Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Winter Soldier Blogathon, Day 2: What to Look For in the Videos

You’re still here after yesterday’s mega-entry? Okay, then. Here’s my rundown of stuff you can draw from the assorted trailers and videos:
Paranoia and conspiracies. If you didn’t pick up on this vibe, you weren’t paying attention. From shots of SHIELD’s ginormous arsenal to Cap beating up a bunch of agents in an elevator, it’s pretty obvious that the idealistic World War II hero is going to find himself pitted against the more modern intelligence community. Add to that a shadowy assassin (potentially the person Robert Redford is talking to when he says, “Your work has shaped the century”) and your story begins to take on the dimensions of major American myth. Was the Winter Soldier the second gunman on the grassy knoll?
Okay, I guess he wasn't. :)

So here's what we know we can expect ...
SHIELD vs. SHIELD. But wait. Fury’s in mortal danger, too! And we’ve got helicarriers firing on helicarriers, an airship crashing into the Triskelion, the Black Widow apparently on the run, out in the cold with Cap … that’s a lot of images of SHIELD seemingly fighting itself and/or failing the people it’s supposed to be supporting. American-looking fighter planes chase the Falcon around the helicarrier. Cap argues with Nick Fury about SHIELD policy. Fury warns Cap not to trust anybody. Is that because the threat—whatever it is—is closer than Cap would like to admit?
The Vaguely Incognito look is in for spring.
Cap on the run. Steve seems to spend an awful lot of time in these scenes walking around in civilian clothes—at least once, seemingly through a museum exhibit dedicated to his wartime exploits. (Is this how he gets his stripey World War II duds back for later fight scenes?) The ensemble even includes the traditional hero-incognito baseball cap. But he’s still seen carrying the shield and getting shot at—and fighting the Winter Soldier—in that civilian garb. Lying low really isn’t working so well for you, is it, Steve?
Cap in love. Yes, that’s a set photo of Steve and Natasha making out. No, I don’t have an explanation, except the possibility that fanfic writers have taken over this script. But the last Captain America movie was pretty darn romantic for a film with only one major female character—a shocking amount of screen time was dedicated to the Cap and Peggy show. (Of course, it helped that Peggy was awesome!) With Natasha giving Steve romantic advice (okay, nagging) in that early scene, it looks like she’s getting involved with his personal life. And while Natasha could have any of a billion reasons for that involvement, Steve is pretty straightforward with his emotions. If he falls for Natasha, he’s serious about it. And that can’t go anywhere good. (See below for why.)
The Falcon. See that guy with the metal wings? That’s Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon, one of the first African American superheroes. In the comics, Sam was empowered by the Red Skull (a fancy wing-suit and a telepathic link with birds, including a hawk named Redwing) and sent to kill Captain America, but that didn’t work out so well, and the two of them ended up best friends and superheroic partners. The relationship was notable at the time (the 1970s) for being something pretty close to a real partnership, too; while Steve was obviously giving Sam tips on superheroing, Sam held his own remarkably well in those stories, and wasn’t nearly as stereotyped as typical portrayals of Black characters from the same period. The Falcon has been one of Cap’s staunchest allies ever since; he even took Bucky under his wing (no pun intended) while Cap was dead.
That includes pulling Bucky out of bar fights he starts after someone insults Steve Rogers.
One of the few things that didn’t completely shock Steve when he came back from the dead was that the Falcon had been keeping an eye on things and not taking crap from anyone. Steve and Sam routinely describe each other as brothers—a term Steve reserves for Sam, Bucky and a couple of war buddies, and that Sam uses only for Steve.  While this Falcon appears to be a SHIELD agent rather than a creation of the Red Skull, he seems to have the same deep and instant loyalty to Steve Rogers. It’s good to see him up on the screen; this movie needs a rock like Sam Wilson.
The return of Peggy Carter. We hear a female voice with a British accent that sounds remarkably like Hayley Atwell. Is this a flashback, or does Steve finally get up the guts to go and look up Peggy? A deleted scene from The Avengers showed that she was still alive and living in England. This could go either way, but no matter what, expect Steve to be a bit wrecked by Peggy’s scene.
Robert Redford. Eeeyup, that’s Robert Redford. And he seems to be talking to Steve Rogers about the need to tear down an old world and build a new one … but is he talking to Steve? At one point, he’s heard saying, “Your work has shaped the century. And I need you to do it one more time.” Steve was pretty impressive in the war and everything, but shaping a century? That sounds more like a description of the Winter Soldier and his involvement in key assassinations throughout the Cold War. And with the role of spy-mentor already filled by Nick Fury, Redford’s character is looking more and more sinister. Cap’s got a long history in the comics of going up against bad guys in suits who seemed innocuous at first. Is Redford’s character the next in a long line? (You’ll get to see my personal theory about Redford’s character, Agent Alexander Pierce, on Thursday.)
Nick Fury having a bad day. His car gets blown up and ripped apart by the Winter Soldier, SHIELD is going bonkers all around him, and Steve quotes “Fury’s last words” (which might be his last words before he apparently died, or just the last thing he said before disappearing). And someone with Fury’s skin tone is seen as a patient in an operating room. When ol’ One-Eye goes from running an international law-enforcement organization to being dead or missing, it’s a bad day for the free world, and a worse day for Steve Rogers. There’s even a scene that appears to show Natasha walking out of a congressional hearing about intelligence operations. Fury’s major weakness, as we saw in The Avengers, is bureaucrats who can go over his head to get things done. How high do the bad guys go? And how low will Fury have to sink to beat them?
Is it me, or does he look weirdly mournful here?
Secrets, lies, and the Winter Soldier. If all those head-spinning conspiracies have you feeling a little dizzy, don’t count on those shots of the Winter Soldier to be what they seem. Although most of the publicity materials for the movie play up the Winter Soldier as the film’s Big Bad, anyone who’s read the comics (or yesterday’s blog entry) knows that he’s nothing more than an unusually powerful sock puppet. Someone’s manipulating him into doing whatever he’s doing—and that manipulation has probably been going on for a long, long time. Don’t be surprised when the Big Bad turns out to be a lot bigger than Bucky.
Black Widow. The Marvel movies have been hinting around at the Black Widow’s history for a while now. From the effortless way she infiltrated Tony Stark’s life in Iron Man 2 to her loaded conversations with Loki and Hawkeye in The Avengers, she’s always come across like a complicated character with a long backstory. Now she’s been promoted to second billing, right after Cap himself, and she’s in a lot of scenes in those videos. Most importantly, she’s the one seen telling Steve—reluctantly—about the Winter Soldier and his legend. Are we finally going to get to see where the Black Widow comes from? Is the movie Black Widow going to have her own history with the Winter Soldier? Most importantly, that shot of her kissing Steve is a put-on, right? Because that pairing is a world of no …


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