Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Everything I Love About Captain America in Age of Ultron and Civil War

Marvel Studios
We started with his origin Captain America: The First Avenger where we fell in love with the kid from Brooklyn. His identity began to build in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In the third part of this series, everything comes to a head for the Star-Spangled Man with a plan in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Civil War. In the next leg of his own series and the Avengers spin-off, Captain America is tested to stand up for what he believes in as always, but also starts to fail a little - being a superhero is not what it is cracked up to be. There's a real human cost to saving the world. Hope you enjoy!


The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron isn't the most popular movie of the MCU. Aside from the bizarre love angle between Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner, I enjoy how it raises the question about who the Avengers and what kind of life they'd want to have if they "retire". Though Age of Ultron practically ignores Cap discovering that Bucky is still alive in The Winter Soldier, the movie is an important part of his arc considering that for the better part of his time in the MCU. His past is constantly merging with his present or he's not able to reconcile the two. Here he is in the middle of those two points.

You could have saved us Tony

After an epic opening of the team on a mission in Sokovia where Cap's running the show, Wanda manipulates Tony's mind. It only takes a few minutes for us to realize that this sequel is not going to be like the first lighthearted adventure. Tony's nightmare shows the rest of the Avengers killed, bodies lying everywhere. Cap's shield lies broken, as his dying words to Tony is that he could have saved them. Tony has everything that money and privilege can buy, except for the fact that there may be a threat that exterminates them all. Incidentally, this is what motivates Tony to create Vision, and ultimately Ultron which wants to kill them off.

Matchmaker

Following their successful raid of a Hydra facility, the group starts celebrating. This is the first, and almost only time, we see Steve hanging out with friends; he plays matchmaker between Banner and Natasha, tries Asgardian mead, almost lifts Thor's hammer, and generally shows his sassier side. It's a radical transformation from the spangly tights captain in The Avengers.

We'll lose

After Ultron attacks the Avengers and they discover what Tony has created, Steve tries to suppress his anger and Tony's invincible attitude to create peace which has backfired. This argument is much different than the first AvengersTony's arrogance now puts everyone in jeopardy and will ultimately cost millions of lives. And because Ultron thinks they're monsters, and the rest of the world might agree with him, the mission isn't primarily about beating him; it's about proving him wrong. Because if, and ultimately when the Avengers break up in Civil War, their divided power is going to make defeating their future enemies even more impossible.

Kind of speaks for itself

Steve and Bucky are far from monsters, but it's an interesting choice of words considering Abraham Erskine and the Russians/Germans/Zola tortured Bucky into being the Winter Soldier. Even if America "stopped" being at war, the Russians never did.

We can go home, Steve. Imagine it.

When Wanda/Scarlet manipulates the Avengers' minds, we see their greatest fears and darkest memories. While Stark imagines not being able to save his friends, Black Widow is taken back into her childhood being trained as a spy, and Thor losing Asgard, Captain America's 'dream' is the most haunting. The "victory of winning the war" says so much about the PTSD he's faced off against before and how his experiences will always stay with him no matter how much time has passed: the sounds of bullets firing off and bombs dropping as the cameras flash, a soldier running with his helmet on, comrades fighting each other, a party guest spilled wine looks like they've been shot, the creepy laughter and enthusiasm of the dancers, etc. He says in Winter Soldier, it's hard to find someone who shares your life experience, and this is actually true. Most of what would've been Steve's future is gone now. Of course, this scene just hits further home when Peggy tells him they can go home - just imagine it. If you haven't watched Agent Carter, I highly recommend it because Hayley does a wonderful job creating Peggy at different stages of her life and what she goes through after losing Steve too.

And then it stops...

Everything from his past hits Steve in a flurry, and then in a flash, it's gone. He's standing alone with his thoughts for a second, that chance he missed out on dancing with Peggy before coming back to reality.

Nothing to do next week

At the beginning of Stark's party Sam asks if Steve has found a home yet in Brooklyn. Steve hasn't, so Sam suggests home is home. But Steve's home isn't necessarily a physical place for him; it's what his life used to be. Steve's left to look for some kind of life outside of Avenging after the confrontations against Ultron with Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver heats up.

We can go home

Hawkeye's safehouse is a perfect hideaway, but it's also eery for Steve. When Thor leaves to investigate his visions about Asgard, Steve follows him outside and is hit with the peace of what the hideaway brings. He also hears Peggy's voice when he attempts to go back inside. If Steve had returned from war with her -a charming house in the 'good ol' 1950s America, married and having kids. At least, that's the picturesque vision Steve has. You can almost imagine it.

