The Winter Soldier

I should probably do a recap post on the last month seeing as I haven’t posted at all. However, instead I’m going to talk about Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I saw this film a week ago and it needs a post. I didn’t write one about Thor: The Dark World. I liked Thor 2 but I didn’t write a post as I didn’t have anything to say, not really. It was a solid film, there were some eye rolling moments but on the whole it worked well. I did write a post about Iron Man 3 as I was disappointed, that film was all flash and no substance. It wasn’t the film I had hoped it would be.

Cap 2 was different. It had a lot of action, some eye rolling moments but it wasn’t just a solid film like Thor 2, it had a lot of substance. It turned out to be one of those films that are like an onion, the more you think about it, the more layers you start finding. It was a game changing film in more ways than one. In my opinion it’s the first film that really continues the legacy of The Avengers, builds on it and delivers something even better.

Obviously there’s going to be spoilers, don’t read if you haven’t seen the film and aren’t up to date with Agents of Shield either, just to be safe.

The Winter Soldier, how deep does it go?

Hail Hydra
The film was game changing because Shield is no more. In the film it’s discovered that Hydra infiltrated Shield from the very beginning, as it says in the end credits they are ‘two sides of the same coin’. Hydra staged a takeover which was beaten back by Cap, Black Widow and Falcon but the real battle is only beginning. Hydra suffered a setback but they are still everywhere. Shield is gone, all of it’s secrets are exposed.

In Agents of Shield Coulson said it was going to be a race between loyal Shield and Hydra to grab what was left. Shield took The Hub but the fate of The Fridge is unknown. Victoria Hand was going to secure it but she was killed at the end of the last episode I saw. Who knows what Coulson and his team will do now. For a start surely they’ll be low on resources. That plane will need fuel at the very least, plus they won’t have Shield to file their flight plans and sort landing zones for them.

Everything has changed. That’s what makes it so fascinating.

I was attempting to write my novel this month, it’s not gone exactly to plan but that’s beside the point. My novel is called Perfidy which means ‘betrayal of trust’ and betrayal is a prominent theme in the book. It’s set in the world of espionage and there are a number of double agents, some of those double agents have been traitors for years. They are people that the heroes have worked alongside, have likely socialised with and called friend. Perhaps this is why I identified so strongly with the Cap 2 plot, as it resonated with me.

Nick Fury didn’t trust Natasha or Steve with the fact that he was alive. True he told them later but there was no reason for the delay. Natasha is a strong character and someone that hates to be seen as vulnerable. I could see her gently stroking Fury’s head, crying and saying goodbye. He made her do that, he made her grieve for him when he didn’t have too. That is also a betrayal, there are on the same side but that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was wrong. Fury trusted Maria Hill, he should have trusted two of his Avengers.

Then there’s what I thought was the main point of the film. Two sides of the same coin. I read a review of this film where someone was complaining that they didn’t understand the motivation. Why would people join Hydra? Why would they betray their friends, colleagues and join a crazy crusade? Well, they made the point in the film. Shield and Hydra are the same in so many respects. Those Hellicarriers which could target and kill people from the air, weren’t a Hydra invention. Nick Fury, who was loyal Shield, thought they were a great idea – “we’re going to stop a lot of threats before they even happen”.

I actually make this point in my novel as well. My ‘hero’ and my main villain both have the same goals, they just have different reasons. They both want to do the same things, one to protect the world, the other to control it. I loved this in Cap 2 because it makes the whole concept of good and evil much easier to relate to, it’s not all black and white. There aren’t the good guys and the bad guys, there’s a big grey area and the question of where to draw the line. Sometimes good people do bad things.

So often in Hollywood and in books¬†the moral code that killing is wrong, that stealing is wrong, that shooting first is wrong, is pushed onto the reader/watcher. I’ve always thought it was the motivations that matter, more than the actions. The good guys can do everything the bad guys do, but the good guys do it to protect, not for their own personal benefit. The good guys wouldn’t do it if the bad guys didn’t force their hand. It’s something that is seen as wrong, perhaps because we want to hold ourselves up to a higher standard. There is some of that in Cap 2. Steve argues “this isn’t freedom, this is fear.” and Fury replies “Shield takes the world as it is, not as we would like it to be”.

Ultimately I suppose it could be said that Steve is proven right when he takes down Shield. However, I didn’t see it that way. I saw the moral argument being made but Fury didn’t give an inch. He let Steve take the lead and tear everything down. However, how many loyal Shield agents lost their lives? Was everyone on those three Hellicarriers Hydra? They targeted them indiscriminately, it was a desperate action because they didn’t have any choice. They did what they had to do, they did it for the right reasons no matter the consequences.

Deeper and deeper
They brought the same Senator back from Iron Man 2. They could have inserted anyone there but they brought back someone we’d recognize. I really appreciated this, I don’t read the comics so I don’t know if Senator Stern was Hydra in the comics. However, just from a movie watcher’s perspective I liked it.

That was a fun little moment but there some other tiny scenes which weren’t fun, but they meant a lot. During the final battle scene a few agents run out “We’re the only air support the Captain has.” and they are promptly killed by The Winter Soldier. Now, I know they are the equivalent of red shirts and it’s the heroes that are important. However, that scene stuck with me, that line is one I remember. It meant a lot and it grounded the film, it made it deeper. It wasn’t just an action scene, those were real people, well obviously not but it wasn’t just the heroes facing the enemy, invulnerable because they are the heroes. Many people did their part and a lot of them suffered for it, a lot of them paying the ultimate price.

