Captain America is my favorite Avenger. He has the most interesting origin story… a man out of time constantly fighting Hydra, I enjoy watching him in combat with his shield on the ground as opposed to watching Iron Man or Thor fly about, and he’s just damn likeable as played by former Human Torch, Chris Evans.
In THE AVENGERS INITIATIVE: PHASE TWO (starting with IRON MAN 3 and ending after GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON in summer 2015), Marvel Studios has really found the heart and soul of each of their A-List Avengers in their individual pictures.
IRON MAN 3 wrapped up that franchise with an explosive (pun very much intended) finale fit for the boisterous Tony Stark. Even the credits exploded with a 3D 1970s style befit the franchise with a great, punchy score by Brian Tyler.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD sent us on LORD OF THE RINGS style epic fights amongst sword carrying soldiers in outer space, with lots of myth and everyone’s favorite Marvel villain, Loki. Brian Tyler again did the score, this time befitting the magnitude and epicness of the God of Thunder alongside great comic-esque paintings of the characters.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER also brings Captain America further into his own subuniverse within the official Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Now that the origin films are gone and there is little to set up for the AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, each hero is free to play in his own universe, with less (even after credits) sequences that set up AVENGERS 2. Rather, these days the post-credit sequences set up the next film within the THOR or CAPTAIN AMERICA franchises… not that WINTER SOLDIER doesn’t tease AGE OF ULTRON characters…
As each sub-franchise takes on more of a unique feel, all under the Marvel Studios banner of combining light heartiness and jokes to the films to avoid Marvel becoming DC’s DARK KNIGHT or MAN OF STEEL franchises, the good Captain moves out of WWII and into a modern day espionage thriller… with just a few super soldiers, crazy living computers, and a winged soldier.
If Iron Man is the most classic superhero formula, and Thor is more a space saga (as I assume GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will be… only more lighthearted and joke filled than any other MCU film yet), then Captain America is the aforementioned thriller.
Not a whole lot of fight scenes, though when they arise, they are quite the spectacle, Captain America must navigate S.H.I.E.L.D. allies and enemies, as it is learned that (SPOILERS) the organization is so infiltrated it is basically the current power base of the non-defunct Hydra. “If a head is cut off , two more will take it’s place.
Robert Redford aka Alexander Pierce, hired Nick Fury, is in charge of mediating between the council (seen in THE AVENGERS as willing to blow up New York before the Avengers had time to save the city from Loki’s invasion). But in actuality… he is a Hydra agent… at the very top of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In his new origin, the Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes is now a Hydra agent, brainwashed and given a metal arm after he was found in the ice after dropping off the train in FIRST AVENGER. It turns out the experiments done to him before Steve Rogers saved him from the prison camp in FIRST AVENGER gave him super soldier abilities, which is how he survived the fall and hasn’t age like his old comrade. The Winter Soldier really isn’t the focus of the movie in any sense of the imagination, just a cog in a much larger Hydra plot that goes all the way to the tippy-top of S.H.I.E.L.D.
So, S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed three Helicarriers, all able to access and neutralize threats on their own before they happen, by computing loads of data and past behavior to determine who is a threat to national security.
Of course, Hydra has compromised the three Helicarriers, via an awesome movie interpretation of the living via machine Zola. Zola, alive in computer form in a giant room of old school computers, an homage to his robot body in the comics that lives to fight the Captain in modern day, has written the equation that selects targets. Targets that would include people like Nick Fury and Agent Maria Hill, as well as the Avengers themselves.
Among the targets listed is one Stephen Strange, confirming Marvel’s plans to perhaps do a DOCTOR STRANGE film post AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
The other exciting tease? The 1st credit sequence shows a very much still active Hydra, even after Pierce and Zola are foiled, their Helicarriers out of commission and their agents either dead or captured. This Hydra has Loki’s staff from THE AVENGERS, as well as two mutants, one of which is 100% Scarlet Witch (as seen in set photos last week) suggesting the other cage holds Quicksilver. Tying their origin to Hydra is one way to write their father, Magneto, who is owned by Fox not Marvel Studios, into the MCU. So here we get a look at our two new Avengers for AGE OF ULTRON and confirmation that even if they don’t appear in AVENGERS 2, Hydra will be back for CAPTAIN AMERICA 3.
Finally, in the new tradition set by THOR: THE DARK WORLD, the other post-credit sequence sets up either CAPTAIN AMERICA 3 or a less likely Winter Soldier film (he did have his own comic for a while near the start of MARVEL NOW!). It is simply the Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes, visiting the Smithsonian to see the Bucky Barnes exhibit, unable to remember his past before he was an agent of Hydra.
There are lots of great mini-set-ups in the film as well for other Captain America comic characters including Agent 13, who has little to do in the film but would likely be more popular and even have a relationship with Steve Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA 3.
To wrap things up, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is another great film out of the AVENGERS: PHASE TWO set. It raises many questions for both the series AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (which I have admittedly not watched since 2013) and AGE OF ULTRON. With the council dead and S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed as a Hydra front, I’m guessing Nick Fury, who everyone thinks is dead, will lay low til Ultron when he needs to call upon the Avengers once again. The Avengers really don’t need S.H.I.E.L.D. to operate (last time they abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury to save New York) and with Nick Fury in hiding I don’t see the organization coming back soon.
I do need to catch up on the TV show AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. to see how the events of WINTER SOLDIER play out there.
This time with a score by Henry Jackman who wrote fantastic music for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (though Alan Silvestri of BACK TO THE FUTURE and AVENGERS fame is sincerely missed), the good Captain has found his unique sub-franchise complete with perhaps the greatest credit sequence yet (it’s neck and neck with IRON MAN 3’s) cementing the Captain America brand amongst the AVENGERS brand.
P.S. even Danny Pudi (Abed on COMMUNITY) is in this movie! Cool cool cool!