I think that Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CATWS) is one of the pinnacles of the MCU. Now, you all know me, I’m not the biggest Captain America fan. But I do respect him and I do like his character a lot and his movies are definitely some of the best solo films that Marvel has to offer. It’s incredible.
Civil War was mind blowing and The First Avenger was definitely a well made film that tackled the impossible, actually bringing Captain America and the Red Skull to the big screen without making it absolutely dumb.
Which one is better, CATWS or Civil War? I honestly can’t decide between the two because they were both just that amazing, they elevated the character of Cap above and beyond and really fleshed him out as the heart and soul of this universe.
When I first saw CATWS I walked out of the theater with my mind blown. Wow. Just incredible. I remember thinking to myself how much guts they had to do the things they did in this movie. CATWS has a lot of themes and other nice tidbits that I’d like to discuss with you all today.
I am going to be discussing this film in detail. Thus, please don’t read on if for some reason you haven’t already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you haven’t seen it… DO IT. DO IT NOW.
The Man out of Time
I loved it when Loki described Cap as a “man out of time” and I also loved it when Ultron said that Cap couldn’t “live without a war”. These are excellent ways to describe the titular character himself. Throughout the MCU we always see Cap as the unshakeable leader and the best of humanity but it’s nice to know that even though he is the best of humanity he is still human at his core.
Throughout this film, we get glimpses of Captain America’s struggle to maintain a normal life after being unearthed from the ice. There are many instances that are beautifully interspersed throughout the film that illustrate this concept.
For example, when Cap has a fat list of what he’s missed over the past century, when Cap can’t seem to find a date, when Cap jokingly (albeit I’m sure he doesn’t mean it lightly at all) states that all his friends are dead, when Fury tells Cap that the world has changed and that Project Insight is necessary, and of course the heart wrenching scene where he meets the woman he loves after all these years. (I’ve provided links for reference).
I think when you break these scenes down the concept of the man out of time becomes extremely apparent. Imagine if you will being in the boots of Cap. The world that you know is now gone and the battles you face ahead of you are no longer morally right or wrong but instead shades of grey. The color of the life you once had has been sapped and you are forced to make do with people around you who truly don’t understand the way you feel. Look at the way Cap can control his composure after not being in this era for so long. From seeing the elderly Peggy, reminiscing about the past, and arguing about politics (more on that later) Cap is dealing with all this extremely well given that it’s only been about two years roughly.
Or is he really dealing with it well? You see, I think with all the fighting he’s been doing and the all of the loss he’s endured has taken a toll on him. In the short amount of time he has spent in the 21st century he had to take the mantle of Captain America again and fight an alien invasion, cope with the changing landscape of the world (more on this later), cope with the deaths of his closest friends, and again have to readjust to a civilian life he never truly felt a part of to begin with. I think that is his most fatal flaw and vulnerability as a character. His pain and suffering which he never gave time to address and the fact that he is, as Loki put, a man out of time.
Maybe this is why Ultron stated he couldn’t live without a war. Ultron isn’t dumb, he had intimate knowledge of Cap’s history. He knows deep down Cap is lonely, scared, and grieving. He knows that Cap mentally and physically needed a war to avoid dealing with the pain he is feeling.
Despite all of this, he is truly the best of us all and this concept in CATWS really hits that idea home.
Freedom or Security?
America. Freedom. The two are usually seen as complements to each other. So when you have a character called “Captain America” you’d pretty much assume that he’d stand for freedom, justice, equality, and ethics above everything else.
I particularly loved CATWS for its theme on freedom and security.
Captain America: The First Avenger already established that HYDRA is not in any association with the Nazis. Red Skull planned to bomb Berlin along with rest of the modern world in order to reign supreme over the people. On the surface, this doesn’t sound any different from the Nazis. Some aspects of it are the same but others not so much.
