Avengers: Age of Ultron – Captain America/Steve Rogers

Captain America

Captain America/Steve Rogers is one of my favorite characters ever. I thoroughly enjoy both of the previous Captain America films, and Cap’s part in The Avengers was one of the big selling points of that film for me.

Despite getting crowded in several scenes, Cap still came out swinging in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Literally. It is always nice to see what new tricks Cap has up his sleeve for a battle. Though he has no super strength, Cap is at peak human strength – he can bench press 1,200 pounds! (Do not try this at home, kids!) So throwing a motorcycle at an oncoming vehicle is not too far a stretch of the imagination…. And it is pretty cool!!! 🙂

The wonderful thing about Cap’s part in Age of Ultron is his relationship with his fellow Avengers. Why is this so wonderful? Because throughout the film we see that Steve Rogers is the “center” of the team. He is the one they all listen to, turn to for orders or advice…

Oh, and he is the man they have to answer to when they do something wrong. (Sound familiar, Tony? Ringing any bells, Bruce?)

As an example, consider Cap’s relationship with Thor in Age of Ultron. Thor and Cap have always been great friends in the comics. I do not know if the two have ever fought each other as Tony and Cap will in Civil War – they may have, I just do not know if they did.

Throughout the film, we see that the two have developed a mutual respect and trust. They use tag team tactics – first at Strucker’s HYDRA base, then in Novi Grad – when they fight side by side in a battle. This friendship was foreshadowed in Thor: The Dark World, when Loki tormented Thor on their way out of Asgard by playing juvenile tricks. One of the ways he irritated the Thunderer was by turning into Captain America and acting like a dork.

I do not think Thor was rough with Loki after that just because there were guards nearby. It was a good excuse to shut up a genuinely irritating Trickster. Out of all the Avengers who Loki could have chosen to imitate to annoy his adopted brother, he picked Cap.

That is not a coincidence. Loki knows Thor too well to just pick a barb to jab him with at random. He chose Cap on purpose because he knew doing so would get Thor’s goat.

Okay, I have to beg your indulgence here, readers, because I am going to detour for a minute and go back to the hammer lifting competition Hawkeye started. As we know, Cap budged the hammer and Thor very nearly turned white as a sheet. Since seeing this, a lot of people have said that Cap cannot lift Mjolnir in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Only Thor and Vision can wield the hammer in the movies because they are worthy.

Ummm, sorry, no. Cap actually has used Mjolnir at least once in recent, “mainstream” comics. He is as worthy to wield that hammer as Thor or Vision. He can lift and use Mjolnir in the comics and, I am sure, in the movies as well.

All right, some say, if I am so sure of this then how do I explain Cap leaving the hammer on the table after budging it in Age of Ultron? Well, Thor was planning to take the scepter back to Asgard after the Avengers retrieved it. That was made pretty clear. The party Ultron crashes is essentially Thor’s “good-bye for the next little while” bash. What kind of friend would Steve be if he embarrassed Thor at an event like that? Steve left the hammer where it was. He did not complain that the hammer was too heavy for him like the others did, but raised his hands in an “Okay, I tried it, that’s it,” manner and walked away.

Forget for a minute that Cap let go of a power others would have snatched up in a moment; the scene shows the respect he has for Thor. He will not steal his buddy’s thunder. (Sorry, but I had to! :)) Thor knows he can lift the hammer, and Steve knows he can lift the hammer. That is good enough for Cap.

Now, does this mean that Cap would not use Mjolnir in an emergency? I believe the reason he grabbed the hammer in the comics was because the world was experiencing an enormous emergency, and Thor was incapacitated. So yes, I think Cap would pick up Mjolnir in the films if he had to, or if Thor tossed it to him. But if he does not need it, he is not going to take it from his friend. This is one of the foundations of Thor’s trust and respect for Steve Rogers.