Maybe you haven't seen it yet

As patient and orderly as Steve is, he holds a grudge against Tony as strong as he wields that axe. Even though Tony's arc often focuses on him stroking his ego, his suspicions towards Steve getting away safely from Ultron comes out of left field. One second Tony says "you know Ultron is trying to tear us apart", and then admits he built Ultron so he could end the team. Tony only wants to do things his terms. It's not Steve who created Ultron and lied to the rest of the team; everyone is compartmentalizing their actions which makes them more divided. Steve wants them to win or lose together while Tony thinks of winning before losing. I'm convinced that Steve imagines Tony as that log. And it can make us think about Steve's dark side would be...

Where else am I going to get a view like this?

One of the most frustrating scenes about Civil War is Tony's warped version of history; he refers to the attack on Sokovia as kicking ass as if it was some sort of flashy adventure.The Avengers had to rescue Natasha from being captured by Ultron. They were the ones battling Ultron's soldiers as Sokovia rose into the air, and as Cap led the team he was willing to die alongside all of the civilians if they weren't going to be rescued. Thankfully Fury shows up in the nick of time. Steve feels guilt about the people they can't save, but he can't let himself be buried by that grief or else they can't carry out missions: "This job... we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn't mean everybody. But if we can't find a way to live with that, next time... maybe nobody gets saved." - Captain America, Civil War

I think someone else came out

Family and stability has changed since the 1940s, it's impossible to think that the same guy emerged from the ice in the 21st Century. Steve's had to reconcile that over and over. When the Avengers officially have a compound of their own, it's fitting that he alongside Natasha will lead Wanda, Falcon, and Vision. Despite everything that happened, Steve and Tony reconcile their differences as Tony considers retirement. Similar to Steve mentioning the familiarity of the military base in The Avengers, when Steve tells Tony he's found a home you can hear people in the background training military-style. This is the new version of the simple life.

Captain America: Civil War

Where Age of Ultron barely tread Captain America's story in Winter Soldier, his third installment Civil War tries to pick up all the pieces (though I loved it when I first saw it, it's script is messy if you think about it for too long - it's not a favorite of mine but I don't hate it either). Captain America is leading the newbie Avengers around on their first mission when their fatal mistakes brings the attention of the U.N. to limit what superheros can and cannot do. The Accords ultimately take a backseat as Steve's past comes back to haunt him and tests the loyalty between himself and Tony Stark vs Bucky Barnes.

What did you say?

Was capturing Crossbones a priority list for the entire Avengers? Technically, Steve and Natasha run the compound while Tony funds it, but Steve in particular is out for Rumlow. This mission, which goes horribly wrong, does give the idea of the Accords (for the superheros to not blindly cross country borders, do what they want, and then leave without repercussions) some substantial grounds to be created. But this scene is important because of Cap's reaction to Crossbones throwing his friend, his buddy, his Bucky into his face. As if Steve hasn't forgotten. Surprisingly, Rumlow's last words mirror Cap and Bucky's fight against Tony: When you gotta go, you gotta go, and you're coming with me.

Cap's desk

Steve is still holding onto little remnants of his past - the drawings he made during his tour selling warbonds.

The Accords

Director Anthony and Joseph Russo did not hold back in trying to create a conversation between fans on Team Iron Man or Team Captain America. I already livetweeted my grievances for Team Iron Man, 'cause obviously I'm just a stars-and-stripes gal....but....IT'S SO FRUSTRATING.

The U.N. wants to hold the Avengers accountable for the innocent lives that are lost in their battles, but that's what The Avengers were essentially hired by the government to do. When Loki's aliens were attacking NYC, the World Security Council sent a nuke, which Iron Man stopped from exploding on Earth. Hydra infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. for decades, which Steve stopped before it wiped out millions of people. Tony's arrogance created Ultron and wiped out Sokovia, so the Avengers had to clean up his mess. If Civil War wanted to make a case about why the Accords were needed, the news footage Ross uses in the meeting is almost fruitless. In contrast, the Accords lends credence to what can happen when institutions and corrupted take advantage of people and use them as super soldiers i.e. The Winter Soldier.

