Spoilsport: Winter Soldier Warning: The following contains in-depth analysis and discussion regarding the plot of Captain America: The Winter Solider. If you have not seen the movie bookmark this page, check out the spoiler-free review and revisit after watching. Intro Mission When the movie opens to a lone jogger in the morning DC landscape I was surprised to see a subtle and serene beginning. I was wrong. In one of the rare, humorous sequences Steve Rogers continually laps Sam Wilson. It sets the tone of their relationship and is a great way to introduce Cap’s new ally. Less enjoyable is the arrival of Natasha Romanoff. Most of the time Scarlett Johansson is able to portray the character seamlessly into the scene, but the series of one-liners were unnecessary and detracted from the environment. She picks Cap up in a flashy car for another in a long line of SHIELD assignments. Through the mission briefing, we are caught up to speed, where this story takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Cap’s state of mind. It is a flawless way to introduce viewers to the strike team and setup the fact that Cap is just going through the motions. Cap jumping from the jet plane without a parachute might have seemed like a good homage to Avengers, but to me it came across as a repeat of something we had already seen. What we have never seen before was how effectively Cap dispatched terrorists. My jaw dropped when he kicked foes twenty feet horizontally off the boat. He would throw his shield around like a math savant, taking out multiple enemies and grab it mid-flight. In previous movies, Cap was a really good soldier. For the first time he truly appears super. And the sound effects associated with the shield play are always satisfying as it bounces around, hits enemies or is “sheathed” on his back. The strike team was not the typical, cannon fodder soldiers as they rescue the hostages, one of which is Agent Sitwell. This was a character I recognized from Agents of SHIELD (AoS) but not his other appearances in Thor or Avengers. His inclusion was very jarring and felt like the movie was trying to validate AoS as a series, which despite all of Marvels #ItsAllConnected marketing attempts, is probably impossible. Another surprise was the inclusion of Batroc as a competent villain. The Leaper is typically a joke, b-list foe who the heroes dispatch on their way to a greater rival. He goes toe-to-toe with Cap, for a little bit, and with the help of Black Widow’s inadvertent distraction is able to escape. At first I thought this mission was a setup to reintroduce the characters and show how badass Captain America is. I was glad to see this was a necessary part of the entire story at hand and introduces extra layers into Cap’s dynamic with Widow, Fury and SHIELD. Out of Time Steve visiting the Smithsonian helps new viewers, or someone who might have forgotten, learn Captain America’s origins. But it was also a good way to illustrate that Steve is stuck in the past and doesn’t know how to move forward. All of his time with SHIELD, he is simply going through the motions. One of my favorite scenes is Steve visiting Peggy. It was touching that he still cares for her and relies on her guidance, but equally devastating when her Alzheimer’s is revealed. Steve isn’t just visiting Peggy in her final moments, he is with her because he loves her and can’t move on, despite their extraordinary circumstances. Nick Fury Dies Nick Fury does more in this movie than he has in the entire MCU to date. The setup, shootout and chase scene that lead to his demise were well done and illustrate how the super spy conducts himself. Having Winter Solider show up out of nowhere and blow up the car was perfect. The Winter Solider’s silent attacks and relentless assault remind of a T-1000. He is continually focused on his goal and nothing will stop him. When Nick arrives at Steve’s apartment, and presumed safe. Nick catches Steve up to speed regarding the corruption in SHIELD and without warning is mowed down by the Winter Solider. Captain America’s chase displays a level of strength and determination that I don’t think we have seen before. Winter Soldier quickly becomes the most threatening and capable villain in the MCU. When we discover Nick’s fate, I assumed that this was red herring and we were dealing with a life model decoy, I was relieved to learn this was not the case. Alexander Pierce, expertly played by Robert Redford, quickly takes charge of SHIELD and puts Captain America to question regarding Nick’s death. As Widow pointed out earlier, Steve can’t lie. This creates an instant-rift between Cap and SHIELD. While watching this scene play out, I thought SHIELD turning Cap into public enemy number