Monday, April 23, 2018

Everything I Love About Captain America in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier

Marvel Studios
In my previous post about everything I love about Captain America, I focused mainly on Captain America: The First Avenger, which explored his origins as the kid from Brooklyn who became Captain America. After being frozen for seventy years and reintroduced into the 21st Century, the following movies The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier starts to unpack who Steve Rogers is without his super-patriotic alter ego. This second part is all about what I love about the man and the myth. Hope you enjoy!

The Avengers

After being discovered as a Capcicle, Steve has a lot of fitting in to do. Even though S.H.I.E.L.D. is alive and kicking, he hasn't found his purpose yet. In his heart and mind, his last day saying goodbye to Peggy just happened, and now as if caught in a bad dream, he's in an entirely new world and everything he loved was left behind. The Avengers brings all of the superheros together to defeat  Loki prompting Steve to start finding his place.

I've been asleep for 70 years. I think I've had enough rest.

I love that the introduction to Steve in the Avengers starts with Nicolas Fury saying, "War isn't won by sentiment, it's won by soldiers." Not only is it a nice throwback to Colonel Phillips line about guts in The First Avenger, but Steve is obviously suffering from PTSD here. Flashes of his life come to mind as he boxes angrily. This isn't something that's explicitly expressed between him and the other characters. It's something we gauge by his behavior unfolding: the isolation, depression, questioning his worth in the Avengers. When Fury offers him a mission, especially one that has to deal with the Tesseract and possibly Hydra, it's "easy" for Steve to fall back in line because it gives him something to do and a mission is the only thing he's mostly holding onto.

They told him we won

When Steve woke up, they told him the world won; they didn't tell him what they lost, which I believe he's referring too the world events up to that point: 6 million lost in concentration camps during World War II, Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (would've taken placed about six months after Steve crashed into the ice), internment camps against Japanese in America, Vietnam, Korean Wars, War in Iraq and War in Iran, 9/11 - to name a few. The threat of privacy and protection against civilians will come up again later as SHIELD swipes every wireless digital device to find Loki, and later in The Winter Soldier with Operation Insight.

Deleted Scene

I'm always disappointed this is a deleted scene because it gives us a clear vision of what Steve does in his off-time: drawing, riding the subway, not really being able to put himself out there, and sitting alone in his apartment looking at old files of his  friends.

I watched you while you slept

Coulson has no chill for meeting one of his heroes, and Steve has so much to catch up on in such a little amount of time like learning Banner was trying to replicate Erskine's formula and it backfired. Even though Coulson tells Steve he's the world's first superhero and his own personal hero, Steve doubts his abilities to be the man for the job. (I love the costume design here because Steve's outfits are still very old-fashioned.) He's a man out of time, as Loki will point out later, but he manages to grow out of the traditional conventions he's used to.

Actually this is kinda familiar

When Black Widow brings Steve and Bruce Banner to meet on the S.H.I.E.L.D's helicarrier, Banner comments that Steve must find himself out of place there. But Steve doesn't; he says this is kinda familiar just as a group of soldiers march by. The military, despite all of its enhancements and changes, is something Steve can still find familiar. Also, when Banner questions what Steve hears about him as "the other guy", Steve knew he was still a human being underneath all of that; he cared more about who he was as a person - which is one of the reasons why he gets riled up when Tony is constantly prodding Banner to get angry.


Speaking of which, Steve does well acclimating himself to his new surroundings especially with S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick won this bet that nothing might surprise him because some things do.

and saw a man standing above everybody else, we ended up disagreeing.

The first person we think Captain America is referring to is Hitler. Obviously, because he was in charge of creating World War II. But interestingly, we often forget that Cap never came face to face with him, only the Red Skull. He did knock-out the actor who played Hitler over 200 times during the warbond show cycle, but it's still the principle that counts; how and why Steve wanted to join the war efforts.

It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship

I love that Black Widow is the first one to help Cap get situated in S.H.I.E.L.D. Natasha has a knack for rallying up the troops - Hulk, Tony, Thor, Cap - as they try to find and defeat Loki. In a lot of small moments both here and in Winter Soldier, she and Steve slowly build a friendship together. I wonder if she's more open with Steve because he's honest, the same way he was with Peggy to an extent.

Put on the suit. Let's go a few rounds.