Despite the fact that Tony is driven by guilt and the collateral damage he created, one of the most frustrating scenes is Tony throwing Sokovia in their faces when everyone was actively trying to save as many lives as possible. Like did he forget that entire battle?? Not to mention that 117 countries did not write this up in a few days; they sat on this document for a long time before Tony brought it to their attention and could rush through the process, probably everyone would sign it.

After waking up in a new world where everything they fought for in WWII continued to be lost through McCarthyism, Japanese internment, the Korean and Vietnam War, Iraq War, and countless terrorist attacks, why would Steve want to be a weapon deployed by other people based on their political agenda? Does The Avengers need to be held responsible for very clear accidents that happen on their missions? Sure, but what little we know about the Accords is not the answer. 

ANYWAYS. Steve followed the orders of S.H.I.E.L.D. and his military officers, but he learns over time what's happened to the people he's loyal to who abuse their power. Both Tony and Steve are quite selfish in Civil War, but Steve's reasons for me just happen to be more solid and believable.

Peggy

One of the most disappointing scenes to me in all of MCU is Peggy's death, because to be honest, it's played more for awkward laughs than the influential woman she was in Steve's life. He's told through a text message, really? Of all the moments these adaptations could take advantage of, reintroducing Sharon Carter as Peggy's niece and Cap's love interest is just weird. Sharon obviously shows up at Peggy's funeral and delivers one of Cap's most iconic comic book quotes: "Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, 'No, you move'." As much as I personally feel the weight of Peggy's death, I wished there was more depth to this part of the movie.

This alternative scene between Sharon and Steve, where he and Sam are considering what to do during their "honorable discharge" works much better than the theatrical version.

Here for You

Even though Natasha is Team Iron Man, and goes as far as to say "Staying together is more important than how we stay together" (what could you be giving up to stay together though?), there's further growth in their friendship when she supports Steve at Peggy's funeral. Unlike The Winter Soldier where she teases him about her portrait in the Hydra facility in New Jersey, she knows Peggy meant everything to him. She doesn't pressure Steve about signing the Accords, she's just there for him as a friend.

You Know Me

After Bucky is wrongfully linked to an explosion at the U.N. during the Accords signing, Cap tracks Bucky down in Bucharest (where he was buying plums which can help with memory loss, thanks Russo Brothers). Just like in The Winter Soldier, Steve has utter faith that Bucky recognizes him, but honestly, Bucky never wanted to be found and the fight he puts up with is understandable (I love him unsheathing his Winter Soldier arm to prepare for the fight that's coming). He knows what he's capable of, keeping track of what he remembers in his own journals, and it's Steve's blinding faith and want to protect him that gets Bucky captured (instead of killed).

Stop Running

Cap has been surrounded by his 'enemies' in pursuit of getting justice and protecting Bucky - Hydra and the Red Skull in The First Avenger, the new Hydra taking over SHIELD in The Winter Soldier, and trying to protect Bucky from the government in Civil War.  He's with him til the end of the line.


Dream big kids

Tony’s support of the Accords seemed to be less about what 117 countries wanted and more about himself. He flat-out said that he needed to be controlled because he can’t stop himself. He was trying to lay the Ultron fiasco off as an Avengers issue rather than his personal mistake. To me, his entire argument boiled down to “I need to be dealt with and, if someone as great as me needs it, you must need it too.” But Tony trying to make the Accords sound less harmful than they were almost worked until he referred to Wanda as a weapon of mass destruction and that she was imprisoned at the compound. Steve refers to it as internment - because with his background he wouldn't see it another way - does Tony think that because she's in a mansion, the punishment sounds better?

Sharon switches on the audio

S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be Hydra. Now the Avengers is operated by the U.N. and the Accords. Steve wasn't always one to look over his shoulder too suspiciously for someone to stab him in the back. But as Zemo starts to interrogate and brainwash Bucky, Sharon switches on the audio and Steve can't help but be a little cautious as if someone will catch them listening in on Zemo's infiltration.

I can do one better

Similar to Peggy helping Steve fly in Howard's aircraft and rescue Bucky, Sharon gives Steve what he needs to protect his friend - the files on where Bucky is in Bucharest, the audio to hear Bucky's interrogration, and his suit to fight in the airport later.

All he had to do was say the goddamn words

In Cap's movies, Steve and Bucky's friendship grows and dismantles their alter-egos and real identities, and and it's fascinating to watch how that escalates in their combat scenes. The Winter Soldier is almost always fighting Steve, not Captain America.

