Captain America: The Winter Soldier Podcast
April 12, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
I just saw this movie in the theaters, opening night. And I loved it. This movie had everything. It had incredible action. It had a cool story. It had a meaningful character arc. It had a deeper meaning commenting on the nature of our espionage organizations that monitor and protect our country today. This movie had it all. And most of all. It was fun.
Now, I still think Avengers is a more fun movie. That movie really set a standard, and it’s going to be hard to beat. I hope they beat it, but it’s not going to be easy. However, I think this movie may be the second best Marvel movie; and there are some great Marvel movies. I think it’s better than it’s a lot better than its predecessor. It’s better Thor: The Dark World. It’s a better than Iron Man III. It’s a winner.
I have to watch this movie on two levels. One, as an objective movie watcher, and two, as a loyal comic book fan.
I realize that most of the people who watch this film are not comic book fans. Their only reference to Captain America will only come from the first movie Captain America: The First Avenger as well as the Avengers movie. And that’s okay, because these people can enjoy the movie as well. It’s a solid movie. And may create a few more Captain America fans.
But, if you are a comic book fan, boy are you in for a treat.
Now, I am a comic book fan. I am a Captain America fan. I even wear a Captain America t-shirt regularly. And I loved Ed Brubaker’s brilliant 8 year run on Captain America that started in 2005. I remember the return of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier, I remember his assassination in Captain America issue #25, and I remember when Bucky took over the mantle, and I remember when Steve Rogers returned and took over as director of S.H.I.E.L.D..
This movie is really for you. I was so impressed that they included so many elements from that Brubaker run.
Not only do we get the Winter Soldier, who looks exactly like he does in the comic: We get Hydra. We get crossbones. We also get Armin Zola, who in the comics has a robot body with no head, and a face in a computer screen in his chest. Here, we get the face in a computer screen, potentially echoing a future comic accurate incarnation. We even get Batroc the Leaper.
I am really amazed that Disney’s Marvel studios is just going for it when it comes to superhero movies. In the past, movie studios sort of treaded lightly around the topic.
When superheroes were made into blockbuster films, they either made significant changes to the superhero concept. Remember how excited we got at Tim Burton’s Batman, and how we were so pleased how close they were to the comic. Boy, were we willing to settle, because in retrospect, Tim Burton’s Batman was nothing like the comic book Batman.
For us comic fans, it is pretty astounding that we have entered the age of superheroes on film. I remember back in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s, dreaming about a day when superheroes movies would properly honor comics, deep down inside feeling that it could never happen. And yet, here it is. We are living in those times.
I like the fact that Disney’s Marvel Studios makes no apologies, no campiness, and no major changes. They’re just putting the comics on the big screen. And better yet, it’s working! They’re huge blockbuster hits.
Just to give you an idea how accurately they followed the comic down to the smallest detail, we get UFC champion George St Pierre as Batroc the Leaper. Batroc the Leaper was an old Captain America villain created in 1966 by Stan lee and Jack Kirby. He’s a French Savate champion who wears a purple Gi with a yellow strip in the middle. In this movie, GSP wears a purple shirt with a yellow stripe down the middle. That is so cool.
And Sam Wilson as the Falcon. Sure, he doesn’t have the classic red and white Falcon outfit. But most comic books fans will remember reading Warren Ellis’ 2004 miniseries Ultimate Nightmare. It was written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Trevor Harsine and was the first mini-series in the Ultimate Galactus trilogy. In that series, Ultimate Falcon premiered, and he wore an olive colored T-shirt, Army fatigue pants, cool sunglasses, and wore a military grade bird wings which enabled him to fly. This movie did a spot-on accurate depiction of the Ultimate falcon.
And of course comic book fans recognize Captain America’s uniform. It’s not just any uniform, but it is a spot on replica of the uniform he wore after Dark Siege when the president asked Steve Rogers to be the head of S.H.I.E.L.D..
We also get the headquarters of SHIELD, the Triskleion, which is the HQ of SHEILD in Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates. Not only did they use the same name, Triskelion, but this movie made it look identical to Bryan Hitch’s vision of the headquarters. That is some loyalty to the comic.
I also like the overall story.
There are some very interesting elements.
On the surface, it’s a high concept summer blockbuster with superheroes. Investigate a little deeper this film is also a classic political thriller that throws back to some of the best films from the 1970’s:
Films like Three Days of the Condor, All the President’s Men, The Parallax View, The Conversation, and the original 1962 Manchurian Candidate. There have been some good modern political thrillers as well. Oliver Stone’s JFK. Munich.