And this is why Thor releases his choke hold on Tony when Cap asks him to put the billionaire genius down. He will fume and storm (maybe literally), but when Steve asks him to do something, Thor will do it. Not because he is intimidated by Cap but because he respects him.

We also see that Cap and Natasha’s respectful, affable rapport in The Winter Soldier has grown stronger. Just like the friendship between Tony and Rhodey is given a good showing in Age of Ultron, Cap and Natasha are shown to be tighter compatriots in this movie. When in their previous adventures together would he have thrown her the shield to use in battle? Natasha could not handle the weapon prior to Ultron, and her use of it in Novi Grad implies that Cap has trained her in rudimentary use of his shield at least. That speaks volumes right there!

Cap’s friendship with Bruce has also grown and expanded by the time we see them together again in Ultron. We have known since The Avengers that Steve sympathizes with Bruce – and that Cap is one of the few people the Hulk will take orders from, especially if that order is to “Smash.” We do not get to see Cap interact with the Hulk much in Ultron (bummer), but we do see that he and Bruce get along pretty well now.

This is made poignantly clear when Cap quietly tells Bruce he should start dating Natasha. He refers to the fact that he waited too long to accept Peggy’s advances and has since paid the price, urging Bruce not to make the same mistake. It is a sweet, if a little flabbergasting, scene. I was not expecting Natasha and Bruce to be an item in the movie, and I was definitely not expecting Cap to give their budding romance his seal of approval!

Still, it makes sense. And it shows that Cap holds Bruce in high regard. Bruce is not a pawn to him, a machine you press a big green button on to unleash a nuclear option. He is a friend Cap wants to protect and prevent from making what he believes is a mistake.

As I have said elsewhere, I was really happy with the friendship between Cap and Hawkeye in this film. Everybody likes to describe Clint as a loner since the movies have come out, and it is true that he has not always been the happiest of team players. Why this is in the movies, I am not sure; in the comics it was because he did not have good experiences with people in authority.

In the films, Clint is much more mature, and so there is no battle of wills between him and Cap as there were in the original comics. Instead, the two appreciate each other, in the way that commanders and valued officers often do. Clint is shown to defer to Steve when the other has an order for him (though not always happily).

It is of particular interest (to me) that he does not answer Cap with the “yes, sir, no, sir” he used on Fury in The Avengers. When he tells Steve in Novi Grad that he and Wanda have cleaned up their section of the city, he does not address Cap by rank or as “sir.” Cap responds similarly, saying, “We are not clear! We are very not clear!”

Clint’s reply is not the robotic soldier’s but the comrade-in-arms’: “All right, comin’ to ya.”

The two get on well as battle brothers, with Cap obviously being the “elder brother” while Clint is the loyal “younger brother.” Of all the members of his team, Cap can probably count most on Thor and Hawkeye backing him up in a fight. Though Clint naturally stays out of Cap’s fight with Tony in Avengers’ Tower, he does so for practical reasons. He divested himself of his gear when he got to the Tower, and he cannot handle repulsor blasts as well as Cap can! They would knock him down for the count, whereas a repulsor shot simply knocks Steve over.

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Cap is not given much time to get to know the twins or Vision in Age of Ultron, but we know that Wanda takes to him pretty quick. For his part, though Cap growls at the twins after they help him stop the train running amok through South Korea, he does not appear to truly resent Wanda or her brother for what they did to him and his team in Africa.

Instead, he listens to Wanda’s warning about Tony trying to “fix” the problem again, and accepts that she is probably right. He then brings both her and her brother to the Tower. This is quite a lot of trust to show to someone who hypnotized him – and was probably prepared to kill him – not too long ago!

Wanda’s way of speaking to Cap when she met him in Korea is not belligerent, as it might have been with Thor, Bruce, and definitely with Tony. She is instead respectful – if a little desperate – and she speaks to him as one would speak to a trusted authority figure. Even if she was afraid of him, she did not show it. Score another point for Cap’s ability to “walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch”!

