The MCU Ranked: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’
Movie: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Heroes: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natalia Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie)
Villains: Bucky Barns/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), Alexander Price (Robert Redford), Armin Zola (Toby Jones)
Support Cast: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Sharon Carter/Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), Agent Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández), Senator Stern (Gary Shandling), The World Security Council (Chin Han, Jenny Agutter, Alan Dale, Bernard White)
Cameos: Stan Lee, about to be fired from his job at the Smithsonian, which also employs Gary Sinise as their PA Announcer. Danny Pudi from Community, previously worked on by the Russo brothers, is a SHIELD agent. The writer who created The Winter Solder, Ed Brubaker, appears as a scientist who created him in-universe. Joe Russo appears as a doctor. See also: End Credits Scene.
Plot: Captain America continues working for SHIELD. but becomes increasingly aware of corruption and extremism within the agency. This culminates in an attack on Nick Fury involving the mysterious Winter Soldier assassin. Cap and Black Widow go underground in an effort to find answers.
Review: Out of every film in the second phase of the MCU, none hit the mark as well as this one. It’s a perfect blend of intrigue and comic book action with plenty of effective character moments in the mix. It’s also the first movie since The Avengers that feels like it’s part of a wider universe partly thanks to the inclusion of Black Widow has a major character and partly due to the smaller players filling out the background. This is a key reason why the major twist which occurs in this film works.
As Rogers and Romanov delve deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Winter Soldier and who orchestrated the attack they discover that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD decades earlier and have been systemically taking them over from the inside. This would be a tough pill to swallow if they hadn’t made it feel like it impacted on the whole franchise. Bringing back Toby Jones as Armin Zola, now in a digitised form, gives the plot roots in the The First Avenger and the involvement of Agent Sitwell and Senator Stern links it to other characters such as Tony Stark and Agent Coulson. It’s extremely well handled.
This reveal goes beyond this one film. Moving forward The Avengers operate as an independent entity moving forward. On the small screen SHIELD becomes a much smaller group and operates underground, lead by Agent Coulson. Hydra also emerges as a present enemy even after they get their big scheme stomped on by Cap.
In spite of the dense story we also have consistent character work with Rogers feeling out of place in the modern world to the point that Black Widow keeps trying to set him up on dates. Meeting with an elderly Peggy Carter only emphasises how much the world has moved on without it. It’s in his role as Captain America that Rogers finds his role, in standing up for his values of patriotism and freedom. His new ally is Sam Wilson, the soldier technologically enhanced with mechanical wings. They don’t spend a huge amount of time on this relationship but the audience feels their immediate bond in the opening scene. It’s a brilliantly directed scene when Wilson suggests to Rogers that it’s the softness of his bed that contributes to his sense of displacement, and Rogers finally feels understood. It’s understated but effective.
For directors coming from television sitcoms the Russo’s have an uncanny knack for building their action scenes. Even without the grandiose city-sized battles and armies of aliens of The Avengers they construct sequences of equal excitement. It’s all very fast and packed with energy. Chris Evans trained in four types of martial arts, parkour and gymnastics in preparation for this film, giving Rogers a dynamic fighting style and fluid movement. The way he precisely dispatches his enemies and bounces his shield of the walls captures the feeling of the comic character better than ever before. The equally matched Winter Soldier is solid rival, and their hand-to-hand fights need to be watched several times before you can pick up all the details.
All in all this is a movie that shows people why we read comics.
Credits Scene: This one is a real smorgasbord of information and hints to future films. First we meet the delightfully villainously named Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and Dr. List (Henry Goodman) at a Hydra facility. We learn that in addition to Chitauri technology left over from their invasion they have Loki’s staff and have been making super-powered people, most notably Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen).
Later we rejoin Bucky exploring his former identity at the Smithsonian, solidifying the notion that Rogers got through to him and his memory is returning.
Most Notable Easter Egg: At the beginning of the movie Wilson suggests that Rogers listens to the ‘Troubleman Soundtrack’, which Rogers adds to a list of pop culture and world events. Many countries got their own do-to list, so while you Americans saw I love Lucy, Berlin Wall, Steve Jobs and Disco us in Australia saw AC/DC, Steve Irwin, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Tim Tams. To be fair, Tim Tams are pretty amazing.
Germany added Currywurst and Oktoberfest to their version, Italy had World Cup ’82 & ’06, Vasco Rossi, Roberto Benigni and Ferrari’s victories at F1 Grand Prix, the UK included Sherlock, The Beatles, World Cup Final (1996) and Sean Connery…you get the idea.
Phase 2 Hand Loss: They continue to pay tribute to Empire Strikes Back with hands being removed – obviously The Winter Soldier himself is the winner this time around with his robo-arm.
Coolest Moment: Winter Soldier catching Cap’s shield and throws it back gives the moments the punch it deserves.
THE MCU MASTER LIST
As we said last time, the top of this list is getting very competitive. The Winter Soldier edges ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy simply because it keeps it grounded and FINALLY feels like they’re pulling the whole universe together.
Click those numbers if you want to see what we said about the others entries.
1. THE AVENGERS
2. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
3. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
4. THOR: RAGNAROK
5. IRON MAN
7. THE PUNISHER (SEASON 1)
8. IRON MAN 3
9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
10. IRON MAN 2
11. AGENTS OF SHIELD (SEASON 1)
12. THOR: THE DARK WORLD
13. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Next: we’re going to catch up on some small screen material before Age of Ultron.