And like the best political thrillers, it is a thoughtful exploration into the nature of political corruption, terrorism, and warfare. And surprisingly, this film has the guts to address these issues as well.
From start to finish, we get to see high octane action from Captain America. The action starts with the scene where he raids a ship to rescue the SHIELD hostages, and takes out the terrorist kidnappers one at a time.
This film has some of the best action sequences that I have ever seen. Not only is the fighting really cool, but I like that the directors sort of added a slight comic book feel to the action. The way Captain America throws his shield, looks like panels from his comic book.
Let me tell you what I mean. There’s a scene when we see the Falcon’s wings for the first time. It’s when Natasha Romanov throws Jasper Stillwell off the roof and the Falcon catches him. We see him fly up with his wings pointed upwards. The scene is right off of a panel from the comic book from Ultimate Nightmare. That’s what I love about this movie. They could have just made him fly, but they didn’t. They made him fly like he does in the comic book.
And there are millions of moments like this. When the Winter Soldier fights Cap, they fight like in the comic book. It is so awesome.
This movie is BOTH an action roller coaster ride from beginning to end, it is also and a love letter to the Marvel Comics and us, its fans.
The movie basically starts with Captain America and Natasha Romanov and their team being sent in to rescue hostages on a ship, and it leads to some of the most spectacular fight sequences I’ve seen. Chris Evans is great here. I didn’t really care for him as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, and I thought he was okay in Captain America First Avenger and main Avengers movie. I think he’s really grown into the role and matured as an actor. He is completely winning me over as Cap.
And while he goes one-on-one with Batroc the Leaper, we realize that things are not as they seem. The Black Widow is not just there to help rescue the hostages, but has a secret mission to copy the files. When I saw this in the theaters, I didn’t realize what this scene was about. Why was she copying the files? Why did Nick Fury ask her to do this? What is the accusation that Nick Fury actually hired the terrorist kidnappers? I didn’t get it, but I do now, and I’ll explain it to you in minute.
We get to see Nick Fury in an action scene, and we see that he’s no slouch to fighting his way out of a pickle. It’s a tense scene where the police box Nick Fury in with police cars. It’s an interesting commentary on race. This is Nick Fury, literally one of the most powerful men in the world, and he’s being harassed by the police for being black. And then, it turns out that they are assassins, and they have all this technology and are prepared to take on the SHIELD top spy. But Fury is a bad ass and he’s able to get away, and is able to mow down the fake police officer.
I have to give Disney props for taking the risks and making such a gritty movie. After all, you’d think Disney would pull back a little and try to make a kid friendly movie to sell toys. But they don’t hold back, and this action scene is very violent, very disturbing, and very effective. It’s a great scene.
And here we meet the Winter Solider. He’s cool, he’s calm, and he is able to do what none of the other assassins could do. He throws a bomb that flips over Fury’s car, and he rips open the door with his metal arm. We can already tell. This man is very dangerous.
I was surprised to see that Robert Redford had such a prominent role. When I heard he was going to be in this, I assumed it be a cameo. Well, he’s one of the major players, and more than a worthy adversary. There’s sort of a Meta subtext going on. Like his movie counterpart, Alexander Pierce, who teaches the upstart superheroes about the modern espionage game, Redford, one of the legendary actors of the 1970’s, teaches this new generation of action stars thing or two about old school action. It’s a fun choice to play the villain. Redford is suave, powerful, and completely convincing as the senior SHIELD official.
It is here that we find out that Nick Fury actually hired the French terrorists to kidnap the SHIELD vessel. Remember me saying that I was confused by this? Surely Fury wouldn’t do that. Why would he do that? He’s a good guy. Well, a friend of mine explained it to me, and it makes perfect sense. I’m, surprised I didn’t figure it out for myself.
Nick Fury DID hire the kidnappers to kidnap the SHIELD agents on the boat. Why? Because he suspected that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD but he needed proof. He knew that the information on Hydra would be on a hard drive on the boat, because that was where the embedded Hydra- slash- SHIELD agents meet. If Nick Fury tried to send Black Widow there by herself, Hydra would have spotted her and she wouldn’t have gotten any information alone. So he hires a bunch of Super-villain terrorists to take over the ship; someone like Batroc the Leaper, someone powerful enough to take over a Hydra ship; and now THAT gives Nick Fury a reason to send an entire team in there, including Captain America, to rescue the SHIELD agents. Embedded in the superhero team, is Black Widow, who can now sneak in alone and get the information that Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD. Mission accomplished.
