By now, the whole world knows that I am a Marvel fan. Though I have my issues with the current comic stories (Thor being turned into a girl; Sam Wilson apparently taking over for Steve Rogers as Captain America; the relationship between the Maximoff twins in Ultimate Marvel Comics, and several other things), I still enjoy the characters. Yeah, the PC (Politically Correct) crowd and a few dozen lunatics are running Marvel on psychedelic drugs at the moment, but someday that can all be repaired.
I grew up on the X-Men and Spider-Man, and sometime around 2011 I started researching the Avengers. Right away, I liked Captain America/Steve Rogers. American to his core despite everything the country (and thus the character) has endured since World War II, I cannot say that there is any fictional character I have ever encountered who I so wished was a real person more than Steve Rogers. I suppose everyone has had a favorite character they wished was a real person at some point in their life. In my case, Cap is that one.
For those who have not yet seen The Winter Soldier, I will not spoil anything in this post, but I will say that I can now see why the movie made $95 million its first weekend in American theaters. This is a great film, and there are many reasons why it is so good. The number one reason is how well Steve is presented throughout the story.
In the early part of the film, Cap is told that the world has changed since he was last actively involved in it. Even his SHIELD partner Black Widow seems to think he is out of touch. And so, just as in The First Avenger, Cap is degraded and mocked. Oh, the taunts are mild and said in mostly non-belligerent tones, but they amount to the same thing as the jibes in the first movie. Where people in World War II thought Cap could not keep up physically with the world, people in The Winter Soldier think he is an old-fashioned man who cannot tell what to do in a world “so much more advanced” than what he grew up with.
But, as was said before:
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be among those who come after.
Almost ninety years after the War in which he defeated the evil that was convinced it walked “in the footsteps of the gods,” Cap has to deal with the descendants of HYDRA in The Winter Soldier. Some say that bringing HYDRA into the second Captain America film is unimaginative, but I am not so sure these people are familiar with the history of Marvel Comics. To the best of my knowledge, HYDRA is as active in the comics of today as it was in the original Marvel issues.
In the film HYDRA is convinced it can play God with all the new technology that has been developed since the Second World War and it is once again determined to conquer the world. Only this time the organization is frighteningly close to achieving its desire.
Yes, HYDRA cloaks its ambition as best it can, but its members’ excuses – as always – are pretty thin. Robert Redford’s character says in the trailer for the film, “Disorder, war – we can stop all that with the flick of a switch.”
Except that such a thing is not the province of human beings. We are not God, and we should not pretend to be, because every time we do we only make matters worse for ourselves. Considering the rumors I am hearing about the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film, this is a theme that is going to be hammered home at some point in that movie, too. Every time somebody says, “We can fix humanity,” they invariably make matters worse and a whole lot of people – innocent or otherwise – end up very, very dead.
“But why shouldn’t we stop bad stuff from happening if we can do that?” some ask – in The Winter Soldier and in real life.
Of course we should stop bad stuff, if we can. Cap points this out in the movie when he makes a small speech that only partly makes it into the trailer. (It is the piece of the trailer where he says, “The price of freedom is high. But it’s a price I’m willing to pay.”)
Cap makes this speech to the people of SHIELD. Some of the agents are traitors but many are “clean agents” who honestly want to help protect the world from bad people. The two sets of agents respond differently to Cap’s speech: those secretly with HYDRA attack the real SHIELD agents, who fight back tooth and nail for their survival and the freedom to make something of their lives. What convinces the “clean” SHIELD agents to do this?
Something Captain America knows that Redford’s character, HYDRA, and doubtless Ultron, do not understand in the slightest. Cap knows people – human beings – are not a threat, not vermin to be controlled or exterminated. No, human beings are more than that. They are more than statistics, more than animals, “more than a piece” in some great game (The Hunger Games trilogy).
Human beings are the only creatures on the planet with the potential to choose between right and wrong. And, when the choice is put before them, it is heartening to see just how many people choose to take the right path. They may not stay on that path, true, but they still chose it initially. And to take that choice away from them – as Redford and every other maniac who has ever wanted and ever will want to play God thinks he can and should – is wrong.
That is what Cap is able to convey to the honest SHIELD agents in The Winter Soldier. That is what makes him American – and it is what gives us hope that evil can, in fact, be overcome – all it takes are good people willing to fight against it.
Cap is one of those rare characters/people who can make up a speech on the spot that is beautiful, to the point, and utterly lacking in frilly diversions. I am a much lesser speechwriter, however, and have done my best to make my point within my limits. I am afraid that you will have to take this post as it is.
Finally, I will say this: If you have not yet seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is worth your time and money! If you have seen the movie and enjoyed the story as much as I did, then hello from the DVD rack! After the first Avengers film (and, hopefully, the second Avengers movie) The Winter Soldier is a film worth every dime spent on it!
Until next time!
The Mithril Guardian