Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and Agents of Shield Cause and Effect, Part One

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and Agents of Shield
Cause and Effect, Part One
            This little review contains lots of SPOILERS – not just for the movie but for the ABC television program Agents of Shield, which, since the release of Cap 2, has continued the story.
            But the movie has been out now for several weeks, and its events have rippled – more like ripped – through Agents of Shieldever since. So I’m not revealing anything you could not find out elsewhere. If you REALLY want to wait to know what is going to happen until you see the movie and TV show during your own time … frankly I think it is past your being able to do that by now. But go back to your sensory deprivation tank and you can come back and read this afterward.
            I enjoyed the first Captain Americamovie. I saw it when it came out on DVD and thought it similar to The Rocketeer – another World War II-based superhero movie. I mentioned that to my friend and fellow comic-book enthusiast Clyde and he told me they were both directed by the same man. This would explain why they both had the same hue. They would make a fun double-bill on a cold Saturday night with friends.
            The story is well-known in comicdom: weakling Steve Rogers wanted to fight for his country during WWII-the-Big-One, but was labeled forever 4F. He volunteered to take an injection of an experimental super-soldier formula. It worked: he grew ten inches and gained a hundred pounds of pure muscle. He also developed beyond-Olympic level strength, endurance and athletic (fighting) ability as well as supreme mental/tactical abilities. The inventor of the formula was killed by Nazi spies and the secret died with him.
            Captain Americaand his best friend Bucky (and an elite troop called the Howling Commandoes) fought the Axis Powers. Bucky died in a fall and Cap crashed in an experimental Nazi bomber in the Arctic.
            The bomber was found 70 years later. Cap’s super-soldier-infused metabolism left him alive but frozen. He was thawed and found himself in modern Manhattan. That’s where the first movie ended. A deleted scene from The Avengers shows Cap wanting to call his still-alive girlfriend Peggy Carter, but that was the only non-action character-development he had in that tremendous film. His character development in that movie was showing the audience his leadership and tactical abilities were enough to impress a Norse god and a narcissistic genius).
            Captain America 2 opens with Steve Rogers meeting Sam Wilson as they jog. Sam recommends a great Marvin Gaye song to help Rogerslearn about modern times. Steve adds it to his list – a very brief shot of the list reveals, for example, “Star Trek/Wars”. I only caught a few more: Steve Jobs/Apple, Thai food, disco, etc. This was the movies only nod to the “man out of time” aspect of Steve’s character. It had bigger plots to move …
            True to the Mighty Marvel Way there are co-stars from the Marvel Universe: Black Widow and Nick Fury are given more than cameos but less than equal roles to Cap – it’s his movie after all. Name drops abound: Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, even Stephen Strange – the yet-to-be-seen Dr. Strange!
            Cap, Black Widow and an elite Shield troop fly to a research ship hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean. The pirates are led by Batroc – one of Cap’s earlier and sillier villains. In the movie he was a terrorist and expert martial artist; enough to take on Cap one-on-one for several minutes. As with the recent spate of Marvel movies – Batroc was taken seriously – hee wuss meeseeing hees seelee cahstoom, narrow moostash-eh and out-ray-jee-uhs aksent!  
            During the battle, Black Widow was downloading files onto a flash drive. In a confrontation with her and later Nick Fury, Cap expresses his outrage at someone under his command having alternate orders of which he knew nothing. Nick explains compartmentalization – a concept alien to Cap. No one under his command should have alternative agendas other than the task at hand. That’s the (Captain) American way!
            And it was … in the 1940s. Times change.
            Nick Fury learns of something incoherent going on in the Shield hierarchy. So much so he sees his superior – played by Robert Redford – and asks him and the international Shield council to delay deployment of three helicarriers armed with the latest weaponry and technology. “You don’t want those things in the air if this is as bad as I think it is.”
            It is. Nick Fury is attacked by an unknown organized group of terrorists. He escapes to tell Cap what he knows (well, he gives Cap the flashdrive and warns him to trust no one) and is shot by the Winter Soldier. Cap gives chase but fails to catch him. Black Widow recognized the Soldier’s m.o. and tells us and Cap what she knows about this 70-year-old-Soviet assassin.
            Nick Fury dies of his wounds on the operating table while Cap, Black Widow and Maria Hill watch. We later learn he faked his death to allow him to ferret out who is infiltrating Shield.