All of the scenes between Tony and Steve ARE SO GOOD. You can see Tony's early contempt for Steve because of Howard's obsession with failing to find him, even a little pity because Steve clearly doesn't fit in yet. And Steve thinks Tony fails miserably in comparison to his father and being a soldier because of his flashy laid-back attitude. Steve wants to operate in respect to a system while Tony operates above and around it. They have quite the awkward marriage, where they love and hate each other at the same time, pushing each other's buttons but also finding mutual respect towards common causes when the moment arises. In fact its Tony's prying about Fury's intentions with the Tersseract that provokes Steve to dig a little deeper and know who he is working for.

Flying Monkeys 

This poor muffin is just so out of place. He's still in his spangly tights trying to follow along in what they think Loki will do with the power he wants to yield; he even suggests that perhaps Loki's intentions trail back to Hydra. When Nick mentions that Loki turned two his of his sharpest men into flying monkeys, an obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz, it's so endearing and a little heartbreaking how excited he is to be on the same page as everyone else...and no one else gets his enthusiasm.

Moments before this as Coulson, Fury, and Hill talking about Loki's destruction, we see Agent Sitwell at the computers manning SHIELD spying on civilians technology to find him. A nice clue for Cap's next fight in The Winter Soldier.

Tony and Cap

They might not agree with each other, but the second S.H.I.E.L.D's ship is under attack, they work together. And, even though it's a funny line, Steve isn't wrong about Tony's instructions with the ship's mainframe.

Phil Coulson died, still believing in that idea. In heroes. Well, it's a good old-fashioned notion.

When Steve has visibly lost faith in the 'old-fashioned', Coulson told him that people are going to need a little bit of that because things will come to light and change the world. Similar to Peggy's words in Civil War encouraging Steve to believe in what he thinks is right, Coulson inadvertently gives Steve the choice to still accept his old-fashioned principles despite what's happening with Loki and the attack that's about to happen in NYC.

We are not soldiers

When they're not taking cheap shots at each other, Steve and Tony work pretty well together. But it's still telling how Steve wants them to operate as a unit and thinks of all of them as a team. And, honestly, they can't function if they don't trust each other and follow some semblance of orders to get the job done. But that's clearly not how Tony sees them. And when the Avengers fall apart in Civil War, the divide between Steve and Tony is going to ultimately decrease, if not totally destroy, their chances of fighting Thanos in Infinity War.

Uh... You are not authorized to be here!

Cap's patience has been maxed out. Just give him and his friends the Quintet to save NYC.

If you want to get up there, you're gonna need a ride.

As Loki's aliens start invading NYC, Steve gets to run the show and call the shots like the good old days. Just because Steve finds a purpose fighting the bad guys doesn't mean he doesn't care about the well-being of others (unlike Tony's insinuation in Civil War); Steve's concerned about giving Natasha a boost on a fighter craft but helps her nonetheless. He wants to give everyone what they can to win.

Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?

Tony latches onto the nuke the World Security Council sends to NYC in an effort to eliminate Loki's aliens, and he takes it through the portal to save everyone; he also calls Pepper to tell her goodbye. Remind you of anyone? Tony's first instinct might be to cut the wire, but he'll also lay his life on the line. It's quite the sight to see someone challenging everything you thought about them.

We Won

You can see the fear Steve has when Tony lands; he goes to listen for his breathing, and I'm sure without the suit, the way he puts his hand over Tony's chest, check for his heartbeat/perform CPR. For the moment, they were soldiers. And, you've got to imagine Steve's relief having actually won this fight, just like those days of trailing The Red Skull around Europe and trying to defeat him.

What We Need Them To Be

After the group comes together as the Avengers, Steve still ultimately doesn't have a real place to call home. Yes, he lives in an apartment but it's hardly welcoming and bares the reminders of how things used to be. But the thought of being apart of something bigger gives Steve hope as he rides off into the sunset.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A few years after The Avengers, Steve has been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to carry out special missions. He leads his own team and has a friendly working relationship with Natasha. He's slowly becomeing accustomed to a world of justice and order, and not living entirely out of his element when he's not working. He's not entirely the old-fashioned guy we saw in The Avengers, that is until the past catches up with him.

Internet, So Helpful

I can't imagine how lost I'd be catching up with the future; trying to become familiar with several decades of political, cultural, and artistic events that I missed out on if I were Cap. Unlike The Avengers where Steve mostly kept to himself, he's opened up to what the 21st Century has to offer. But it's interesting that he hasn't actually checked anything out on the list. Is it because he doesn't want to or he doesn't have time? Instead of being on his own, Sam reaches out to him not because he's Captain America but because they're both soldiers.

