Chet Greason, Popcornucopia
Captain America remains one of the most compelling entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his newest film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. How?
First of all, his movies are not pure superhero movies as we’ve come to know them. His first film, Captain America: The First Avenger, was more of a WWII movie mixed with the superhero genre. The latest film takes its cues from the political thrillers and espionage films of the 1970s, even going so far as to cast that genre’s stalwart Robert Redford in a prominent role. In Winter Soldier, there’s as much spying, double-crossing, and cerebral feints as there are explosions and skull-smashing.
The film also expands the universe nicely, giving additional character development to regulars Cap (Chris Evans), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). It also adds new characters, such as Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), and the titular Winter Soldier (Sabastian Stan).
Granted, the twists aren’t anything too mind-bending, and you can spot the villains almost instantly; but Cap 2 still puts a new spin on the espionage genre by casting a Boy Scout soldier with a traditional good vs evil worldview as its protagonist. In the film, Cap is given a crash course in modern politics after the morally straightforward job of battling Nazis in WWII.
Which leads me to the most compelling aspect of Winter Soldier: You would think, with a title like Captain America, that the blockbuster Hollywood film would be nothing but jingoistic chest-beating; a white-washed personification of alleged American ideals designed to sell Brand America to both Americans and the world at large. Not so. In fact, the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is downright subversive.
Yes, Captain America is honourable to the point of naïveté. In this way, he actually personifies what America once was… before it became the world’s lone superpower.
Thawed out in today’s world, Cap’s America is not what it used to be. Cap is at odds with SHIELD, the government defense agency he works for that’s hell-bent on surveilling the world, hoarding personal data, and stopping threats before they happen. This doctrine clashes with Cap’s old-fashioned notions of freedom.
It doesn’t take a political science scholar to figure out that SHIELD is a thinly-veiled reference to the NSA.
It gets better too. It turns out that SHIELD, whose mandate includes the protection of innocents, is no longer the agency it once was. Instead, it’s become a corrupted organization; co-opted by those who wish to retain power at any cost. In their battle to keep the world from delving into the tyranny of pre-emptive strikes (drones and kill-lists, anyone?) one of the first things Cap and his allies do upon gaining the upper hand is to dump all classified SHIELD data, Edward Snowden-style, to the Internet for all to see.
Like I said, you want to assume the role of Captain America is to personify what’s been dubbed online as ‘MURICA, or the mindless mix of blind patriotism, personal greed, and political apathy that is destabilizing the former superpower, curtailing freedoms, and hurtling the planet towards a new dark age.
Instead, Captain America, in this newest film incarnation, represents what was once great about America, and appears to be reminding its citizens that there’s nothing “American” about its actions of late.
(As an added bonus to Tarantino fans, check out that quote on the gravestone at the end of the film. Nice!)