In The Winter Soldier, Steve does his best fighting off the Winter Soldier on the highway. But once he's revealed as Bucky, Steve throws in the towel on trying to kill or even hurt him. In the big battle scene on the helicarriers, Steve mostly defends himself withhis shield and tries to remind Bucky who he truly is. You can often catch them using the shield as a defense to protect each other during their showdowns.

Earlier in Civil War when Steve and Bucky are fighting, it's Bucky pulling out everything in his arsenal to get away from Steve and the task forces; throwing bodies and tricks at Steve left and right. When Bucky is finally taken in by the Avengers and Ross, it doesn't take long for Steve, Sam, and Sharon to figure out that Bucky has been framed by Zemo. All he had to do was say the words and The Winter Soldier was unleashed. Steve's a good soldier, he knows some great moves and techniques with and without his shield, but he's almost taken off-guard by Bucky, struggling to stay on his toes. Again, Chris, Sebastian, and the rest of the cast, learning all of this choreography for fight scenes is astounding.

Look at this loyalty

Steve is willing to literally let himself be ripped in half to protect Bucky. And, similar to the climatic battle in The Winter Soldier, it's Steve who rescues Bucky from the water. I can't even put into words why and how Chris was able to do this stunt.

That was late....

Look at him actually making a move for once in his life. He's 100 years old and thankfully not dead to finally get some. Even though it's still creepy as hell. (You gotta love that Sharon doesn't mind that her potential boyfriend is running off with the guy who tried to kill her).

The Team

There's quite a difference between Tony and Cap as leaders. Team Iron Man basically has the scrap pieces from the Avengers: Tony who's passing blame, Black Panther's out for revenge and dagf,  Spider-Man's impressing Stark (by all means Peter's speech about looking out for the little guy would make him Team Captain America if he knew more about The Accords), and Widow's on his side because it's the path of least resistance. War Machine and Vision are the only ones who think the Accords makes logical and realistic sense.

Meanwhile, Cap's team all agree the Accords are wrong and are fundamentally loyal to Cap. Though they somewhat failed their "test mission" at the beginning, here they work better than ever before. Falcon even reinforces the fact that this is not the bigger war; if Zemo gets away and unleashes the super soldiers (which is what they assume he's doing), this airport showdown is not going to matter in the grand scheme of things. They, inadvertently, all volunteer to protect Steve and Bucky.

I know but I did it

Between visiting the museum in The Winter Soldier and hiding out in Bucharest, Bucky's brainwashing comes back to him in bits and pieces, memories of what he did and the assassinations he committed. Even though he's on Steve's side and they are primarily trying to stop Zemo, Steve refuses to accept Bucky admitting that he feels responsible for his actions as the Winter Soldier.

Remember when....

Civil War's ending starts to ultimately reflect Bucky and Steve's past in The First Avenger the second they land in Siberia. Similarly to Steve dropping in on the Hydra facility to rescue Bucky and the rest of the 107th from The Red Skull, they're walking in to stop Zemo from waking up the rest of the Winter Soldiers. Additionally, before they tried to hijack the train that Zola was on in The First Avenger they talked about old memories from Coney Island; here, they talk about the good old days again.

Together

Again, just another little nod to The First Avenger; when Steve rescued Bucky they were arm-in-arm trying to escape the Hydra facility as it was being blown up, never assuming they would come face-to-face with something like The Red Skull. Now, they're together again ready for whatever they might face, which turns out to be Tony coming to their aid. And interestingly, they're not the alter-egos of Captain America and The Winter Soldier here; they're still good friends dressed up in their combat gear ready to stop whoever they have to save each other, and to a point, innocent civilians.

You knew?!

One of the most frustrating angles about Civil War is how the story takes too long to bookend Tony's augmented memory of seeing his parents for the last time and Bucky having killed his parents. For the most part, the film tries to even the playing field between the two sides opposing each other over the Accords as well as Steve's die-hard loyalty to The Winter Soldier who has been framed by Zemo.

Steve believes in Bucky wholeheartedly, but killing his friend's parents isn't something he'd just gloss over so easily. There are several plotholes and moments where Steve might've learned about Bucky killing Tony's parents. A few of them take place in The Winter Soldier when Steve and Natasha briefly seeing that Hydra had Howard and Maria assassinated, as well as the end of the film when Natasha pulls a few favors and gets Steve a soldier on the Winter Soldier. Considering TWS takes place before Age of Ultron and Civil War, it's hard to believe that Steve shouldered that information for so long. As well, earlier in Civil War Bucky explains how more Winter Soldiers exist, but Steve's calm reaction doesn't lead me to believe he knows the exact significance of December 16th, 1991.

