In celebration of this Friday’s release of Captain America: Civil War, I have put together a multi-night Marvel marathon. I have chosen the movies to focus on Steve Rogers, his relationship with Bucky, and his relationship with Tony Stark. The marathon is as follows:
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
There are no Iron Man stand alone films here because they give no insight into his present state that the Avengers films do not already give.
As I watch each film I will post entries on each in turn.
Surprisingly low attendance for The Winter Soldier straight out of the gate. Many people voiced interest in seeing this one, but considering the marathon is now taking place on week nights it is a bit harder for everybody to find the time. Still, the experience of watching this film is the polar opposite of The Avengers. The Winter Soldier remains an extremely kinetic and entertaining film that I wholly enjoy even on my umpteenth viewing. There’s a really good reason why the directing and writing teams on this one will be helming the next two Avengers movies.
It’s been a while for Steve Rogers since New York, and he’s now mostly transitioned to the present day. He has cooler hair, surfs the internet, and even makes a new Black friend. The only thing he is having trouble with now is our modern morals and security principals. The idea of having all powerful killing machines like the new Helicarriers floating above us is a horror to him. There’s an argument to be made that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Steve missed the Cold War, 9/11, and all of the following terror attacks. We no longer fight wars of nations, and that makes the world a much scarier place.
This film manages to find the best way to challenge Steve Rogers. It isn’t interesting for his enemy to simply be stronger than him, instead the conflict here is one of ideologies. More and more pushes up against Steve and he has to be the immovable object of good. He has to come out the other side uncompromised. Still the good man Doctor Erskine believed him to be.
That’s why, even after their disagreement, Steve is willing to help Nick Fury when he shows up in Steve’s apartment. Their whole relationship has been Nick using Steve in one way or another. He lied about Coulson’s playing cards. He lied about the Lumerian Star at the beginning of this movie. He sets up Agent 13 as a “nurse” next door. There’s no reason why Steve should want to help, and for all we know he is about to kick Fury out, but then Fury is shot right in front of him.
Steve goes into pursuit of the assassin, destroying every door he has ever met, and has his first confrontation with The Winter Soldier. It leaves a hell of an impression, as the man with a metal arm spins on a dime and catches Steve’s shield. It leaves Steve rattled as nobody has ever done that before. He is left standing there as this new enemy escapes into the night.
Steve doesn’t see The Winter Soldier again for a good chunk of the movie. In the meantime he learns the devastating information that Hydra really did survive WWII and is more powerful than ever as a powerful percentage of S.H.I.E.L.D. His enemies used his legacy to become even more powerful. Most men would break under that pressure, but Steve only becomes more motivated. He may not have defeated Hydra then, but he knows what they’re up to now and he intends to finish this.
Which is how we get to the fight sequence that closes out Act Two. It begins on the highway overpass, then falls to the ground beneath, and travels a few blocks before it ends. It’s also probably the best action sequence in the movie if not the whole MCU.
But nobody wants to read an action scene:
The whole film changes when Steve discovers that Bucky Barnes, his best friend from when he was growing up in depression era New York, is not only alive but somehow still young and The Winter Soldier. Bucky doesn’t remember Steve. His friend is alive, but he’s also lost.
When Steve joins up with Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and… director Joe Russo as the doctor? He struggles to regain his center. Bucky is alive. Bucky who was there for him when his mother died, when he was denied from the military, and even as a member of the Howling Commandos. Now he works for the enemy, only a remnant of his former self. If Hydra is what did this to Steve’s best friend, then Hydra has to be taken down. If Hydra is within S.H.I.E.L.D., then both have to be completely dismantled.
Sam lets Steve know that he might not be able to save Bucky, but Steve isn’t giving up yet. He gets his WWII suit from the Smithsonian, effectively shrugging off the “modern” rules and the meta aspect of the necessity of dark superhero movies. He does what he does best, grabbing a microphone and inspiring the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to stand up against Hydra. Because he’s Captain America dammit, and these are “Captain’s orders”.
Everything comes to a head when Steve and Bucky meet once more in the final Helicarrier. As a viewer, you’re legitimately unsure how Steve will approach this. He tries to get through to his best friend, reminding him of the lives on the line. However once Bucky starts to attack, Steve fights to win. But he doesn’t fight to kill. In the end he puts Bucky in a wrestling hold, cutting off his air supply and knocking him out. He thinks it’s over and walks off to shut down the Helicarrier.
And that’s when Bucky shoots him. But he doesn’t shoot to kill.
Steve still gets the chip in place, but now he’s in a Helicarrier that’s being shot out of the sky along with two others. He could escape, but Bucky is trapped under some debris. Steve decides that Sam is wrong and goes to save his friend again. He could never let his best friend die like this.
Once free, Bucky attacks Steve yet again. Steve drops his shield and allows Bucky to beat on him again and again. The mission is over. All that matters now is bringing Bucky back. Just when Bucky is about to hit Steve one too many times, Steve parrots back what Bucky said after his mother’s funeral.
“I’m with you. To the end of the line.”
And Bucky stops. The phrase is familiar. Both men are thrown into the water by the Helicarrier’s destruction. Bucky drags Steve to shore, saving his life, and walks off into the distance to discover who he is. He doesn’t want to see Steve again until he knows for sure.
Steve pulls through to discover he’s changed the world yet again. S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone. Agent 13 has joined the CIA and Maria Hill will be a part of Stark Industries, meaning still an active member of the superhero game. Natasha tells off the government, reminding them that only people like the Avengers can take on the threats the world keeps facing.
So yeah, if they can’t remove you I guess they’ll figure out how they can control you. Civil War!
But what of Steve? He finishes with the same mission he had back in WWII when he went rouge in Europe. Stop Hydra and save Bucky. Only this time he’s got help. Sam Wilson and The Avengers.
PS, I cannot say enough about how much of an improvement every Captain America suit is in this film over the one in The Avengers. It’s just exceptional.