Ten years ago Ed Brubaker began one of the most celebrated runs ever on the Captain America comic series. In his “Winter Soldier” storyline, Brubaker retold the relationship of Cap and his WWII sidekick Bucky in differently than the lighthearted way we saw them in the 40s. In his many WWII flashbacks, Bucky did the dirty deeds that Cap couldn’t do, and we saw a bit of that in the first movie “Captain America: The First Avenger” where Bucky was Cap’s sniper cover.
The reasoning for re-introducing Bucky to comic fans in this way was that Brubaker resurrected him in present day as the brainwashed assassin The Winter Soldier. Since then, the character has gone on to become one of the most popular anti-heroes in all of Marvel comics, and he even carried the shield for a time when Cap was killed off a few years ago.
His popularity, and the critical acclaim that Ed Brubaker’s amazing Cap run received, meant that it was only a matter of time before Marvel adapted the story into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Where the previous “Phase 2″ movies, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, did reference The Avengers in some ways; the two were relatively stand-alone stories in their own universes. That isn’t the case with The Winter Soldier. As Cap is so well tied to S.H.I.E.L.D., describing this sequel as “Avengers 1.5″ is pretty accurate. It’s a movie that follows that huge team-up, deals with the aftermath of the Battle of New York, and lays major ground work for not just The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in Phase 3.
Following the Chitauri invasion of New York, S.H.I.E.L.D. decides it’s best to squash threats before they become threats. They decide to do this by building three next-generation helicarriers that are linked together by a super advanced A.I. (be sure to pay attention to this) that is able to single out and target specific people that it deems to be a danger. Of course this sort of “freedom” goes completely against what Cap stands for, and it’s becomes pretty apparent that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t the same organization that he thought it was. The truth digs back to Cap’s past in WWII as a familiar villainous organization is alive and well in the 21st century and it’s up to Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon to stop their plan.
Although Cap has some welcome, and familiar, sidekicks in this movie it’s completely a Captain America movie. This is the gritty political story that Brubaker excelled at when he was writing the comic and anyone who read Captain America in the last decade (prior to the Marvel Now! stuff) will feel right at home. Steve is still adjusting to being alive seventy years later, and he does get some sort of closure with Peggy Carter in one of the more heart-wrenching scenes in the movie.
That scene, early in the movie, sort of sets an emotional tone for what Steve goes through in this story. Some people didn’t really feel emotionally connected to the first movie, but this one is different as Cap has to deal with his best friend coming back to life as a villain who doesn’t recognize him and wants to kill him. I really feel they handled the Cap/Bucky/Winter Soldier relationship perfectly here. They got the tone right, and fans of both characters will be happy with how it all ends up.
Along for the ride with Cap are Black Widow and Falcon. Natasha has so much to do in this movie it’s almost equally a Black Widow movie. I know a certain segment of fans are pressuring Marvel to do a solo Black Widow movie, but she does so much in this movie that she’s more than just a supporting character. Falcon has been Steve’s right-hand man in the comic for decades, and his inclusion on this movie is just as exciting as seeing The Winter Soldier realized on the big screen. All of his scenes are huge crowd pleasers, and he and Cap make such a fan-favorite team the end of the movie will have people wanting to see Captain America 3 more than any DC movie that may open on the same day. I just wish he said that his wings were made in Wakanda. That would’ve been awesome.
With the political thriller theme comes more realistic types of action. There aren’t aliens with laser blasts or Asgardians calling in the thunder here, it’s bullets and explosions mixed with awesome hand-to-hand combat. The action in The Winter Soldier is the best in any Marvel movie yet, and at times it feels like a big summer action movie that so happens to have a guy with a shield, a guy with a wing suit, and a villain with an awesome cybernetic arm. I should say that due to the style of action here, it is actually a little more violent than previous Marvel movies. While a lot of people were killed in Battle of New York in The Avengers, here you realize that the collateral deaths are being caused by stray bullets and explosions. It’s a slightly less “comic book” tone than when compared to an Iron Man or Thor movie in terms of the action.
As someone who loved Ed Brubaker’s entire run on Captain America, so much so that I still enjoy re-reading those story lines, I was really looking forward to seeing The Winter Soldier. It’s arguably one of the best stories that Marvel has told in the last couple of decades in the comic, and it’s been realized fantastically on the big screen. It gives Cap an emotional journey, and it changes the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever. The film raises the bar for action in superhero movies, and it still remains to be as fun as you want a Marvel movie to be. It’s not hyperbole to say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is better than The Avengers. It’s the new jewel in Marvel Studios’ crown. See it immediately.
It’s not hyperbole to say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is better than The Avengers. It’s the new jewel in Marvel Studios’ crown. See it immediately.