Happy Free Comic Book Day, Super Friends, and Happy #TeamDC Weekend!! 😉 If you’re one of the 10,000,000,000,000 people seeing Captain America: Civil War this weekend (as you should be…it was awesome!!! :)), we thought a lil’ Cap catch-up might come in handy for ya. Here to provide you with some proper Captain America knowledge is our own resident Boy Scout (and I mean that in the most awesome of ways!!! :)), Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Ho-mie! #Language!! 😉 xoxox
“Captain America: The First Avenger focuses on the early days of the Marvel Universe when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. As Captain America, Rogers joins forces with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.) Meanwhile, in the sequel, As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and Shield agent, the Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.” (Marvel Studios)
I can’t say I was a huge fan of this character, because I wasn’t. I’d often poke fun at him, calling him the Jose Canseco of Superheroes. Obviously, Jose taking Performance Enhancing Drugs would be the equivalent of Steve Rogers taking the super soldier serum. I had never read a Captain America comic book, nor did I intend to. The only reason I watched Captain America: The First Avenger was because it was the film directly proceeding The Avengers, and I’m a completest. When I actually watched that first film, it hit me. I was wrong! The character kicks ass. One of the things that is especially intriguing about The First Avenger is that it is a World War 2 period piece. I love the pulpy tone and feel of the film. Director Joe Johnston really calls to mind such films as The Rocketeer and Indiana Jones. Both films he worked on in different capacities. Apart from a physical change, the character of Steve Rogers doesn’t change much. His ultimate goal is to serve his country. So what we as audience members get invested in, is his drive, will and determination to achieve that goal, no matter what obstacles stand in his way; whether they be his superiors in the army, or the villainous Red Skull and his ominous Hydra terrorist group.
Having read some Captain America comics since seeing this film, one can see the film is a love letter of sorts to the early source material. His origin is spot on picture perfect. Also, the visual effects showcasing Chris Evans as puny Steve Rogers, to super soldier looked flawless. The movie finds a clever way to acknowledge the characters history of comics being sent out during the war to inspire the troops. We even get to see a scene paying homage to the classic comic book cover where Captain America punches Hitler. This scene played out tastefully, without disrespecting the plight of those who lived through World War II, or taking us out of the movie. The only major change to the mythos that I can see is the age of Bucky Barnes. In the movie, he is a little older then Steve Rogers, and acts as an older brother to him. In the comics, Bucky is 12, and looks up to Cap as a father figure/mentor. I prefer the movie version, as the idea of a 12 year old boy running into battle with a grown man against evil doers, is ridiculous! Yes, even if it’s Batman and Robin, so I’m not just saying it! Their teamwork and fight combo’s during their train fight against Hydra agents was fun to watch. You could really sense their cohesiveness. This, plus the scene where Bucky saves Steve from a bully early in the film, sets the tone for their friendship, makes it hard to and emotional to watch Bucky plummet to a watery “death.” Yes, another superhero movie with a battle on a train. The tradition continues.
Speaking of the battles and action scenes, they felt very intense and personal, while at the same time, maintaining that grand scale you’d expect when the tesseract and the fate of the world are in play. The rescue of Bucky and the Howling Commandos was a great sequence. It really showcased Cap’s leadership, and ability to take charge. This sequence was also the one that felt most like an Indiana Jones film. And the stare down between Captain America and Red Skull at opposite ends of a walk way, separated by fire, felt like an MMA weigh in amplified by 100. The aforementioned train battle features some great shield action. Sure he’s gotten more inventive and creative with how he wields it, but seeing him launch that thing as far as he did, as well as using it in close quarters, showcased how formidable it was. Who knew a star spangled frisbee could be so bad ass! In terms of villainy, I’d rank Red Skull second in the MCU behind Loki. Sure, the writers went stereotypical when it came to portraying the “Super Nazi”, but the character was a formidable threat. He definitely fell in line with the evil opposite of our hero motif Marvel relies on. The difference being, even though it could have, the character doesn’t devolve into a one dimensional cartoonish caricature. The final battle on an aircraft headed towards New York full of explosives between Captain America and Red Skull was very powerful. It was a battle, of which the outcome would have transformative results for the world, just like the real war of World War II, the backdrop of this film. The battle in the film had worldwide implications, but was fought between two nationalistic power houses, just as World War II was a world altering event, with the U.S, and Germany dominating the conversation and history books. The film very much echoed its historical setting very well at times. Seeing Captain America wrestle the falling aircraft from Red Skull’s control, and guiding it into the water, served to provide a hair raising, edge of your seat moment, in superhero popcorn entertainment, but also provides an emotionally moving reminder of the selflessness that members of armed forces serve with to ensure freedom, both past and present.