Little is shown of how Pietro and Cap regard each other. What is made clear, however, is that there is no rivalry between the two, as there is between Quicksilver and Hawkeye. Pietro even seems to look up to Cap, taking especial note when the First Avenger says that everyone in the Aveng-jet has signed up to die if they have to in order to stop Ultron. “But the people of Sokovia didn’t.”

That gets Pietro’s attention. He realizes then that Cap is not speaking in platitudes or preaching sermons. He understands suddenly that Steve Rogers is not a propaganda piece of the U.S. government or of any government. He is willing to defend Pietro’s country as well as his own simply because it is the right thing to do.

As Cap said when Maria Hill gave him the dirt she has gathered on the twins, he empathizes with Pietro and his sister. They have seen their country and its people trampled by one dictator/power-grabber after another, and they are fed up with it. He understands that they want to end their nation’s suffering, and that they were desperate enough to fight for their country that they allowed HYDRA to experiment on them.

In this scene aboard the Aveng-jet, Pietro learns that Cap truly does empathize with him and his sister. This cements his loyalty to the team and makes him amenable to Cap’s orders. It is as close as we get to a nod to the comics; in the original stories, Pietro seemed to respect Cap as a father-figure. This scene hints that their relationship in Age of Ultron is not very different from that in the “mainstream” comics.

When Pietro is killed, Cap rushes over to him and Clint to find out if anything can be done for their speedy young recruit. This is a good scene for Cap, because it shows how much Pietro learned from him in the short time he knew him. Steve Rogers is willing to die for his friends and for strangers. Pietro knew the boy Clint was holding, but he only knew the archer as an Avenger and former enemy – one he had a rivalry with, at that! But by fighting alongside the Avengers, under Cap’s command, Pietro learned everything he needed to know to be a true hero.

It is for this reason Cap sees to it that Pietro’s body is not left behind on the floating city the Avengers have to destroy. Though they knew each other only for a little while, it is clear Cap respects the boy Pietro was, and honors the man he became when he sacrificed himself to save Hawkeye and a civilian child. Not a perfect ending for their friendship in the films, certainly, but …. *Shrug.*

As for Vision – intellectually, he and Cap appear to agree on a lot. Cap is only distrustful of him because the last robot he met was trying to kill him. In this respect, Vision and Cap are still learning how to understand each other. Vision is totally new, inexperienced, and unprepared for life. He also possesses enormous power, intellect, and knowledge. That is a tricky thing to deal with; you basically have to learn to care for a child with a genius IQ in an adult’s body. And then you have to factor in the added difficulty that the adult body has far more power than a normal human adult has!

From what I know of the comics – and the show Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – Cap and Vision are very good friends. It makes their coming Civil War split all the more heart wrenching, especially since Vision will still be learning in that film. He is about to get an especially hard, nasty lesson in human affairs – and he will be studying that lesson opposite Cap. Ouch!

I have left Cap’s relationship with Tony ‘til last. Some complain that Cap and Tony have barely had time to form a friendship within the film franchise. But the truth is that they are, in fact, very good friends within the film franchise. Before Tony is subjected to the vision which puts him on the path to building the maniacal Ultron, we see that he and Cap have indeed gotten over the antagonism they demonstrated toward each other in The Avengers.

This is made most obvious, paradoxically, when Wanda hypnotizes Tony. In his vision, Wanda showed Tony his greatest fear. Tony sees most of his close friends dead and dying (in the case of the Hulk). The first ‘body’ he goes to is not only the one which is closest to him physically, but the body of the person he has come to greatly value and admire. Cap is one of his closest and best friends, in part because Steve is a great friend to everybody who earns his respect and amity. In part, they are also friends because Steve is a much more likable link to Tony’s father than Fury ever could be.

In the vision, to Tony’s horror, Cap suddenly grabs him and accuses him of failing to protect the Avengers, as well as the Earth. This, more than anything else, is what goads Tony into rushing “the Ultron program” through to completion – and setting off the events of the film.