            It is Hydra! Hydra was an eeeee-vil organization formed by the Red Skull in the first movie.  But it eeled it’s way into Shield and penetrated into it’s every level. Who is a good guy? Who is a bad guy? Cap and Black Widow high-tail it out of HQ with the bad guys armed to the teeth with Shield goodies!
            Through information on the flash-drive, they discover a hidden Shield/Hydra base in which hides Arnim Zola!
            Zola (who was also featured in the first movie) is one of comic-book-Captain-America’s stranger villains. His rendering in the comics is quintessential Jack Kirby – looking something like a malignant Teletubbie.  
            But in this movie Zola moved his mental essence into a bank of computers. He explains Hydra’s motives and how they manipulated their way into Shield. Anyone who could have (or did) discover their presence was eliminated – it is implied that Tony Stark’s father was killed for that reason.
            Anrim Zola created an algorithmic program that found the perfect recruits – family history, emotional and genetic outlook and attitudes are evaluated. To paraphrase a line in the movie: it uses your past to accurately predict your future. They pick recruits who will NOT say no to joining them.
            Hydra spent the next 70 years creating terror. I expected to see the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files in the montage. And now finally, America, nay, the world, is ready to embrace Hydra – happily giving up their freedom in exchange for safety. If you think the anal-cavity searches of the TSA in airports is bad … mwhah-hah-hah!!!
            Hydra will launch the three helicarriers, but will use Zola’s algorithmic program to find not bad guys, but good guys.  People genetically inclined to fight them. The helicarriers will take them out. Thousands at a time. Hydra will kill millions to “save” billions.
            Cap, Widow and Fury have a plan: switch around the hard drives of the carriers and their plan is forever foiled!
            Boy, is that a simplistic way of putting it!
            Cap and Widow are aided by their only friend – the only one they can trust: Sam Wilson (from the jogging scene, remember?). Sam digs out his old uniform – by the way, he wasn’t just a soldier, he had a flying suit! Enter the Falcon – who was Cap’s partner in the 1970s comic.
            This is all done better than it sounds, by the way.
            Meantime, the chief bad-guy is revealed (this isn’t ALL spoilers, you know) and the Winter Soldier attacks! Cap discovers the Soldier is … Bucky? How is that possible? How can Bucky still be Cap’s age unless … Zola!!!
            This leads to the climactic fight in Shield HQ and a helicarrier.
            The movie was comic-book fun with the action and effects on par with previous Disney/Marvel productions. If you liked the previous Thor, Iron Man and Avengers movies, you’ll like this one, too. The special effect and CGIare top-of-the-line.
            Characterization is lacking – except for Captain America’s outrage as to the assault on his black-and-white sense of good and justice in a grey world. But you take his side and in the end believe him – right is right, wrong is wrong.
            Still, the movie poses some interesting questions: if a terrorist is going to kidnap your family tomorrow and you could stop him today, would you? If you could stop him before he even formulates his plan? It goes back to the old question of would you kill Hitler’s parents?
            The small attempts of characterization are brief but well done. Widow niggles Cap about asking staff-members of Shield out on dates (the nurse-neighbor Widow frequently mentions ends up being Sharon Carter – Caps’ girlfriend in the comics … and when I say comics I mean the 1960s and 1970s, god knows what Sharon Carter is now; if she’s even in the current canon).
            Steve Rogers finally meeting up with Peggy Carter after 70 years was moving and sad.  I would have liked more of this, but in a movie of this type I knew it wasn’t possible. Ordinary People this isn’t, Redford’s presence aside…
            I came away from the movie enjoying it. If you are a huge fan of the Marvel movie/TV franchise, go see it (if you are huge fan you already have). Wait to see it on DVD otherwise, it’s a great popcorn movie.
            I may be alone in this criticism – and it’s not really a criticism – but I had one nagging problem with the movie.
            Calling Captain America 2’s subtitle “The Winter Soldier” was, to me, akin to subtitling Lord of the Rings with “A Trip to the Prancing Pony”. The titular villain of the movie was an incidental character. They played on his Bucky-ness: provided an origin, showed a bit of his mental anguish and sowed the seeds of his reformation – particularly at the end saving Cap and the now-mandatory after-credit tease.
            But for me the fall of Shield and the rise of Hydra were the focus of my attention; particularly because of the effect of this story-line on Agents of Shield.  I will discuss that in my next blog …
            To be continued!
Original Material Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry

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