-established early on after the pirate mission where Black Widow stole classified information from SHIELD for Fury. He’s a man all about protection via control. We see this early on with the anecdote about his grandfather-he does not trust people and will find every contingency to protect himself and his mission.  Fury’s views will be challenged and changed after one thing becomes apparent; relying everything in SHIELD leads to serious consequences. Because if there’s one bad cog in that machine, putting your trust on a faceless agency over people makes your entire well placed security come crumbling down. It’s a good thing all systems are perfect and infallible then, huh?

And this conflict, while it challenges Fury to change by forcing him to trust Cap, doesn’t do the same for someone else at all:  his old friend Alexander Pierce. Pierce rose up the ranks to be on the World Security Council and, unlike Fury, has no qualms sacrificing lives for the bigger cause of SHIELD/Hydra. In his introduction scene, he says ‘I don’t care about one boat, I care about the fleet’, and that never changes. His devotion to the new era, the protection it provides, shows the dangers of giving in to this ideology of control and fear. Fury hasn’t gone that far, but Pierce represents the true cost of giving into a system of malicious security. Even if it provides him with everything he could want, it costs him his humanity and sense of freedom. Even in such a high ranking, privileged position, he’s never free from the mission and what it can easily take from him.

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Pierce is not the most memorable or original villain ever, but he  services the story well and Redford adds a great sense of gravitas and control to the character. He makes a flat villain pretty compelling.

Let’s jump back to history. The base of operations for the origins of SHIELD and Hydra’s covert takeover is on Steve’s old training grounds. We even see this emphasised by having a flashback of himself training on the grounds in the 40s. This was all kind of unnecessary as a lot of the flashbacks do as they were likely a relic of an older draft they needed for plot purposes, but to be honest they’re too brief to really sink the film. Ignoring its symbolic purpose, it outlines the very issue of taking on these systemic issues; they’re ingrained entirely within the roots of the structure themselves. Course correcting the mistakes fully ingrained in the apparatus created to prevent such a tragedy (in this case SHIELD) would need drastic measure. This is why the line with Peggy saying they damaged the planet is so poignant; she’s not entirely wrong. It’s generational precautions and oversights that have led to Hydra’s infiltration, which is why Steve ends up resorting to drastic measures.

We see this in his conversation with Fury after they discover he faked his death. In part of Cap’s own arc, he takes the idea of the past being overhauled for the future in a more reactionary capacity and says that the entirety of SHIELD needs to be shut down. Fury, even after nearly being killed by them, is still not willing to give up SHIELD. But he eventually relents, realising he must put his faith in this icon for American idealism. Just as Steve realises it’s not just good enough to try to mend the system, that we must break it and put the sins of the past behind us.

This, I think, is the ultimate goal. The price of freedom means letting go of the baggage of our past. What led us to this point is the fears and anxieties that are causing our world to become more insular and a lot more wrapped up in deceit and control. Even if there will be consequences, it’s a better price to pay than to live so contained. This just leads one step closer to more drastic and dangerous steps for the world.

This is what makes the real world parallels so potent. The assassin Helicarriers being so similar to drones, Insight being so similar to the NSA; these pointedly state we shouldn’t accept this just because we’re afraid of the alternative. This Minority Report-esque way they can work out via people’s data who is a ‘threat’ and eliminate them immediately seems like farfetched fiction, but it’s not entirely outside of the wheelhouse of something people would sign off on. People desire security, even if it means throwing people to the wolves who haven’t done anything because they haven’t done anything yet. But that’s the price of being free agents; we can’t take precautions for these kinds of threats.

It’s one of the most bold-faced, outwardly politically charged statements an MCU movie has ever made, which makes it even more hilarious that it’s coming from a Disney movie of all places. As Cap himself states:

“I know I’m asking a lot, but the price of freedom is high, and I’m willing to pay. If I have to do it alone so be it, but I’m willing to bet I’m not.”

But enough about that real world parallels and weighty thematic substance. How does shit blow up here?

Action, Tone and Pace

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Holy fucking balls, the action in this movie is so good! I complained in my Age of Ultron review that there was an entire elongated action sequence you could cut and not lose anything. Not so much in this movie. Everything adds up in terms of plot, stakes and tone to keep the story rollicking along and everything feel at risk and urgent.

