Weirds me out every time that this is a Captain America film, rather than an Avengers one. Clearly the focus is on Steve and what he will do in order to save Bucky… but there’s so much of everyone else that this is definitely more of an ensemble film.
And I know the character has to be introduced – but did there have to be quite so much Tony-meeting-Peter Parker?
Overall I do really like this film. It’s a bridging film, like Age of Ultron, but it’s less annoying because it fits better into the ongoing narrative: while it might have been logical for Tony to want to create AI, it hadn’t really been flagged before Ultron; but finding and saving Bucky has been driving Steve for ages. Also, as with most of the other films, the fight scenes are Just. Too. Long.
Except for the airport fight. That one is awesome: displaying the different skills of each of the fighters, pointing out the seriousness of the split in the Avengers, and some nice snark too. I really like Spiderman here, and Scott Lang makes so much more sense having seen Ant-Man. Of course, this fight is also heartbreaking, to see friends and allies against each other – pitting their knowledge against each other, as well as their skills. I think especially pitting Wanda against Vision; that’s the worst.
Another favourite part of this film is Sam and Bucky together. They are so jealous of each other’s friendship with Steve. I can’t wait for the tv show. It’s going to be hilarious.
I also really like the fact that all of the events here are a direct result of Age of Ultron. That the Avengers do actually face consequences for the events of Sokovia is both dreadful and necessary. I’m thinking mostly of Zemo, here, and his compulsive need for revenge. His brilliant ability to manipulate people and to organise all the parts of his plan would be less impressive if it were for a lesser motive.
On the other hand, I am… troubled by the Sokovia Accords. I think they make sense, yes, and I can understand wanting to have some sort of control over ‘enhanced individuals’. Trying to actually make that work is a completely different thing (witness SHIELD), and I agree with a lot of Steve’s arguments. But that’s not even addressing one of the big issues: we all know that Tony, and Rhodes, and Natasha, and Clint, and Scott, and Sam, all have no need to sign the Accords, right? They are not enhanced. They just have access to tech. Otherwise… are they getting all graduates of the Red Room to sign? All assassins?
Anyway, there’s a lot more to this film, of course. It puts some of our heroes underground, and splits up beautiful friendships, and makes a lot of people suspicious about superheroes. One thing that’s not ok is Steve kissing Sharon Carter. Just no.
Finally, perhaps the greatest things this film does is introduce Black Panther. T’Challa is one of the very greatest characters in the entire MCU canon. I will entertain no arguments at this time.
This is a weird movie. Not that the narrative is odd, or that the characters are out of character, or anything like that. No; it just feels… like a bridge.
It’s a far-too-long prologue for everything else that’s to come.
It took me a while to figure that out, and now I’ve got it in words it makes complete sense of my feelings.
I’m not saying it’s all bad. Not at all. The good things:
- I love James Spader. Have done ever since Stargate. No, I haven’t seen Boston Legal, but I have seen The Blacklist. I think he was a great choice for Ultron: he doesn’t have a booming megalomaniac voice (well, not naturally) – which is kind of the point.
- Hawkeye has been a bit of weird character for several movies and we finally get some context for him and some nice character moments, especially with Wanda.
- I like Paul Bettany, although I’m kinda unconvinced by Vision at this early stage.
- In the context of the later films, the fact that pre-existing rifts just get worse here is interesting – and also shows that they are fundamental issues which apparently none of them were adult enough to have a proper discussion about?
- Every moment involving Thor’s hammer.
- The Hulk / Iron Man fight is Just. Too. Long. Get on with it already. We get the idea! Move the narrative along!
- I understand the point in the narrative but I find Wanda’s manipulation of people’s minds deeply, deeply unsettling. This isn’t a negative of the narrative, but it’s not something I enjoy watching.
- Thor’s whole dip in the pond thing. It seems so completely outside of the narrative. Its sole purpose is to set up Thanos, and have Thor be the catalyst of Vision’s creation. But it really doesn’t fit.
- I hate, I hate, everything about Natasha’s discussion with Banner about whether they can run away together. I hate it. I hate Banner’s assumption that Nat’s only reason to run away with him is to have a cosy house with kids. I hate the suggestion that not being able to bear children somehow makes Natasha monstrous. This scene infuriates me.
- And finally, I am unconvinced by Ultron himself, which is completely devastating for the film. The idea that someone moves from ‘save the world’ to ‘destroying the world is the only way to save it’ isn’t a new one, and thorough villains can even make a pseudo-logical explanation for why that’s true. But Ultron’s leap from saviour to destroyer is too fast, largely unexplained, and… just frustrating. It’s relying on the notion that AI must automatically be evil (otherwise why destroy Jarvis at the outset?) rather than properly demonstrating how a baby AI gets to that point (because let’s be honest, if you were an AI, wouldn’t you be tempted to destroy humanity and start over?).
So the film creates Vision, shows us Thanos, properly flags “infinity stones”, solidifies serious rifts within the Avengers, and gets Wanda on their side.
Like I said. It’s a 2.5-hour prologue.
From here, a lot of these films start to… blur together a bit. Not that they are indistinguishable, as such, but I forget which aspects of the overarching Avengers narrative happens when. Because in some ways this film seems more like an Avengers than a standalone Captain America film.
