So I finally got the chance to see the Winter Soldier movie.
Before anything else, a disclaimer: I’m not a huge Marvel comics fan. My familiarity comes mostly from the MCU, and from reading (admittedly, some pretty good) fanfiction.
Disclaimer the second: HERE BE SPOILERS. Proceed with caution, y’all.
I wanted to like this movie more than I actually did.
And it is, by all accounts, a really good movie. It’s well-written, the action sequences are fantastic (grounded in gritty realistic hand-to-hand combat rather than the showy SFX of the Avengers- I love how well Cap’s shield was used as both an offensive and a defensive weapon), the jokes are actually funny, and the casting (Anthony Mackie as Falcon just about steals the show, and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow deserves a movie of her own yesterday) is brilliant. I especially loved the running gag with Natasha trying to set Steve up on a date. (Although, Tasha, if that opening sequence with Falcon was any indication, you may have better luck setting the good Captain up with Mark rather than Kristin from Statistics…)
The problem is that I can’t help but feel that I was sold a false bill of goods. The Winter Soldier, despite being the titular character is only on-screen for about ten minutes (maybe less) and he’s part of a larger plot to overtake SHIELD. Which. Marvel. I love that you’ve made a movie that is smart and really rather overt commentary on the current US surveillance state. I love that you had ordinary people stepping up to be heroes, too, from the agent in the control room who refused to enter the launch codes to the pilots running to back up Cap and Falcon to the dozens and dozens of SHIELD agents laying down their lives fighting HYDRA… but that was not the movie I walked into the theatre to watch.
There’s a theory going around Tumblr that the Winter Soldier in the title is not Bucky Barnes, but Steve himself- this quote, in fact:
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
And you know what? That’s a great theory. Steve is very much the Winter Soldier. But words are important, and terms are loaded… and in the Marvel universe, whatever high-brow philosophy the Powers that Be want to inset into the MCU, the Winter Soldier is and always will be James Buchanan Barnes, Steve’s oldest and dearest friend… and that story- of Steve and Bucky and the Winter Soldier and the Black Widow and the Red Room and the ways it’s all so messed up- deserves to be told in all its richness and glory.
I expected Captain America: The Winter Soldier to actually be about the Winter Soldier, about more than ten minutes of Steve’s manpain. The story is such a wonderfully poignant and tragic one, and it has such potential, especially when you have actors of the calibre of Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan (well, as much as he could emote under that mask) and Scarlett Johannson, and it’s a crying shame it wasn’t used to its full potential. Do better, Marvel.
On the one hand, this was not the story I wanted. On the other, the story I actually did see was pretty darn good, especially now it is canon that Peggy helped found SHIELD after Steve’s death- thus managing to fridge Captain America in his own damned story. So.
(All images copyright Marvel Studios and originally released by them.)