Once my friend explained this, the rest of the movie made much more sense.
I liked the team-up between Captain America, The Black Widow, and the Falcon. I’m glad they included the Falcon. Marvel didn’t just randomly chose a character to put here. The Falcon has always been associated with Captain America. In fact, the character debut in 1969 in the Captain American comic, issue 117. The falcon was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colon and has the distinction of being mainstream, comic’s first African American comic book superhero. There was Black Panther, but he’s not American, he’s African from the fictional country of Wakanda. The character of the Falcon and his friendship with Captain America was so popular, that from Fen 1971 to June 1978, for 7 years, the Captain America comic was called Captain America and the Falcon.
We also get Agent 13, Sharon Carter. Comic fans will recognize Sharon Carter, Agent 13 has a major player in the Captain America universe. She’s actually been in the Captain America comics longer than the Falcon. She was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and debut in 1966. She has always been Captain America’s on again off again love interest. In the comic, she is the niece of Peggy Carter, Steve’s Love Interest in the first Captain American movie.
And when we learn about the Zola-algorithm, we hear a name drop. Stephen Strange. As of yet, there is no Stephen Strange movie planned, but I feel that it is coming.
Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing Gary Shandling. I’ve always been a big fan of his, ever since the It’s Gary Shandling’s Show in the 80’s and then the Larry Sanders Show in the 90’s. He reprises his role as Senator Stern from Iron Man 2, and it’s great. Seeing him here as the sleazy senator, and then the “Hail Hydra” it’s great. But was it my imagination, but did he look really really bad. He looked swollen and old, and kind of flush. He’s only 64 years old, but he looked a little unhealthy. I’m not sure, but it was great to see him.
And here’s the really crazy thing about this movie. In the end, the Black Widow pulls an Edward Snowden and releases all the top secret documents that reveals Hydra’s involvement in SHIELD. Yes. This movie is saying that heroes released the Snowden documents.
Incidentally, Edward Snowden is the American computer programmer for the CIA who disclosed thousands of classified documents to the press. These documents uncovered the secret existence of a global surveillance program run by the NSA and an actual shadow organization known as the Five Eyes. The Five Eyes were created during World War II with the goal of monitoring communications between the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. These documents showed that the Five Eyes have been spying on citizens and acting above the law, and circumventing domestic regulations on spying. It basically proved that all those kooky conspiracy theories about data mining, real time monitoring of social media networks, bulk collection of private webcam images, these were absolutely true and are actually going on right now, supervised by our government. Scary stuff.
It’s easy as Americans to immediately assume that Edward Snowden is a bad guy. I certainly did when I heard about this on the news. However, by placing the Edward Snowden role in the hands of a superhero, we’re left to really examine whether or not Snowden’s leak was not a good thing. I think it takes a brilliant piece of art to change the way you look at our current society.
And I think the directors were very clever to make the actual leaker, the Black Widow. After all, the black widow is not an American. She’s a Russian. And she has betrayed the country before in the comic book. We never really know if she’s acting in the best interest of the U.S. or not. All we know is that she is incredibly intelligent and always has a plan. In other words, the directors are saying that we can never know if these leaks are good or bad. Only time and history will tell. Interesting stuff. Very thought provoking.
Incidentally, I know everyone made sure to stay for the end credit scene. Actually, this movie had two end credit scene.
In the first end credit scene, we see a classic Captain America villain known as Baron Von Strucker, wearing the classic monocle, straight out of the comic. Baron Von Strucker was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964, and was one of the leaders of the Nazi party in the 1930’s before becoming one of the modern leaders of Hydra. Von Strucker’ blood stream is infected with the deathspore virus which has suppressed his aging and has given him regenerative healing powers and limited invulnerability.
In the scene, he has apparently captured two mutants referred to as “The Twins”. One is apparently a male speedster and the other is a female magician. These two are obviously Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch who are comic book regulars and member of the Avengers. In the comic, they are also the children of Magneto. And in case you missed it, Scarlett Witch is being played by Elizabeth Olson, who is the younger sister of the infamous Olson twins, Mary Kate and Ashley Olson. As for Quicksilver, he is being Aaron Taylor Johnson, who is no stranger to superheroes, he played the titular character in movie series Kick-Ass.