one occurred rather quickly, but as later revealed it makes perfect sense. During his escape I was glad that Agent 13 stood up and asked why they were going after him, but then she toed the line after a flimsy answer. There was a setup for a good character moment, but they didn’t deliver it. On the Run After SHIELD tries to kill him, Fury tell him not to trust anyone, Steve immediately teams up with a Russian spy. Their interactions are great and I was glad to see a friendship blossom between them instead of a love interest, but I wonder if Marvel missed an opportunity by not having Widow be a double/triple/quadruple agent. They try and play this character as a morally ambiguous femme fatale but she is clearly on the side of heroes. The duo proceeds to go where anyone goes when they need answers, Apple. The mall scene details how different these characters are. Steve is a soldier and rattles off battle tactics and maneuvers to overcome adversity. Widow is a spy; she uses the surroundings and psychology to avoid conflict. These characteristics come through consistently throughout the movie, how they fight, chase down the enemy or deal with emotional situations. Steve is constantly charging head in and Widow is scheming. They are great foils for one another. The return to Cap’s training camp helps show how far he has gone and SHIELD’s beginning. When Cap finds the double secret probation bunker I was shocked at the reveal. Despite releasing 33 minutes of footage, Marvel did a good job of keeping Hydra’s involvement a secret. I thought we were dealing with crooked, power hungry cops not Cap’s deadliest villains. Through a classic evil-monologue we discover Hydra’s motivations; they do try and hide this through the plot device of the missile at least. With nowhere else to turn, Cap and Widow end up at the door of Sam Wilson. He eagerly joins up and is a welcomed addition to the team. I was glad that there wasn’t a scene where they stole his gear, he learned how to fly or they put it on and provided a lengthy explanation to how it works. They just went with it. The interrogation of Hydra double-agent Sitwell quickly provides the team all the information they need to put a stop to Pierce’s evil plan. On their way to stop Pierce the best action sequence of the film occurs. Out of nowhere Winter Solider rips Sitwell out of the car and throws him to his death (hopefully, we’ll see if AoS retcons this). He continues to dismantle the team and separate them from one another. Cap is removed from battle quickly leaving Widow and Falcon to fend for themselves. Widow is able to hold her own against the Winter Solider but is obviously no match. It feels like a cat playing with a mouse before the kill. Cap saves Widow, it is his movie after all, and goes shield to robotic arm with Winter Solider. Everyone to this point is laid out like dominos for Captain to knock down, but against Winter Solider it feels like he is fighting to get every blow in. The “big” reveal occurs and the Winter Solider is…Bucky Barnes. I’m pretty sure this was only a surprise to Captain America because it was pretty obvious in trailers, casting and the story, even to people who haven’t read the comics. Winter Solider is able to dismantle Widow and leave the team in a vulnerable spot as SHIELD/Hydra agents capture them. At their lowest point, on their way to executions the team finds an unlikely ally in one of the agents. I hoped it was Agent 13 returning but it turns out to be Maria Hill. Hill takes the team to an underground bunker where another ‘big’ reveal occurs…Nick Fury is alive. If this story was told in a vacuum, viewers might have believed his demise. But the character is known for faking his death, and Jackson is signed up for too many movies to be killed off. This is another story twist that was obvious to everyone except Captain America. Captain’s Orders Cap takes charge of situation from Fury and vows to bring down all of SHIELD and Hydra. It’s a great moment as Fury looks around the table for allies and finds none. He reluctantly agrees to tear down the organization he spent a lifetime building. Before entering the final battle Cap needs a uniform. In one of the best Stan Lee cameos and callbacks to the earlier visit to the Smithsonian, Captain America dons the outfit he wore during WWII. At SHIELD headquarters, Abed is hanging out trying not to not dwell on his time at Greendale. I know this was a small role, but this stunt casting ruined the momentum of the story and took me out for a few minutes. Falcon, Cap and Hill enter SHIELD communications and tell the world of Pierce’s plan and Hydra’s involvement. What follows is SHIELD and Hydra agents attacking one another and a great character