Sarcastically, Black Widow interrupts Sam and Steve's conversation saying she's there to pick up a fossil and head to the Smithsonian - which is has a Captain America exhibit on display.

Sassy Steve

Ever since Tony took a jab about Steve being a Capcicle, one has to imagine that he still gets his chops busted about his age. He's 95, he's not dead. But Cap isn't the polite quiet type anymore; there's some sass underneath that vintage charm. And Natasha isn't above suggesting he should date fellow  S.H.I.E.L.D agents. For two spies who aren't friends, they tend to play matchmaker a lot - Steve tries to get Natasha to open up and Natasha tries to get him a girlfriend.

On Va Voir

Cap relies on hand-to-hand combat for fighting, so the production upgraded his style through Parkour and gymnastics, elements that Chris actually learned for the fight scenes. He uses this particular move a lot, even against Spider-Man in Civil War.

I thought the punishment usually came *after* the crime.

When Steve woke up, he learned that they won the war, but nobody told him what they lost. Yes, "the Greatest Generation" was far from perfect and only kickstarted decades more of fear-mongering and violence. However, the World Security Council plans is a further crack in that institution of protecting liberty and freedom, ideals that Steve believes in above all else. Steve starts to feel like Fury's janitor and begins to question Fury's leadership when his mission to rescue hostages are different than Natasha's mission to extract information. This is the type of stuff that gives people trust issues, especially if you're only transparent about parts of your plans, even in an effort of self-preservation.  If you want to see Steve in a gif, here it is.
Soldiers trust each other. That's what makes it an army. Not a bunch of guys running around shooting guns.

Blast to the Past

The last time we saw Cap on a motorcycle he was looking for greener pastures at the end of The Avengers, finally feeling like he has a purpose. In The Winter Soldier, Cap's leaving Fury's latest batch of secrets behind to head towards his past at The Smithsonian's gallery of his life. Ironic how Natasha jokes earlier "Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil."

The Story of Captain America

History is often romanticized when it's put into school books, a museum, or even Hollywood films. Facts get overlooked, edited, or changed to fit a certain narrative, but it's truly the people who lived through it who know what their struggles and triumphs were. While he's visiting Smithsonian wearing regular clothes, Steve's able to go unrecognized (for the most part) and shed the identity of Cap to fall right back into the past again. I've got to imagine it's like picking at an old scab or admiring the sad view of a bruise that hasn't gone away yet. Steve was a part of history, but the most he can do is rewatch parts of it. (I also love how it is a subtle callback to all of his comics being sold in The First Avenger). He's reminded of Bucky and watches Peggy describing how he changed her life  Later, Bucky visits the museum to recognize himself as someone other a brainwashed mass murderer.

Not when she owes me a dance

Steve sits by Peggy's side to talk about his day and the misplacement he feels by being at S.H.I.E.L.D after Fury shares his plans with Project Insight. Half the reason why he's there is because she founded it, and he's so proud of her to be have created a life for herself after the war. It's a brief shimmering moment of happiness before your soul is kicked in the crotch because Peggy is suffering from dementia. You can literally see his heart break but he still gives his girl his all.

Hopefully not too far

Sharon could've been a great character on her own... However, she's not featured enough in Winter Soldier which makes their chemistry in Civil War quite cringe-worthy and rushed. But it's funny to see Steve flirt, or fail to flirt, with Agent 13.

When The Winter Soldier attacks Nick Fury in Cap's apartment, Steve says "I'm in pursuit", and that ultimately becomes his lingering mission to find the Winter Soldier, and then Bucky. Also, an interesting easter egg: that infectious disease ward that "Sharon comes back" from is the same-named location Crossbones steals the biological weapons from in Civil War.

It feels kinda personal

After Fury has been killed, Alexander Pierce suggests distrust with Rogers about why Fury contacted him before he died. It doesn't take long for Steve to see the cards stacked against him when he gets into an elevator that slowly starts to fill with "agents" twice Steve's size. (The fight choreography is awesome.) The people he worked with are not who he thought they were. Of course, it feels personal.


Steve Rogers is cautious, sure, but he's looking a little scared and nervous for the first time in years. We have to remember he only just started using the internet - so helpful. And those glasses (what a specimen).

On the Run

During their friendship, where Natasha was trying to hook Steve up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Steve stopped calling her madam (lol), they're comfortable enough to finish missions successfully together. But there is still a lack of concrete trust between them, something that doesn't come easily to Natasha, who felt betrayed when Fury gave Steve the flashdrive she extracted. When they find out their own organization is full of traitors, it truly comes down to these two to take on Hydra. They can use each other's skills, Natasha as a spy and Steve as a soldier, to read the S.T.R.I.K.E. unit hunting them down and plot their next moves. Unlike most camaraderie in the Avengers where they get along as a team, this movie truly starts cementing their relationship.

