Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 revisited: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

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Ahead of the release of the much-anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron in cinemas on 23 April, we’re taking a look back at Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This week, it’s 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier!


The story

Captain America, having been frozen at the end of 2011’s The First Avenger, and woken up to join – nay, lead – the Avengers in the present day, finds himself still struggling to adjust to living in this new world during The Winter Soldier.

His friends are all dead, the woman he loves is now old and infirm, and he struggles to get along with the dark and complicated world of modern espionage.

When Nick Fury is attacked in broad daylight, he discovers that SHIELD has been compromised, and Cap has no choice but to turn renegade, trusting nobody until he can unearth the conspiracy and cleanse SHIELD of the bad element who are trying to use the organisation’s new Helicarriers to instigate total control over the population.

Essentially, under the control of Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, SHIELD are being turned into an oppressive global police force – not something that idealistic Captain American can abide. Worst of all, Pierce’s main asset is an assassin known as The Winter Soldier, who has a long and complicated history with Steve Rogers…


The characters

Poor ol’ Cap has something of a reputation as being the boring Avenger, but in reality he’s fascinating. This is a man ripped from obscurity to become the physical peak of humanity, and all that comes with it, only to then be catapulted decades into the future. He’s a man living in the future! How is that not fascinating?

Granted, the films haven’t had time to fully explore that aspect of the character yet, but Evans is a great fit in the role, and his dynamic with Black Widow is an ambiguous and sexually fraught delight throughout.

As Falcon, Anthony Mackie makes a great first impression. Introduced in the film’s opening scene, he’s instantly a good foil for the man the world sees as Mr. Perfect. The easy camaraderie between the pair feels more genuine than, say, Iron Man and War Machine, and their connection feels deeper due to their shared past in wars both contemporary and historic.

The Winter Soldier also does great work giving Nick Fury’s character some much-needed shading, but the really interesting figure is the titular assassin himself. Even before the reveal that he’s actually Cap’s old friend Bucky Barnes, he’s a brilliantly enigmatic figure.

The character design – all creepy masks, metal arms and lank hair – is superb, and Sebastian Stan is woefully under-utilised. It’s just as well he lives to fight another day come the film’s end, because we definitely need more Winter Soldier.


The best moments

As mentioned, any scene where the titular Winter Soldier appears is brilliant. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has often struggled to create compelling bad guys, or even henchmen, but the Winter Soldier bucks that trend emphatically. His history with Cap only heightens every encounter.

It would have been nice to see more of him as a person, as we only really get one scene with Bucky as the focus (the brainwashing scene), but there are future movies to explore this, so we’ll be patient.

Captain America The Winter Soldier

There are also some inventive action sequences, notably Cap having to fight a small army of SHIELD mercenaries in the cramped confines of a glass elevator, and his devastatingly awesome take-down of a SHIELD fighter jet with his bare hands (okay, his bare hands and a particularly sturdy shield).

Nick Fury also gets his moment, as his car is attacked in city-spanning action sequence, and who could forget Jenny Agutter’s jaw-dropping burst into action! Okay, so plot-wise it’s actually Scar-Jo’s Black Widow in a costume, but we still saw Jenny Agutter kicking ass, and you cannot take that away from us.


The best quotes

Natasha Romanoff: ‘Did you do anything fun Saturday night?’
Steve Rogers: ‘Well, all the guys from my barbershop quartet are dead, so, no, not really.’

Peggy Carter: ‘Steve. You’re alive. You came back.’
Steve Rogers: ‘Yeah, Peggy.’
Peggy Carter: ‘It’s been so long. So long.’
Steve Rogers: ‘Well, I couldn’t leave my best girl. Not when she owes me a dance.’

Natasha Romanoff: ‘The truth is a matter of circumstances, it’s not all things to all people all the time. And neither am I.’
Steve Rogers: ‘That’s a tough way to live.’
Natasha Romanoff: ‘It’s a good way not to die, though.’

Alexander Pierce: ‘I can bring order to the lives of seven billion people, by sacrificing twenty million. It’s the next step, Nick. If you have the courage to take it.’
Nick Fury: ‘No. I have the courage not to.’

Nick Fury: ‘Well… It looks like you’re giving the orders now, Captain.’


Avengers reassemble

It’s likely that Cap’s actions here, in disassembling the entirety of SHIELD, lead directly to the events of Age of Ultron. Losing SHIELD is a major upheaval for the MCU, and it’ll be interesting to see how Cap copes with the weight of having to shoulder the responsibility of his actions when things start to go wrong and there’s nobody else to help back him up. Don’t bet on a lack of SHIELD meaning a lack of Nick Fury though – when the chips are down, Fury always has something up his sleeve.

Avengers Age of Ultron

The Winter Soldier is still on the loose, though whether he’ll appear in Age of Ultron is unclear. Definitely due to appear, however, is Mackie’s Falcon, and with Ultron’s drones able to take flight, his new-and-improved wings will surely be put to good use.

There’s also the matter of the post-credit sequence, which affords us our first glimpse of the Maximoff twins, aka Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, both of whom are joining the Avengers for their second team-up adventure and are sure to make a huge impact, both for the characters, and for the film itself.


What’s your favourite moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Let us know below…

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