Let’s start with the opening action sequence; the siege of a SHIELD vessel from pirates that sets the plot in motion. We get introduced to Rumlov and STRIKE, who will be the main goons of the story. Right from the off, through dialogue and visual composition, Cap is set as being diametrically opposed to SHIELD and their unitary methods. We also see this by the awesome skydiving image, as well as the fun visual of Cap falling from grace to do shady espionage. Everything is carefully edited, but it shows Steve’s more unique and aerobatic style of fighting, especially when contrasted with the other soldiers, and the sharp but effective cuts give us a sense of claustrophobic tension without anything feeling confused or too rushed. There’s also set up with the tension between Cap and Widow which I’ll get into later, as well as more evidence of the almost evangelical devotion to SHIELD’s good name (“SHIELD doesn’t compromise”).

Next up is the chase scene with Fury. Another great subversion of expectations, because they play it like the main tension of the movie will be between Steve and Nick, so they end up taking him out early on for most of the story, and have the tension be with Cap and SHIELD/Hydra instead. There’s excellent ramping of events here, and I love how each of Fury’s safety protocols fails on him. All he’s prepared for has come to nought in the end. The use of traffic adds a great deal of grounding here, and they both take their time and speed things up when appropriate. We also get our first glimpse of Winter Soldier, and his reveal shot is epic. It honestly feels like something out of a futuristic Western; props to the cinematography.

From here, we get Cap’s amazing fight to get out of SHIELD’S HQ. The elevator fight scene is arguably the best fight in the MCU. It’s not only an awesome display of Steve’s abilities, but also has long, lingering takes while keeping everything close and tight to give a sense of how truly surrounded he is. The motorcycle ride towards  the Helicarrier is great too, and they really give a sense of scope with the surroundings. The sequences makes Cap’s problems look tight and impactful and yet expansive and all-encompassing, and all of this adds to the paranoid conspiracy vibe they wish to convey. I don’t have much else to say about this whole escape-perfectly edited and paced, really sets the chase in motion that doesn’t truly end until the climax.

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A briefer moment next, when Armin Zola blows up the secret Hydra base to take Cap and Widow out. Another fun little subversion of Zola giving them a Great Big Damn Villain Speech revealing their entire plan, only to  have it be a tactic to distract them while the missile was being readied. Pretty brief, but it really gets a sense of urgency and shows that the Russos can handled shocking and sudden action as well as the slow-burning, ramped up tension. I personally am more partial to the latter, but it’s nice to see they have variety.

The Russos, deciding to show off, decide to make one of the best action sequences in the MCU after one of the best action moments. The bridge fight with Winter Soldier has a great use of scope again, it really takes the location of the bridge and the land below to give the fight more variety. The use of sound to distinguish the tactics of heroes and villains is fantastic (the MCU generally has great sound scope, but it really comes through in how they use it here). Winter Soldier taking them by surprise really displays just what a force he is to be reckoned with: tactical, knows how to take people off guard and can re-prioritise a situation to his advantage. I’m not sure if the moment where they reveal it’s Bucky is more effective to people who didn’t know this prior to going in thanks to the books, but it adds a sense of emotional resonance to the scene. Chris Evans really sells the dumbfounded shock.

The three-way Helicarrier fight doesn’t really live up to the rest of the action, and I do think the scale they go for kills it slightly, but it’s still a really fun, well put together sequence. There’s a great sense of coordination with all our character separating to attack them at three different fronts. That reveal of Black Widow disguised as the World Security Council woman was great and really turned a dime on that moment. All our leads have something interesting to do, like Falcon fighting Crossbones, Fury being the one to take down Pierce, Black Widow completing her own arc by taking data to give to the world instead of who tells her to, and Cap and Bucky’s fight being a lot more personal and gut punching this time. That’s even shot more intimately, with Bucky’s confusion and Cap’s resolve really showcased by the lingering shots and heavy score. It’s a little indulgent, but the movie had earned it by then.  It’s satisfying to see the Helicarriers get taken down, and we even have a timer on their destruction. It’s got a great scale, I love the plan to get the agents still loyal to them to fall into the fight. It even gets the action junkie points with the Helicarrier taking a building out with Falcon jumping from it wingless, while also remaining true to the emotional character beats. Not as solid as the other fight scenes, but still a great note to go out on.