Cap does not know what Tony saw, because Tony never tells him. So Cap can only assume that whatever Wanda showed his friend “made [him] do something stupid.” And Cap is right. What Tony did was unbelievably stupid. He was afraid, and he allowed his fear to master him and “make him self-destruct.”

Having faced failure and the loss of friends in battle, Cap is no longer afraid of failing. He has learned never to lose hope during these moments of apparent defeat. Natasha noted this in The Winter Soldier: “Well, you seem pretty chipper for a guy who just found out he died for nothing,” she quipped.

Steve’s response was to smile – smile! – as he sat back and replied, “Well, I guess I just like to know who I’m fighting.”

This is the difference between Tony and Cap. At least, it is the difference between them in the films. Cap has experience losing a battle, just like Tony does, but he knows a lost battle does not necessarily mean a lost war. Losing one engagement, Steve finds a way back into the war and keeps on fighting. “You run away, they’ll never let you stop,” he told Peggy in The First Avenger, “You get up, you push back.”

Tony has not experienced defeat in quite the same way. Oh, sure, he has been kicked in the teeth and picked himself up to fight again. But in the case of the films, where Cap jumps up and runs right back into the fight, Tony usually needs time to get his breath back. He has to decide to fight.

Cap does not do that. He decides to fight from the get-go, and he fights to win, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs him. He fights in an all-or-nothing manner which Tony does not. This is what he tried and continues to try to communicate to Tony in the films, starting in The Avengers. In that movie, Cap attempted to explain that in a war you will, inevitably, lose something. It could be anything: a limb; blood; time; innocence and naïveté; your sense of security; your friend(s), and even your own life. Accepting that does not make anything about a war easier. But it gives you more reason to try and end the conflict quickly, so that others will be spared your loss.

In Age of Ultron, Tony was looking forward to a future war and trying to stop it before it started. As Cap says, you cannot do that. “Always in motion is the future,” said Yoda.

It is obvious Cap understood this Star Wars line better than Tony did. What Yoda meant and what Cap understands is that trying to stop a war that has not happened can lead to the very conflict you are trying to prevent. The treaty of Versailles was supposed to be the end of all wars in the West, but it actually marked the beginning of “half time,” which ended with the opening of World War II. The result of Tony’s plan to shield the planet from outside attack was a digital creature bent on eradicating humanity from the face of the Earth.

Great plans, both of them. They each failed miserably.

If Tony had instead spoken about his vision, told the others of his fears, they might have worked something out. Or at least accepted that they could be in for one hell of a fight in the future, and that it might be a war they would not walk away from. Instead, he tried to fix a problem before it happened.

Temporal mechanics are not controlled. You may be able to modify a car engine so that it has a slim chance of breaking down over the course of a thousand years of use, but human – and in the case of the Avengers, alien – affairs cannot be so easily rectified. If you are going to sign up to be a “bouncer” for the world, you had better be prepared to do your job or die trying. The result of “bouncers” such as the Avengers resigning or not doing their job is “global extinction.” Cap knows this. Tony is learning it – the hard way.

Speaking of visions, one of my prognostications said that when Wanda hypnotized everyone, she would try to paralyze Cap with regret. I still think that prognostication is not far off the mark. She gave Tony a vision of his greatest fear: failing his team and the world, while remaining the only one alive when all was said and done. She threw Natasha’s worst memories at her, hitting the Black Widow in the one place it truly hurts. And whatever she made Bruce see, it made him angry enough that he was happy to fight her without even turning green.

What she did to Thor is different. Asgardians are not human, but if Wanda was going after Thor’s greatest fear, I am pretty sure she missed it. What she might have done was trigger some latent foresight abilities he may have inherited from dear old dad. Odin can see almost as much as Heimdall. He just keeps most of it to himself, a la Nick Fury. (Funny how they are each missing an eye, don’t you think?)

If this last is what Wanda did, then Thor alone got a look at something more than smoke and mirrors. He had actual glimpses of the future, something his journey to the dream well proves true.

