A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Then I read some reviews, discussed it with friends, babbled about it for about 6,000 words. Then I swore that I would tidy things up and post some reviews.
The next instalment is now up! (oh, only 6 months later, no biggie)
For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Falcon, click HERE!
For a look at my reaction to the introduction of The Winter Soldier, click HERE!
Okay. I have to confess: at first, I was completely confused by Steve and Natasha. Utterly bamboozled. They spoke differently (seriously, Scarlett Johansson drops register completely), and it seemed that they had undergone a complete character shift, especially Natasha. Now, here, I have to admit something. It’s been a while since I watched the film Marvel Phase 1 films, so my characterisations might be a bit muddled. But upon research, I immediately encountered comments and interviews and responses which showed me that there had been adjustments made to both characters, so at least I wasn’t delusional 🙂
This review deals with my thoughts on Steve.
Steve, after some consideration, began to make sense. The violence – especially that stabbing of the bad guy’s hand at the start – was displayed by Steve, became more justified (although that particular moment still doesn’t sit well with me), especially after I found out that the film takes place a year after Avengers does, (which I hadn’t known going in, somehow). That development already took place in Captain America: The First Avenger, as was pointed out to me (thanks, capsicleironman!). At the beginning of the film Steve says “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies” but after Bucky ‘dies’, he says he wants to take out and “kill” as many Hydra agents as possible. This is simply a continuation of the desperate and broken man who has just lost his best friend, which for Steve happened last year, not 70 years ago.
Here, I really agree with hellotailor, the author of a series of intelligent responses to Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which you can find here); this film depicts a Steve that is fine physically – his healing factor is as efficient as ever and he’s processed the technological and mechanical advances well – but isn’t coping mentally. He’s all alone – as he jokingly says to Natasha, everyone he knows is dead or really old (oh, that heartbreaking scene with Peggy that will be discussed later) and he has no one to lean his back on. Because in Avengers, Tony Stark and he rubbed the wrong way, Bruce Banner has probably disappeared (and seems to be very introspective and private in any case), Thor isn’t on Earth, who the hell knows where Clint is holed up after his shot period of mind-control, and Natasha and he, well – you see in Captain America: the Winter Soldier that while they might be okay in battle, and they’re fine with the camaraderie of a joking front, their friendship isn’t deep enough yet to allow Steve to display any vulnerability. In addition to the lack of true integration of the members of the Avengers as a team is Steve’s psychological isolation; he is constantly aware that he is 70 years out of time; that his army friends are mostly dead, that his old flame Peggy moved on and married and is now an old woman suffering from dementia. I think it should also be pointed out that for Steve, this loss is achingly recent; fresh out of WWII, he simply hasn’t had the time to mourn his comrades; definitely not enough to move on. More importantly, Bucky – the person who’s ALWAYS been there to support him – isn’t, and that’s left a huge hole in his life. He clearly wasn’t dealing well with Bucky’s ‘death’ at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, doing reckless things like flying planes over the Arctic, and since then it has just been one world-threatening situation after the next, leaving him with no time to internalise or accept his grief.
Thus Steve is depicted as lonely and cut-off, expressing a lot of nostalgia towards his time in the 1940s not because of the old-fashioned tech and attitudes, but because of the sense of belonging he had with the Howling Commandos and his certainty in the moral boundary between right and wrong. Watching Captain America: The First Avenger in order to experience Steve’s transformation is so important to understanding why he is angrier, and no longer as cheerfully genuine and earnest – he is still that, but it’s been shoved to the background and overtaken by new bitterness and doubts as a result of working for a year in a greyscale, modern world in an organisation built upon espionage and killing and, apparently, corruption. Steve’s ideal of ‘good and bad’ was broken down; as he told Peggy, he just wanted to do what was right and “I don’t know what that is anymore“. I think we started with a character who, reasonably given the era he lived in and the experiences he had, inhabited a world of binary opposites. When you were fighting Nazis, you had a very clear enemy that was almost universally acknowledged (except by the Nazi themselves, and their erstwhile allies), as the ‘bad guys’. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it was harder to figure out who exactly that bad guy was, and that’s a much better representation of our morally ambiguous age and the character arc Steve is developing.
I love the woah moment. That emotionally climactic scene that is chock-full of symbolism and catch-phrases. It was well-executed indeed. Steve, who never knew how to back down from a fight, who fought against the odds ever since he was wee little Steve Rogers, who fights until the end, be it his own or the enemies – throws down his shield and gives up. He doesn’t swim, has to be pulled out, because he cannot fight his best friend when it literally doesn’t depend on the world surviving.There’s a gif set somewhere that shows the number of times Steve has said that he’d fight, and then one at the end where he surrenders to Bucky. It’s a pretty powerful thing. The absolute loyalty towards his friend; “I’m with you till the end of the line” was very clearly highlighting Steve’s priorities, and the importance he placed in Bucky, especially since by giving up after the world was saved (and I don’t see why, if Hill had the activation codes and everything, blowing up the helicarriers couldn’t have waited for the battle to end, and for them to fly somewhere that didn’t create to much destruction. Or why they couldn’t be re-purposed), he was saying, basically, I can’t live in a world where Bucky does not know me. Or, that’s how I interpreted it. I’d be really interested in other’s point of view on this pivotal scene, though!!
The one aspect that I’m still confused about is Steve’s healing factor – he seems to be completely fine, showing no bruising or wounds or anything – just keeps going … until the last scene with Bucky, when suddenly he needs hospitalisation and is almost incapable of moving, and moreover, wakes up still bruised. So I’m not sure how the continuity people figure his healing factor into battles, but there were moments that didn’t fit, for me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and apologise for the continuing delay, but I hope that you enjoy my discussion and come away with new things to think about 🙂
-Let’s call me Lily