When Chris Evans began his tenure as the Star Spangled Captain America, it was obvious that he was the perfect choice for the role. Until his character’s standalone sequel, however, perhaps fans didn’t know how perfect. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a definitive turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
If there was any doubt before his third outing as Steve Rogers, or Captain America, The Winter Soldier cemented the fact that Chris Evans understood the character in such a spectacular way. The character’s idealism never crosses the line into unbearable naivety. He is everything the United States is supposed to stand for, and the character is the personification of the values America wants to uphold. Rather than simply paying lip service to these values, his actions show how committed the character is to these ideals every opportunity he is given. He’s not the quintessential American hero because he talks a big game, he’s every aspiration Americans have distilled into one man.
Steve’s relationship with Natasha Romanoff, or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is on full display through this movie, and it really is a shame we didn’t get to see more of this friendship throughout the MCU. This was the first time we saw Black Widow as more of a fully formed character, and the first step in removing her from the lens of the male gaze. Her support of her friend even in dire circumstances was really the true essence of this character who until this movie had been so sexualized.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier saw the introduction of Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, or The Falcon. Right from his first outing, it was clear Mackie had something special to offer the MCU. His heart is just so evident in every scene. The groundwork was laid for Sam to take the mantle of Captain America, and he has been showing us all his worthiness ever since. It’s been a shame to see how little he’s been given to do in Marvel’s movies until now, but he absolutely deserved his own TV series and it’s clear he’s just getting started with a character he set down roots for in this movie.
The story aspect of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was arguably one of the strongest in the MCU to date. In a franchise mainly known for its action sequences and gorgeous people affiliated with each project, this movie was an outlier. Having SHIELD, an organization fans had been set up to root for be revealed to be a covert Nazi-adjacent operation was a stroke of storytelling brilliance. It was an indictment against complacency, and a reminder that not everything is always as it seems.
An entire piece could be written about the excellence that was the elevator scene. In a franchise known for major action sequences, the elevator scene was such a gorgeous self-contained work of art. From the camera angles to the practical choreography, it was an exquisite design that had a claustrophobic yet intimate feel from beginning to end. Marvel captured something special with this sequence that it has yet to capture again.
Unfortunately, Captain America: The Winter Soldier continues in Marvel’s tradition of playing fast-and-loose with consequences. In this case, fans watched Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) succumb to injuries sustained after a shoot-out, only to be revived immediately. As I’ve said before, it cheapens the emotional impact of losing a character on screen. There was an interesting twist with this phenomenon however with the character of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Fans saw this beloved character fall to his death in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, this is one character Marvel has done so many amazing things and told so many incredible stories with. This was a character worth bringing back from the beyond.
Robert Redford was the absolute legend that he always is, but unfortunately his character also fell down the deep abyss that claims so many Marvel villains. There was so much potential in this villain. He could have been an extremely topical commentary on the military industrial complex, and the abuse that often follows power.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is such a mature and grown up entry in a franchise that is so often associated with only being for the young. It was arguably Marvel’s first foray into serious film-making. It was a perfect combination of everything coming together at just the right time. It makes for an excellent re-watch that absolutely holds up after so many entries into the franchise have followed.
Captain America The Winter Soldier is currently available to stream on Disney+.