Speaking of character beats:

Cap’s Triumphant Trifecta

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The character work in this movie is mostly great, and all of them play a significant role  in their own arcs, but also in helping Steve grow. This film essentially has three protagonists, and while Steve is our lead, the others suit a role much larger than just supporting. Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon are all important to the narrative and its functions, but also Steve helps them both grow while getting the same support in return. One of the best examples of this is when they’re interrogating the Hydra agent to find out what Project Insight does. Nat is his dark side, who will kick this creep off a building. Sam is his light, who will pick him up before he hits the ground.

I haven’t talked about Falcon a lot, so let’s look at him. If Steve is too stuck in his past and Nat is trying her best to avoid it, Sam Wilson is a man who kind of lives in both. He’s a soldier who misses the hardness of his non-marshmallow bed in service, but he utilises his pain and loss to do something incredibly positive and supportive. He is easily the most well-adjusted of the three, and yet he wants back in on the action. Like Cap, he’s a man of war, and out of war he has no real direction. So he jumps on the chance to get out his wings when Cap and Widow need his help.

His outsider status allows him to fit perfectly into Steve’s dynamic, giving him the perspective to not get wrapped up in the spy bullshit, as well as help Steve connect with a life a little more balanced than he realised he can have. This isn’t really something explored in later films, but it may have been something Cap could have come to if he had the chance; keep up the good fight, but settle into a life of helping others adjust from war and that detachment he relates to all too well. Yet, Sam is not Steve’s sidekick. He’s fiercely loyal (he says as much to Nick: ‘I do what he does, but slower’), but is not unwilling to take charge when need to and cut Steve down if he has a direction he’d feel was better taken, like when he gets back in the game. The Russos are really great with using humour to reflect their character’s dynamics. With Sam and Steve, it’s the ‘on your left’ joke that opens the movie. The callback to it at the hospital really shows how close Steve and Sam have gotten in such a short space of time. The Captain has found someone he can really rely on, who’ll always have his back. On his left.

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What’s Nat’s recurring joke with Cap? Getting him a date! Which sets up their own characters; Cap is traditional and stuck in the past, not ready to move on. Nat wishes to just keep pushing forward, ignoring what’s in her trail. We see that in the tensions between the two as Steve starts suspecting everybody, including eventually interrogating Nat on stealing the data on Fury’s behalf. This eventually leads to a brief confrontation between the two, but Cap is able to gage that Widow in on his side pretty quickly and trusts her thereafter. Steve is willing to give people a chance if he thinks they deserve it, and Nat proves time and time again that she does. This really gives their friendship a deeper bond which lasts well up to Avengers: Endgame judging by the trailer. They are completely different people in completely different worlds, but there’s a trust there that builds from what they go through in this movie.

Their ‘undercover’ mission at a shopping mall is great, as it gives Steve a taste of Nat’s world and helps him get a more nuanced understanding of what is needed to take down SHIELD and Hydra. Not just about getting your hands dirty, it’s dancing around their game and playing it to your advantage, hence them turning their loyal employees against them. Steve has a much stronger impact on Nat, who admits after they nearly died in Zola’s lab that she spent so long running from her past, only to discover what she thought was her redemption from it may have been a lie. While Steve becomes more astute and detail-oriented, Nat develops a nobler streak, which allows her to put her own security and life on the line in order to expose SHIELD for their crimes. It’s Nat finally becoming vulnerable that allows Steve to trust her, and with that these two people adrift over their pasts help each other rope themselves in to heal from it.

So, Sam makes Steve more balanced and grounded (har har cause he’s Falcon), Nat makes him more astute and goal-oriented. Both of them help him shape a future he  controls for the first time since he was unfrozen, but what about that past that keeps haunting him?

Well…

Is The Winter Soldier the Worst Thing About The Winter Soldier? 