The First Avenger is a war drama that concerns itself with Steve Rogers’s undeterred desire to fight for and uphold, the principle he believes in, and the country he loves so much. Winter Soldier, meantime, is a political thriller, focused on Steve Rogers fighting to save an establishment that is broken, and to restore the ideals of his beloved country that has seemingly lied and turned on him. In a world where wiki leaks, Edward Snowden, political misconduct, conspiracy, and Donald Trump running for presidency are hot topics, this sequel couldn’t have been more appropriate. Steve Rogers starts butting heads with Nick Fury immediately, when he sends him on a mission hunting suspected terrorists. Captain America isn’t fond of what he perceives as America’s new practice of bringing in people who are “presumed guilty, until proven innocent.” In apprehending the French terrorist Batroc, Captain America recovers a drive that brings the Star Spangled Avenger’s past colliding with his present. The information revealed to Fury on this drive is that, since SHIELD’s founding post WWII, Hydra has operated within its ranks, orchestrating word wide chaos, which would make people more willing to surrender freedom in the name of security. Elements of this plot are eerily similar to the world we live in today. Kudos to directors, the Russo brothers and the writers, for their realism and relevance with this plotline.
When this information comes to light, Nick Fury is “assassinated” (another Marvel death fake out. They really gotta stop that.) Things get worse for Cap, and more comic bookie for the film, when it’s revealed that the assassin is the Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes. Apparently, Hydra retrieved the body of Caps fallen friend, mind wiped, him, did similar experiments to him that were done to Steve Rogers, and presto change-o, the film has a badass antagonist for Captain America to throw punches with. There were slight alterations from the comic book origin, and the fact that he didn’t have much dialogue was a wasted opportunity. Yet, his silence and stoic nature made him a foreboding, seemingly unstoppable force. If he was an old school WWF superstar (never mind that WWE shit), he’d be the Undertaker of superhero movies. When Cap realizes how far the corruption within SHIELD reaches, all the way to head SHIELD official Alexander Pierce, Steve is branded a deserter of sorts and is on his own. This provides the perfect opportunity for Black Widow and Falcon to be thrust into the heart of the story. They are essentially the new Howling Commandos. Whereas I felt, the Howling Commandos were nothing more then set dressing/fan service in the first film, I found both Black Widow and Falcon served a purpose in the narration. Black Widow fills the role of Steve’s best friend. She’s essentially Bucky with better hair and boobs. Having said that, the film portrays Natasha as the supreme BADASS agent and spy she is. This is by far her best appearance in the MCU. Falcon provides Cap with a pupil of sorts. Cap looked up to Bucky, in the first film, now the roles are reversed, with Sam Wilson seeing Captain America as a living legend. The remainder of the film sees Steve, Natasha and Sam go against their country, and major peacekeeping organization to stop Hydra from enacting their plan, which is to locate individuals who pose a threat to Hydra’s plan, and use the satellite guided guns of the new technologically advanced Helicarrier’s satellite guided guns to wipe them out.
While the film does use modern threats, concerns, and themes from the real world, its villains and their plot, add the right amount of comic book logic to facilitate splash page worth action and effects. It seems as though The Russo brothers took a template of what Joe Johnston did, and amplified it tenfold. Remember the train fight, where Cap and Bucky take on Hydra agents in close quarters? Well, in the sequel, Captain America takes on double the amount of Hydra agents, in the even more confined space of an elevator. The fight reminded me of when Batman fought that grouping of thugs at the doc yard in Batman Begins. Though, I have to admit the fight in Winter Soldier was cooler, because the cinematographer pulled out and allowed you to see the fight transpire. The fight with the Red Skull from First Avenger in his aircraft is replaced by a fight with Winter Soldier, inside and more impressively, on top of a Helicarrier. As a one on one fight, this was the most visceral and edge of your seat fight in the MCU. It tops The First Avenger final fight, by having a Helicarrier, Steve & Bucky fall into a watery abyss. Two completely fresh action sequences include the rescue of SHIELD agents on a stolen SHIELD water bound vessel. In the first film, Captain America was more of a brawler. That remains in Winter Soldier, though you see his technique is more refined and martial arts inspired, since his time with SHIELD. Regarding this scene, I’ll say that up until Batman v Superman, I was jealous of this scene. It was the quintessential Batman fight scene in a Captain America film. The attempted assassination of Nick Fury was a great scene and was quite intense. When Nick’s car is chased and cornered at an intersection before being smashed and almost crushed. Then we have, Bucky methodically stalking a wounded Nick Fury. I legitimately thought Nick was a goner. Then I remember this is a Marvel film, so chances are he wouldn’t die. Either way, thus is some of the best espionage thriller, and hand to hand combat action, with a car chase thrown in since the Bourne franchise.