You can watch the Iron Man films almost independently of the franchise. Yes, the third one has some reliance on the audience knowing what happened in New York… but it does have flashback that give you some sense of what happened. The first two Thor movies don’t require knowledge of the rest of the franchise, really; again, really only in understanding Selvig, I would argue. And you also don’t need to know about Thor or Iron Man to understand the first Avengers film.
But here… without a sense of what SHIELD is, without a sense of the role Fury plays and how disillusioned Steve started to be in the first Avengers… you’re a bit lost. And going forward: without a knowledge of who Bucky is, and the world-shaking events of this film, the rest of the Avengers movies don’t really make sense.
None of which is necessarily a problem. It’s just interesting to note.
Additionally, this feels a bit less of a standalone Captain America and more… well, not quite an ensemble; but certainly Natasha is significant, as is Sam Wilson (YAY SAM). Maybe Rhodey manages this in the third Iron Man, but not before; and there’s no equivalent in the first two Thor flicks.
This is also the film where things start to get grittier. Yes Coulson was sad; yes the first Captain America is a war movie – but while it’s not quite a full-on WW2 movie in the classic style, it’s pretty close. This, though: it’s starting to feel like a grim, gritted teeth, relentless punch-em-up film that I don’t really like. It doesn’t quite get there; there are redeeming features that lighten the atmosphere a bit, and demonstrate alternatives to just straight-up fistfights. But not that many. This film feels too long not because of the narrative but because the fights Just. Go. On. Yes, they’re well choreographed; yes, they signal just how serious all of this is; yes, to see Steve equally or over-matched is distressing. But really. Cut a few minutes from every fight and it would be a tighter film.
Were we spoiled for the Winter Soldier’s identity from the trailers? Probably; I can imagine those who make decisions wanting the presumed emotional drawcard. That moment you first see his face properly, shadowed, in Pierce’s kitchen, is splendidly dramatic. And I do like Sebastian Stan. I also really like Robert Redford – like Ben Mendelsohn, playing against type brilliantly. I remember being deeply shocked when I realised what was going on.
The first Avengers changes the world by making aliens and superheroes something everyone knows about. Winter Soldier changes the world by removing the SHIELD security blanket, and threatening the integrity of that patriotic rock, Steve Rogers. No film in the franchise chronologically after this can ignore that.
We got Disney+; we decided to rewatch the MCU; we decided (after watching Iron Man) to watch in internal chronological order.
Thus, we went back to Captain America: The First Avenger.
This is… not my favourite MCU. It’s fine. It’s a solid war film. And that’s what this is: a WW2 film. It’s Where Eagles Dare without Richard Burton, but with weird ray-guns and a disfigured villain (because that’s such a novel idea; see: every James Bond film ever).
This is actually one of the positives about the MCU. The Powers That Be haven’t insisted that every film have exactly the same feel; Iron Man and this film are very different. And so they should be! They’re telling different stories, and Rogers and Stark are very different men, and so on.
The film is: little guy doesn’t like bullies, undergoes radical transformation, becomes a ripped Chris Evans… manages to stay the virtuous little guy in a buff bod, and punches villains. Don’t get me wrong, I do think Chris Evans is great in this role; as an Australian I can say that he seems to fill a very particular idea of American masculinity (which, ahem, given the period of this film, is remarkably like the Nazi version of Aryan…).
I love Stanley Tucci in the minimal time he’s given; I would watch Tommy Lee Jones in basically anything (fight me if you don’t like Space Cowboys); Hayley Atwell is excellent, of course. And Sebastian Stan is fun, and it does make me excited about re-watching the Winter Soldier stuff. Hugo Weaving is a marvellous scenery-chewing villain, and Toby Jones is also fantastic.
Having seen the rest of the films, this feels like such a prequel in many ways. It sets up Cap’s personality – his quirks, his doggedness, his reasons for the at times holier-than-thou attitudes that so pisses off Stark; and of course, the dedication to Bucky. Which is integral to all that is to come, and the depths of which I had probably forgotten when I watched Winter Soldier last time.
I didn’t love this film, particularly, but it does make me excited for what’s to come.
Alisa, Alex and Tansy invite all our listeners to join us as we celebrate our 100th episode of Galactic Suburbia in time-honoured tradition, with cake! We can be found over at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.
Alisa is eating Golden Gaytime cheesecake. Tansy is eating orange sour cream cake. Alex combined them both to create chocolate orange cheesecake! Let us know what kind of cake you ate while listening to the podcast! If you’d like to enter our cake logo contest, please send a picture of your Galactic Suburbia themed cake to us by email or Twitter by the 27th May!
Alisa recently announced the Kaleidoscope TOC, and may be launching Rosaleen Love’s book Secret Lives of Books at Continuum.
Hugo Packet – Orbit UK not including the novels.
Tansy news: upcoming Tor.com reread column & web serial
The Galactic Suburbia scrapbook available soon for download.
Listen to the episode for giveaway codes. Free books!
Limited editions second print run for Love & Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts. Let Alisa know now if you want one of these – she’s printing them for London.
What Culture Have we Consumed?
Tansy: Captain America: Winter Soldier; Gravity; Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Saga 3
Alisa: OMG I AM IN EDITING/PROOFING ARMAGEDDON – Kaleidoscope almost ready to drop and Secret Lives of Books! And …. Tea and Jeopardy
Galactic Suburbia highlights.
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