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Now I know what you’re thinking. Because I can read minds. And no, this isn’t just a judgement call on Bucky. His purpose in the story is a decent one. He’s the living embodiment of Cap’s haunted past and how the effects that rippled from it have come to roost in his present. He’s literally an experiment made because of Captain America. Not only does Steve have to deal with that, but also with the fact that his best friend for his entire life has been broken and used as a pawn. Something that was hyperbolised by Steve earlier on in the film, being SHIELD’s lapdog to clean up their messes, is reality for Bucky. This all works on a thematic level, and I think ‘I’m with you ‘til the end of the line’ is one of the most powerful moments in the movie. When Cap refuses to fight Bucky, both metaphorically and literally accepting the sins of the past, it’s a true culmination of his character and what he’s been struggling with for so long. His past may have caused some shit, it may have helped in some small part to erode people’s futures, but he’s stopped running from it.

Bucky as a thematic device works. Bucky as a plot device…not so much. For one, I think the reveal of who he is happens way too late in the game. I can understand why it takes so long, but this needed to be either a last minute reveal and deal with the consequences after, or revealed much earlier on so the story can have time to adjust to the gravity of the situation. As it stands, we get a lot of build-up to a guy who essentially doesn’t really do a lot. He’s a glorified grunt, he doesn’t even do much to change the tide of Insight outside of be a minor diversion for Steve and the others. He doesn’t even really have much dealing with Pierce’s downfall, despite the build-up to it being there. Pierce is taken out by Fury and Widow. Winter Soldier is not in the story all that much, and when he is he basically does what the STRIKE team and Crossbones could do, but just…cooler.

And don’t get me wrong, he is really cool. You get the sense that he’s a looming threat, even before the reveal. But this really culminates in not a lot as he’s not really the antagonist of the story, despite them wanting to have as much impact as if he was. We don’t even get much into the details of Bucky’s programming, we need to wait for his next film to get all of that (incidentally, Civil War handles him better). To me, it’s the one major blemish of an otherwise outstanding film. The Winter Soldier is kind of the weakest thing in The Winter Soldier. He’s introduced as Bucky too late to have as much of an impact on Cap’s psychology as he likely could have had, and he’s overshadowed by Pierce to be a villain in his own right. I mean, he is kind of a threat, but it’s deflated with how evenly matched and straightforward the fight with him and Cap at the end is. The Bucky reveal actually took the menace out of the character-again, maybe it would have been better if they kept it til the end?

I dunno-it’s just my own thoughts on the matter. I’m sure everyone will agree with me on this, however.

Other Negatives, and Random Thoughts

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Outside of some minor gripes that don’t really heavily negatively impact the film, I don’t have too much I dislike. Here are two things that bug me, however:

-I got why it needed to happen on a story perspective, but in terms of its impact Fury faking his death really did nothing for me, and it really doesn’t add anything to the movie outside of remove him. Which I do think is important to let Cap and Widow be forced to grow on their own, but you didn’t need to make the audience think he’s dead. Especially with how obvious it is he’s not. He could have easily gone into hiding and even faked his death with the audience knowing. A really weak and obvious plot device for a cheap dramatic reveal.

-Sharon Carter is a really nothing character, and her being revealed as SHIELD agent doesn’t do much either. I think VanCamp does the best with what she has, but her and Chris Evans have zero chemistry, and she does absolutely zilch in the story. She has a little more to do in the next film, but it’s not enough to justify why she’s even here outside of the token ‘SHE WAS HIS LOVE INTEREST IN THE COMICS!!!!!’

Okay. That’s it. Seriously, all I had was two points. Other things I noted:

-The patented ‘Why haven’t the Avengers helped?’ thing will pop up from now with the post-Avengers films, so all I can say is after Cap realises SHIELD has been compromised, Banner isn’t exactly the greatest help they can turn to with this problem, it’s unclear if they even know Thor is back on Earth and they need to keep their head low anyway, and Tony helped build the Helicarriers of death, and while it’s not a happy thought, they don’t know quite yet if they can entirely trust him. The only person unaccounted for is Hawkeye, but I’m just gonna blame this on the urgency and keeping low. Maybe he was on his farm.