You see, it’s not about racial superiority. It’s not about being the king of the world. It’s not about expanding an empire. It’s all about the creation of a utopia. One where no one has to fear pain, suffering, death nor crime. A place where peace reigns and problems can be swiftly dealt with.
Let me state for the complete and utter record that I am not some sort of fascist sympathizer. Now that’s out of the way let me go on.
The fascist symbol is that of a bundle of sticks clumped together. This is a representation of unity and strength under one banner. When you have a sticks that are separated and by themselves, you get weakness. These sticks can be easily snapped. But when you clump and unify all these sticks together the sticks become unbreakable. This is at its core what HYDRA wishes to achieve. A society in which everyone can freely choose to do the things they wish will ultimately crumble. It provides a weak foundation that does absolutely nothing to preserve order, stability, and peace. The sticks that choose their own way will be snapped. Only by taking that freedom can unity be established and subsequent peace will follow. Pierce gives an excellent theoretical scenario that I think most people would have a tough time debating.
Is that wrong? Is it wrong to give up individual freedoms for security? That’s a question you’d have to ask a philosophy doctorate not me, hahaha.
Project Insight is a representation of control. It sought to eliminate those who were a danger or a threat to society. The ultimate question raised here is are those deaths worth it? Is a culling worth the increased quality of life and the construction of a better world? What price is too high? As Pierce states, in order to build a better world “it means tearing the old one down”.
The world is a disaster in HYDRA’s eyes. Look at all the crime, disease, pollution, wars, apathy, etc. that plague the world. Getting rid of this is the only way. HYDRA is realistic about obtaining peace. It knows that it is a painful transition but it must be done. Whether HYDRA was based in Sokovia, Russia, or the USA it made no difference. They all saw the common goal and would stop at nothing to obtain it. They seek to save the world, is their way truly wrong?
Cap begs to differ. Cap realizes that although the cost of freedom is high, it is a cost that most of the free world is willing to pay. Even if it means the path to our own destruction, one must never take away the freedom of choice and the freedom of doing what one chooses to do in their life. Cap believes in “punishment after the crime” and never “stopping a war before it starts”. Why? Because when you do that innocent people suffer and live in perpetual fear for the rest of their lives. Even though HYDRA aims to save the world by taking away freedom, is that really a life worth living?
These philosophical arguments should be reserved in academia, but it is masterfully implemented within the CATWS. So I implore you to make your own decision about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s what Cap would want anyways I’m sure ;).
This one is super obvious but I couldn’t write this analysis without bringing it up.
I think one of the biggest themes of CATWS is friendship. Cap has literally no one left from his past. He is a living, walking, talking, relic of history. A remnant of a time long gone. Imagine his surprise when his best friend is suddenly before him alive but doing evil.
Cap is a great hero. He embodies everything there is about a hero. He is a war veteran, so while he may have his reserves about killing he isn’t afraid to get dirty to save those who are in need of help. But above all he respects human life and cares deeply for the world. He believes in redemption and has a higher sense of compassion and understanding above others. Remember, the serum enhances everything in your body. It must have enhanced Cap’s empathy and goodness as well.
Cap goes great lengths to save Bucky. He refuses to lethally hurt him and at certain points outright refuses to fight him. This is largely due to the fact that Bucky is his friend. And Cap isn’t someone that goes back on his word. He isn’t someone who just drops his friends out of convenience or because it’s necessary. When everything’s against him he will still always do what is right. This concept is shown in the CATWS and it is truly done well.
Of course, this takes “having your bro’s back” to the nth degree but it’s fiction after all. Cap’s greatest traits are reflected through his friendship with Bucky. Despite all the evil he may have done under the influence of his greatest enemies, he still finds a way to see the good in the man who helped him since he was a scrawny picked on guy.
CATWS is a great film and the depth to it is insanely good. I’d honestly put it up there to rival with The Dark Knight as one of the greatest superhero movie sequels ever made. If you haven’t seen it in a while give it another go! Best Phase 2 film by far.