I knew who The Winter Soldier was before I went to the movie, so the reveal when Cap gasps “Bucky” wasn’t a surprise to me. However, his story arc is very compelling and again, much like the enemy infiltration and betrayal of Shield, it really resonates with me. He was a hero and he was turned into a monster. In the film there’s a point where he’s mind wiped. He could kill everyone in the room, instead he accepts the mouth guard and lets them mind wipe him. He was a good guy who by circumstance wound up on the other side, that combination of brutality and vulnerability. Who’s to blame for what he’s done? Does he even know? Could he have fought back if he wanted to or was he too brain washed? The actor has a long contract so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him, and his story on the big screen, I can’t wait.

The trailer did not do the film justice. Odd to say that I know, given that they usually put the best clips/best lines in the trailer to attract people. However, who thought that the line “You’ve shaped the century, I need you to do it one more time.” was said to Cap? I certainly did and so it surprised me when it was said to the Winter Solider. I suppose that makes sense given Cap was on ice, but you could also make a case that his very existence and his actions stopping Hydra’s attack shaped the century. After all many attempts were made to replicate the Super Soldier serum, and Hydra changed tactics and infiltrated Shield and who knows what it had a hand in over the years. Zola hinted at a lot of conspiracies with his clip montage.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the man out of time. I loved the list Steve had of things he’d been told to check out. His apartment was fitting and I absolutely loved that they showed him visiting Peggy. It’s enough to break your heart watching them together. She clearly had dementia¬†perhaps as she suddenly was surprised at him being there again. They should have had a life together but Steve sacrificed himself and she moved on. No-one can get those lost years back, they are gone and what could have been is gone with them.

In the review I read, that I mentioned earlier, it said about Steve being lonely. He made friends and turned to a guy he met jogging in the park. That review also said about Natasha constantly trying to set Steve up on various dates. I’m actually just going to repeat what that review said, it hadn’t occurred to me but I think they are right and it’s really fitting. They said that Natasha was doing so because she wanted Steve to have that kind of support, but she didn’t want him casting her in that role. She is his closest female friend and he could easily have developed feelings for her, instead she’s redirecting it while keeping that friendship.

They didn’t just make him suddenly comfortable in the 21st century, they didn’t make him suddenly forget the life he’d lived and the people he’d lost. However, they didn’t make him wallow in it either, he was still capable of being decisive and of doing the right thing. It was a great balance.

Not so great
There were a couple of things that I rolled my eyes at. Steve jumping out of the plane without the parachute? Worse, him jumping 20 floors out of the Shield building, onto concrete, and then just running away. He’s a super solider, not superman, wouldn’t he hurt himself? I don’t know if he has this extreme invulnerability in the comics but I thought it was a bit much. What is so great about Captain America is that he’s just a normal guy, he can hurt, he can bleed. He’s enhanced but not so much that he doesn’t have to worry, not so much that he’s not still taking a risk and putting it on the line.

I was also not keen on the man in the computer – Zola. I think Hollywood is obsessed with AI right now. Before Cap 2 there was a trailer for a man who’s consciousness was transferred into a computer before he died, I’ve seen other trailers as well for upcoming films. Now yeah it was a nice way to explain lots of things, plus it brought back another character from Cap 1 to ground the sequel a little better. However, it was a guy in a computer.

Technology in Marvel films is super cool. I love those Holo-table things, we so definitely need those, I want one. However, I just found the guy in a computer to be out of place and unnecessary in this film. It was jarring and I wish they had found another way to impart the information. I loved Zola’s montage and his explanation but that whole section was probably the least favorite part of the film.

Now for the same complaint I had in Iron Man 3. I know these are solo outings, that not every film can be The Avengers. However, where are the rest of the Avengers when everything’s getting blown up? I forgive this in Cap 2 a little more than I did in Iron Man 3, as everything in Cap 2 happened fast and they didn’t know until it happened that there was going to be a fight. Therefore Thor in London was a bit out of reach, plus they might not know he was there. Tony destroyed all his suits at the end of Iron Man 3, but you know he’ll have to have made another one, after all he is Iron Man. Hawkeye could have been on assignment and Banner off the grid. I get it.

However, a mid credits clip, or a couple of lines in the end scene would have done wonders. The Shield loyal were going their separate ways. A line about how Stark pouted that they “didn’t invite him”, a callback to a line he had in The Avengers. Maybe Natasha saying she’s going to meet up with Barton. All of Shields secrets are out, Natasha was having to go make a new cover, Barton presumably needed to do the same. Maybe Fury saying while he was in Europe he’d check in with Thor. Small things, a line here, a line there, just something that says yes this is a connected universe, yes there is a reason the other guys didn’t come out to play this time.

I’m a fan, I am a Marvel fan generally. However, I was disappointed in Iron Man 3. I wanted to love it because it was Marvel but I couldn’t. Thor: The Dark World was solid and enjoyable, a breath of fresh air after Iron Man 3 but still didn’t set the world on fire. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the stand out film of Phase 2, it’s made the phase and I hope very much that The Avengers: Age of Ultron, picks up where Cap 2 left off. There was so much to this film, it wasn’t just a superhero blockbuster, it was so much more.