moment from an un-nammed scientist. With a gun to his head, one of the Strike Team members orders him to release the deadly insight weapon and he refuses with a simple justification “Captain’s Orders.” Agent 13 tries to stand up for the scientist and prevents him from being killed but once again proves less than helpful as Insight is launched and many loyal SHIELD agents die. Her role in this movie is so small that it is barely noticeable and most of what she does is unimpressive. Hopefully they are planting the seed for her to do more later or it is all a waste. What’s not a waste is Captain and Falcon running from Insight ship to ship to dismantle the computer core. Falcon’s flying is one of the most super-hero elements of the film. As the boys take down the Insight drones Pierce starts to kill off the world security council, but is stopped by an old woman with some very familiar moves. Widow’s reveal is well executed and played off. The tech used is extremely sci-fi but no one gives it a second thought. It might have been nice to see the old lady actually kick some butt, but this helps adds to Widow’s credibility as a spy. As Falcon and Cap board the final ariship, Winter Soldier arrives and dismantles Falcon effortlessly. This exchange adds to the weight that only Steve can stop Bucky. Their final battle is exactly what fans hoped for. Both fighters get in blows, parries and some cool moments. In this fight, it seems like only a slight difference in ability will determine the winner. Even Cap’s trusty shield is batted away by Bucky, or used against him in some instances. Just like a UFC match, the battle comes down to two guys wresting on the floor instead of impressive jump kicks and powerful punches. Cap makes his final run for the computer terminal to save millions of people in New York and takes a surprising amount of bullets to the stomach. I never anticipated Cap to die, but I was shocked at how much damage he takes. Epilogue The battle won, SHIELD destroyed and Winter Soldier’s redemption saved for a sequel we find the team going their separate ways. Fury is still a spy, just not without a million resources at his disposal. Widow is going on a separate mission that no one knows about. I’m sure these two will meet up with everyone in Age of Ultron. Agent 13 is at the CIA and able to hit the bulls eye without fail. Did she get better between this and the uprising or did she miss on purpose before? Falcon is going to stay by Cap’s side as they hunt down Winter Soldier. Though the movie ends on a cliffhanger for a third film it still feels like a complete story. Sure Bucky was in this movie, but it was never really his story. This was a tale of SHIELD being corrupted from within and what happens next. This movie truly changed the MCU from the comics universe. Though SHIELD has changed hands (Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, Steve Rogers, Maria Hill, Nick Fury) I don’t think it has ever been truly dismantled. It will be curious to see what role this has on the Phase 3 movies and what Fury’s involvement will be . And like a sucker, I am interested in AoS again…just like they planned. End Credits The mid-credit scene is directed by Joss Whedon and dovetails straight into Age of Ultron. Baron Von Strucker was an interesting choice for villains as his Nazi/Hydra ties make him over the top in the comics. It looks like he is very much the same character that he always is, ridiculous monocle included. I know everything doesn’t need an explanation, but how did Hydra get Loki’s staff? Last I saw it Widow used it to hit the Tesseract and close the warp hole over New York. I would have thought Thor would take it back to Asgard. Since Thor 2 introduced the infinity gems people have tried to guess which is which. The Tesseract appears to be the space gem (though that is normally purple and the Tesseract blue…maybe I went to nerdy there) and Loki’s staff is probably the mind gem. The Aether is the power gem, meaning we will see the Soul, Time and Reality before Avengers 3: Thanos Finally Shows Up. Our first look at the twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, has me excited for their full length appearances. It looks like they are the product of experimentation rather than mutation, because Fox owns the rights to all things mutants. Quicksilver’s running animation was well done. In the trend of ever confusing powers it looks like Wanda can levitate things now? The final scene, post-credits, shows Bucky looking at footage at himself from the war. That’s it. Not much to see or revealed. I almost feel that they played these two scenes out of order, but maybe they were worried people would miss out on the Strucker lines. Level Up, Friends!