Now here is something kind of weird. On the other end of the Marvel movie spectrum, the soon to be released in May 2014 X-Men Days of Future Past, by 20th century Fox. While Disney, who owns Marvel comics, actually owns the comic book rights to X-Men and Spiderman, 20th century Fox owns the movie rights to X-Men, and Sony owns the movie rights to Spiderman.
The 20th century Fox film X-Men Days of Future Past also stars the same comic book Character. After all, in the comic book, Quicksilver appears in both the X-Men and the Avengers. In the 20th Century Fox version, Quicksilver is played by Evan Peters. Why do I mention this? Because actor Evan Peters starred alongside Aaron Taylor Johnson as Kick Ass’s friend Todd.
Let’s talk about how this movie got made
This movie was written by the collaborative screenwriting team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who wrote the first Captain America movie, Captain America: The First Avenger. Incidentally, they also wrote Thor: The Dark World, as well as all three of the Chronicles of Narnia movies.
Markus and McFeely began writing this movie in June 2011, one month before the release of The first Captain America movie which came out in July of 2011.
From the beginning, they wanted to adapt Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier storyline but spent 6 months trying to come up with a way to adapt it. They finally settled on making it a conspiracy genre film. They took three films for inspiration: Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford. The Parallax View, and the Marathon Man.
For the director they considered numerous directors, and eventually settled on the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joseph. The two had directed a few films, but they were mostly known as television directors, mostly known for directing most of the episodes of the Fox show Arrested Development from 2003 to 2005, as well as the 2009 to 2014 NBC hit show Community. In fact, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige became interested in the Russo Brothers after seeing the Season 2 finale A Fistful of Paintballs and For a Few Paintballs More, which were a follow-up to the season 1 hit episode Modern Warfare.
The Russo brothers first met with Captain American writer Ed Brubaker, and picked his brain on the series.
Of course Chris Evan, Scarlett Johanson, and Samuel L. Jackson return in their classic roles, but we get a new player, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon. I didn’t recognize him from anything but he had this really pleasant quality. All you have to do is look at him, and you know he’s a nice guy. You know he’s a hero. As an actor, he apparently made his film debut opposite Eminem as the less heroic rapping champion Papa Doc in 8 Mile. He’s been in a million movies, but I think his next most famous role is Sergeant JT Sanbourn in The Hurt Locker.
Apparently, he took the role because partly because he wanted to give African America heroes another black superhero to enjoy in the Marvel Universe. However, Anthony Mackie was a comic book fan, and was a comic book fan of the Falcon, and was hoping to be in the classic red and white costume. He was very disappointed that he would not be wearing the classic costume.
Another thing that the directors tried to do was to use as little CGI as possible. Of course you have to use CGI at some point, and when they did, they used ILM, but, when they could, they used practical effects. I think that’s why the action sequences really did look good.
And there are the Easter eggs. Stan Lee as the security guard who says, “Man, I am so fired.”
Ed Brubaker, the comic writer of who wrote the comic of which this movie is based is in this movie and plays one of the scientists working on the Winter Soldier.
Also, blink and you’ll miss the tombstone for Nick Fury, you’ll see Ezekiel 25:17 the line that Samuel L Jackson’s character Jules from Pulp Fiction quotes before he kills someone. You know, “the path of the righteous man is beset ton all sides…’ I’m glad they only spend a millisecond on it. Anymore and it could have been a real groaner.
Lets’ talk about how this movie did.
This movie is both a critical and box office success. The critics love this movie, and it holds an astounding 89% on Rotten tomatoes. Only 1 week after its US release, it has already made $113 million in one week, and has already made $320 million worldwide. And it’s not going to stop. I estimate this movie will easily make $700 million or more and I’m really rooting for it to break the $1 billion club.
Even before the movie premiered, this movie did very well n test screenings. SO well, that the directors were hired back for the sequel, 3 months before this film was released. Markus and McFeely have revealed that they have been working on a script for the third film for almost a year. Yes. We are going to get a Captain America 3, directed by the same folks.
The fact that the actor Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes, as signed a 9 picture deal with Marvel Studios, has led to fans wondering if they aren’t planning an actual film adaptation of The Death of Captain America storyline, where Bucky Barnes inherits the mantle of Captain America.
Whatever they decide to do, I am on board. And I can’t wait!