"I know your parents were murdered by Hydra" is different than "I know Bucky killed your parents", and leaves me to believe that it's gotta be in this moment, the second Tony says "I know that road" that Steve realizes what's happening. Nonetheless, Steve withholding this and Tony's passive-aggressive nature building throughout the movie, proves that for different reasons they can both be hypocritical and self-righteous. Whether or not Steve would've ever told Tony the truth is an interesting question to ponder.

But this moment, just like Zemo wanted, tears them apart from the inside out: Bucky finally looks Tony in the eyes after he sees the footage; Howard recognized The Winter Soldier as Sergeant Barnes before he killed him; Bucky admits that he remembers all of his victims, fitting the moment he told Steve he's not worthy of his help. Cap's face here is one of pure pain watching Tony watch the footage of his parents. No matter what you think of Cap's decisions, it wasn't easy. You can't blame anyone for what's about to go down.

*grimmace face emoji*

Honestly, if this scene doesn't make your soul scream Holy Shit, I don't know what will. I'm not Team Iron Man, but it's still nail-biting to see Bucky and Steve team up against him as all of their emotions and fighting tactics spiral out of control. Especially for Steve, who's never fought out of pure anger or frustration like he does in the top gif.

I'm not crying you're crying

I don't know how Chris or the directors managed to capture almost the exact movements from The First Avenger, but the results are stunning. He just won't walk away from a fight.

There's That Dark Side

Cap chooses Bucky over Tony, but the lengths they go to beat the hell out of each other is always shocking. They've come so far from Cap worrying about Tony having died in The Avengers to nearly killing him with his shield. My how things have changed.

Steve's dropped the Shield twice for one person

As Captain drops the shield, he's letting go of his identity. To be honest, both Steve and Bucky have  been shells of who they used to be after they were pulled from the ice. This whole scene is Steve, Bucky, and Tony fighting, using their skills as weapons against each other. There's no signs of their alter-egos except their costumes as Tony blasts off Bucky's arm and Captain America thrusts the shield Howard made him to almost kill his son. Some fans will say Steve wasn't deserving of the Captain America persona the whole time; that the ideals of freedom, protecting the little guy, and working for the greater good were always fake. Yes, his loyalty to Bucky blinds him to what's happened to Tony, but Steve carried the principles of Captain in his heart long before he and Howard made the shield. That doesn't make him unworthy; he's not a perfect soldier but he still tries to be a good man, even if that means sacrificing your loyalty to one person for another. Steve's dropped the shield for one person - Bucky - here in Civil War and in The Winter Soldier.


Allow Barnes the dignity of his choice

(I know this post-credits scenes comes after the final moment below, but I wanted to leave this post on a different note...) After all of the fighting and everything Steve sacrificed for Bucky, he still follows Peggy's words when T'Challa offers to cryogenically freeze Bucky and keep him safe from his own mind. It's also mirrors Steve knowing he's going to have to fight Bucky (and try to make him remember who he is) in The Winter Soldier versus Bucky wanting to protect people from his own mind in Civil War.

The Nomad

"Tony, I'm glad you're back at the compound. I don't like the idea of you rattling around a mansion by yourself. We all need family. The Avengers are yours, maybe more so than mine. I've been on my own since I was 18. I never really fit in anywhere, even in the army. My faith's in people, I guess. Individuals. And I'm happy to say that, for the most part, they haven't let me down. Which is why I can't let them down either. Locks can be replaced, but maybe they shouldn't. I know I hurt you, Tony. I guess I thought by not telling you about your parents I was sparing you, but I can see now that I was really sparing myself, and I'm sorry. Hopefully one day you can understand. I wish we agreed on the Accords, I really do. I know you're doing what you believe in, and that's all any of us can do. That's all any of us should... So no matter what, I promise you, if you need us - if you need me - I'll be there." To be honest, this final scene is how I'll always think of Captain America and Steve Rogers once Infinity War is over - he'll always be ready to help the Avengers if they need him. That's just who he will always be.

*shield drop*

Thanks for reading this series until the end of the line! I know long posts are not popular these days, and I'm sure there are plenty of moments I missed. I hope in gearing up for the first war against Thanos with Infinity War, you've enjoyed appreciating Captain America (and Chris Evans) as much as I have! Expect this to continue once Infinity War and Avengers 4: Part 2 is released.

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