But what does Cap see when Wanda hypnotizes him? A welcome home party for the World War II troops, complete with Peggy Carter. Everything he ever wanted – and everything he cannot have the way he wanted it.

Tony is wrong. Wanda’s hallucination did leave Cap a little unsteady. But he did not run off the deep end, like Tony did, which is why Tony never realizes that Cap’s vision did in fact upset him. We do not know what feelings Wanda stirred up in Cap until after Thor takes off to get some answers about his own vision. Once the Thunderer has left Clint’s farm, Cap turns and looks at his friend’s house. Over the Barton children’s laughter he and the audience hear vision-Peggy’s voice saying, “We can go home.”

As he looks at the house, Steve is wondering if he could not have had what Clint has. This is only made plainer when he and Tony are out chopping wood. Tony says, “Thor didn’t say where he was going?”

Cap’s face is averted from Tony as he answers, picking up a log and dropping it in his pile of firewood. “Sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things,” he replies, looking up to see Clint showing his son, Cooper, how to measure a banister.  Clint’s daughter, Lila, is playing on the porch behind the two. Cap looks away, as if trying to shake off a separate thought, a separate longing. “I was kind of hoping Thor would be the exception.”

Everyone I have talked to confirms that Cap was not/is not mad at Clint for keeping his wife and children a secret. Given the enemies he doubtless made in SHIELD, the mess HYDRA caused in SHIELD, and the fact that they are still fighting HYDRA and Ultron is prepared to kill them all – it makes total sense that Clint would keep his family as well-hidden as possible. And a secret among many is no secret at all. (Because, as we know, Tony has no filter between his brain and his mouth. He will say something just to be the center of attention. He is not a great secret keeper within the film franchise – unless it is his own secrets which he is protecting.)

The look on Cap’s face is angry, but that anger – along with the jab about his teammates keeping secrets from him – is meant for Tony alone. Steve has no beef with Clint over his “secret” family. He is not even upset with Natasha for helping Clint keep his family under wraps. He understands why Clint did it and there is no way he will be spilling the beans on Clint’s private life.

However, Steve is still sad. He is sad because Clint has everything he wanted to have at the end of World War II. If Cap had not been frozen in the ice, he would have married Peggy and found a place like Clint’s farm on which to settle down. For all he knows, he and Peggy might have had children, too.

And this desire, this longing, is what Wanda played on. She showed him what he wished he had had at the end of that first war he entered. Peggy is there, standing behind him, offering him a dance. He is surrounded by revelers celebrating World War II’s end. Then, abruptly, the dance hall is empty. Why?

It is empty because Cap knows what a fantasy looks like. He dreamed for seventy years in the ice. Even if he cannot remember the dreams precisely, that is what he did. Wanda tried to trap him in a fantasy world again. But Cap has too much of a grip on reality for the trance she put him in to do more than make him remember what he sacrificed when he saved the world, and how much that sacrifice still hurts him.

Cap shakes his sadness off fairly quickly, all things considered. There is no room for such sorrow with a rabid robot running all over the world. And mourning his sacrifice will not change the past. The past is gone; the future, a mystery. The present demands a lot of attention, especially with Ultron on the loose.

So while the others get through their problems, Cap keeps himself busy and is as useful as possible. He is not hiding from Ultron, and all he really needs to do is let go of the past, which he does while the rest of the Avengers cool off. Once they figure out Ultron’s plan, he gets his team into gear and heads out to do what they have to do: save the world. Again.

As a last note on this subject, Cap does not yet realize that he can still have a life like Clint’s. At the moment, he is not looking in that direction, for the simple reason that his lady is still alive. She may be ninety and senile, but Cap is not going to two-time Peggy, even with her express permission.   With Peggy’s death in Civil War and Sharon Carter’s scheduled appearance as a member of Cap’s team in the same film, I am pretty sure he is going to be getting a new girlfriend very soon.

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

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