-I love that this movie opens at Washington. How very apropos for their politically-laden conspiracy thriller.

-Didn’t get much chance to talk about him, but I really like how Crossbones actually really digs Cap at the beginning. It’s subtle enough that his heel turn isn’t eye rolling or overdone, it really isn’t personal until later. it’s also what likely saved their lives after they were caught, as he refuses to execute Captain America right there on the street (though I guess they also don’t want the bad PR).

-‘The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye’ Capt Marvel-shadowing?

-LOVE Cap acknowledging the kid at the museum. Pure Cap.

-That shot where Winter Soldier catches Cap’s shield is awesome and really intimidating. I didn’t mention it above, so I’m mentioning it here.

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-Cap stealing a car after he and Widow escape SHIELD is a really hilariously subtle reference to the 90s Cap movie. In it, he really rudely carjacks people twice. He steals another car in Civil War

-Hoo boy, speaking of Civil War, I love that the huge ass plot point about Tony’s parents is just dropped in a really throwaway moment in Zola’s speech. I don’t know if I’ll bring up other stuff about it when/if I review that film, but I really love how his blink-and-you-miss-it moment becomes so fucking important later on.

-I wish Zola was in the film more. We always need more Toby Jones as an evil computer. Also, using Operation Paperclip to incorporate the living computer stuff with the character in a more ‘grounded’ way was brilliant.

-The name drop of Stephen Strange during the Insight explanation is rather funny in hindsight. Isn’t he just some random ass spinal surgeon dickhead currently?!

-Hey, Community’s Danny Pudi is one of the SHIELD IT guys! Cool cool. Cool cool cool. Cool.

-I love, love, love the guy standing up for Cap. He ends up having a part in Age of Ultron, he flies the Helicarrier to Sokovia. Guess Fury knew who to trust after that day.

-Yes, Cap’s uniform looks better in this movie than it did in Avengers. Love that he stole it from the museum.

-Fury gets a great arc too, I loved him being the most paranoid and controlling of the cast eventually giving up this security and his entire identity and being the one to finally off Alexander Pierce, but we all know the best thing about Fury in this film is his tombstone having the quote from Pulp Fiction. Let’s be real here.

-Oh yeah, Maria Hill is here too, I guess.

Post-Credits

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Two this time around, though to give one of them that much significance is pushing it. Bucky goes to a museum and sees his own display. I really fail to get its impact outside of setting up that he’s becoming more lucid and keeping underground.

The mid-credits one is more exciting. It’s got a nice rhythmic flow (pretty sure Joss Whedon directed it-it feels closer to his style). We’re introduced to Baron Von Strucker, and “The Twins” Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I also love how this whole massive intricate conspiracy all unravels for the magic and alien tech that’s really the stuff to worry about. It’s a nice way of recontextualising just how small potatoes the plot in The Winter Soldier is in the grand scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without invalidating the movie.

Conclusion

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Captain America: Winter Soldier does what any great sequel should. It expands the lore and takes our protagonist in an interesting direction. it challenges his worldview and character established in the last movie by bringing up intriguing and socially relevant questions about the invasive nature of modern technology and how the price of security has been our personal liberties. It has some of the best use of supporting characters, both unique to Cap’s own cast and tag-alongs from The Avengers. It has some of the best action of the franchise, amazingly pacing, a tonal consistency that avoids being too arch and silly as previous MCU movies. It’s easily the best direct sequel the MCU had so far, only to be really challenged by Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

This film is a benchmark in the growing annals of this massive series of movies. Everything changes and becomes more interconnected, almost moreso than Avengers made it so. If you like great action, political intrigue and solid character work you can’t go wrong with Winter Soldier. It’s not just a great MCU film, it’s just a great movie in general.

Final rating: 8/10. Maybe a 9. Who knows?

And it’s ranking:

  1. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  4. Ant Man

We seem to be having an upward trend of movies getting better as we go backwards. I’m sure the next film will be another success hitting the top! I mean it’s another sequel from the same writers of this film, how can it not be as go-

Thor-The-Dark-World-1

Ah.

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6 thoughts on “Marvel Cinematic Universe: Captain America: Winter Soldier”

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