The acting was strong throughout both films. Chris Evans plays the optimistic Boy Scout and dutiful soldier to perfection and then plays a Cap’s disillusion with a corrupt SHIELD, in the sequel so naturally. Even though his methods alter in the sequel, his core beliefs, and his love and desire to do what’s right never wavers. That juxtaposition only works, because Chris Evans plays the part with sincerity. Although, Evans is a Patriots fan, so I never doubted him. We Patriots fans are great at everything we do! 😉
As I mentioned above, I prefer the Bucky from the films over his comic book counterpart. That’s due in large part to Sebastian Stan. Gone is the “Golly Gee Whiz” of the 40s, and in his place stands someone who defends the defenceless, a man of strong character, and a good friend. The chemistry between Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans in the beginning of The First Avenger made Bucky’s “death”, more tragic, and heightened the moments upon his return, only to make his reveal as the Winter Soldier more gut wrenching. Since Sebastian Stan has very few lines of dialogue as Winter Soldier, I’ll give him the edge over Tom Hardy’s Bane, for emoting with a mask covering your face. (That should totally be an Oscar category, by the way!) I didn’t mention her prior, but I really enjoyed the character of Peggy Carter and Hayley Atwell’s performance. In The First Avenger, she held an equally important position, to her male SSR (pre-SHIELD) counterparts. She was actually integral to selecting and preparing Steve Rogers for his role as Captain America. Their relationship formed naturally, throughout the course of the film, and neither character fundamentally changed when their feelings turned romantic (unlike in Thor). Peggy Carter as played by Hayley Atwell, remained strong, self sufficient and ballsy but maintained girlish charms that make her a total package. The romantic believability between the two actors was quite strong. So much so, that I was moved to tears when they were saying their goodbyes when Steve took his plunge. The tears continued to flow in Winter Soldier, when Steve Rogers visits an aged Peggy Carter suffering from Alzheimer’s. One minute she remembers him, and details of their time together, other times not remembering who he is! My heart broke during this scene. Such a real circumstance with palpable emotions. Damn it Marvel! You people are supposed to be the “fun” ones! In terms of villainy, I liked both Hugo Weaving as Red Skull and, Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. The two characters and actors were a great juxtaposition to one another, but served the same agenda, Hugo Weaving was the larger than life, power craving dictator, while the other was a calm, underhanded traitorous bastard. Hugo Weaving apparently didn’t enjoy his time in the MCU, but you’d never know it. His performance was great, and he shined in scenes opposite Chris Evans. What can I say about Robert Redford? He’s as close to a sure bet as one can get. He grounds the evil of the story in reality, just when it seems the film may be about to get too “out there.” I’ve already spoken a bit about Black Widow, and Falcon, and by extension, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie. So I’ll simply add, to pay close attention to the helicopter scene. It offers up the best ScarJo/Black Widow cleavage shot in the MCU. Also, Anthony Mackie rocks that Falcon uniform and mechanical wings, proving that sometimes changes from comics to screen are for the better. (Falcon’s original comics costume would look horrid on screen.) The only performances that bothered me were Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan and Domenic Cooper as Howard Stark. McDonough and his character are very dull, and uninteresting. Also, Dum Dum Dugan is possibly the most stupid character name in comics. It’s just as stupid as DC’s Damien Darkh on Arrow; also, terribly played by McDonough. Domenic Cooper is a great actor, but as Howard Stark, he’s just going through the motions, trying to mimic the actions, comedy and performance of his on screen future son, played famously by Robert Downey Jr.
Unlike the Thor franchise, which exists solely to get audiences used to the blonde guy in the Avengers, that is a bargain basement version of He-Man; Captain America deserved a series of solo movies in the MCU. It makes sense that Marvel went with Iron-Man and The Incredible Hulk first. After all, they are the more action packed and sexier names. Even still, The First Avenger proved that Captain America’s old school heroics are valid, and still mattered. The Winter Soldier made Captain America cool again, and also served up Marvel Studio’s best movie on the whole, in my opinion. Being able to turn me, from not giving a rats ass about Captain America, to eagerly anticipating his third movie, Civil War, signals a job well done for Marvel Studio’s, Chris Evans and all involved in both films. In terms of Civil War….Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! (PS: I’m #TeamIronMan because he’s banged all 12 Maxim cover models in a calendar year, Seriously, Tony Stark alluded to just that in the first Iron Man film. #priorities)
Ho-stess’s PS– #TEAMCAP!!! SO FREAKING HARD!!!!!!!