HYDRA, S.H.I.E.L.D., two sides of a coin that's no longer currency

If there's another character in Avengers who has a similar back to Steve's (other than Bucky) it's mostly like Natasha. Raised to be a super soldier and spy in the KGB, she knows what's it like to have your identity and loyalty dismantled by the government. Steve's about to get a bigger taste of that as the supercomputer preserving Arnim Zola reveals that Hydra is S.H.I.E.L.D.

How about a friend?

One of the best elements of The Winter Soldier is how it bookends multiple scenes. When Rogers catches Romanoff stealing files while he's freeing hostages on the S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel, he uses his shield to protect them when a grenade is thrown their way. Later on, when Zola has been stalling in order for Hydra to bomb Rogers's old army quarters, he uses it again. Finding out Hydra has infiltrated the system both Romanoff and Rogers believed was infallible officially seals them as friends rather than peers.

"No one would attack Captain America with a pocket knife"

Sure, Howard, okay.

Pick on someone your own size

Where the friend becomes the bully - I'm just going to leave this here.

The mask falls off

The combat scene never gets old, and neither does the moment that Steve incidentally rips the Winter Soldier's mask off. This is a face that comforted Steve when Bucky was alive and has haunted him ever since he woke up. Now, it's colliding with everything he thought he knew. This assassin who has killed countless people, attacked Fury and Natasha, and is gunning them down is his old friend. You can't believe what you're seeing.

You're giving the orders now Captain

Fury's revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, and Steve's discovery with Natasha that Hydra has infiltrated their government, is the sort of thing that gives characters like Captain America trust issues. Once he knows who he's fighting, he'll give it everything he's got whether it's S.H.I.E.L.D. or anything else. Interestingly, nobody puts up a fight with Cap when he says that S.H.I.E.L.D. has to be destroyed, not even Fury's right hand woman Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

Son, Just Don't

Nice little throwback to the Avengers - Steve, Sam and Maria infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. and tell a tech to step aside as they enter the engineering room. The guy doesn't even have a second to respond - he just throws his hands in the air.

The Speech

"S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. It's been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The S.T.R.I.K.E. and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don't know how many more, but I know they're in the building. They could be standing right next to you....They shot Nick Fury. And it won't end there. If you launch those helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone who stands in their way. Unless we stop them. I know I'm asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not."

"The price of freedom is never too high" is also originally apart of the voice-over in Captain America: The First Avenger when Steve goes to the movies.

I can't do this today 

Cap will face off against bullies all the live long day, but not Bucky. In fact, for the first half of the fight, he actively uses his shield against Bucky and tries to disarm him (no pun intended) instead of attempting to kick his butt like he probably could.

Second Chances

Cap and Bucky's fight is filled with parallels from The First Avenger and Civil War. There's too many combat moves between them to include here. But this sticks out to me. In The First Avenger, Steve climbs out of the moving train (onto a literal ledge) to save Bucky's dive into the mountainside, but he fails. Bucky falls again in Winter Soldier as the ship is destroyed, but Steve can see that he's trapped; it's his second chance to undo history.

Captain America: Civil War isn't the first time Cap dropped his shield for Bucky. He did it here for first in their big Winter Soldier battle. Sam tries to warn Steve that Bucky and the Winter Soldier are two different people, but Steve believes without a shadow of a doubt Bucky will remember who he truly is. Steve's willing to do anything for him, even die as their fight grows gruesome when we take into context that they're not typical a hero vs foe. Rogers even removes his mask so they're literally fighting face-to-face to try to get Bucky to remember him.

You know me

The final piece of remembering who he was is unlocked when Steve delivers that line. Similarly as their fight comes to an end and the helicarrier crashes, Bucky saves Steve from the water like Steve wishes he could've done in The First Avenger.

He remembers

Why else would the Winter Soldier save Captain America? and just leave him on the shore? Because he isn't what Alexander Pierce told him he was. Somewhere deep down Bucky is there and he knows this random ass guy who laid down his life on the helicarrier, who he begins to remember before being brainwashed, is that Some Guy Steve from Brooklyn who he used to fight alongside.

Hope you've been enjoying these posts so far! Stay tuned for my last edition which will cover Age of Ultron and Civil War.

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