I finally made it out to the theater over the Easter weekend to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I was suitably surprised and impressed by it’s predecessor, and the related Avengers films, to make an exception to my general distaste for viewing most things Hollywood. Add to that, my general enthusiasm for all things super-hero and the fact that I have a pre-teen aged son, and it was practically inevitable that I would carve some time out of my schedule to give it a go.
Happily, The Winter Soldier eschews the sappy patriotism one might expect from a film centered around a character from the Greatest Generation. Overall, it’s a good action film, and nothing else need be said. But, being a political artist myself, I tend to view art and entertainment through a lens of my own perspective – as do most when scrutinizing art, whether they like to admit it or not. For those of you who simply enjoy your films at face value, and couldn’t care less about the deeper meaning(or my take on it), here is where you would likely move on to the next review. However, having read several reviews that clearly took the opposing stand, I feel quite justified in a little deconstructionism, if you will. Feel free to jump into the comments with your own perspective, as I plan to watch the movie at least one more time before laying my opinions to rest.
Captain America’s character becomes a bit more complex in The Winter Soldier than it was in The First Avenger, though it stays true to character. A dichotomy develops as we get to know Romanov’s character better. Nick Fury is dead, then not dead; trusted, then suspect. The obvious bad guys are the politicians, mercenaries and pirates scattered throughout the movie. The less obvious villains occupy all sides of the struggle, swimming in a grey area of philosophy and morality, or lack thereof – perpetrated in the interest of the ‘greater good’. The fate of several million people hinges on the success of an impossible mission involving Captain America, Romanov and The Falcon. The heavy, staccato beat of the music punctuates the more intense action scenes, creating an appropriately tense mood.
Libertarian themes abound throughout the movie, though some would prefer to call them fundamentalist paranoia. The Winter Soldier is a victim of the machinations of a power-hungry elite, bent on the establishment of a New World Order, who will use any means necessary to achieve their ends. People become statistics; their lives subject to elimination if their actions or thoughts are deemed inappropriate by the powers that be. Both sides of the conventional power structures are culpable. It is no surprise, of course, with Joss Wedon playing a part in the revival of the Marvel/Avengers genre. Geeks like me have long been fans of Firefly, his cult classic depicting space cowboys as the underdogs to an oppressive Alliance.
Of course, the plot, like life and war, is not black and white. It is subtle, yet complex, and the messaging does not beat you over the head. In fact, many viewers might ask, what the heck am I talking about. They just enjoyed the film. And that is as it should be. That is, in fact, much to its credit.
Captain America is the quintessential conflicted soldier. He fights for his nation because he believes in her values and principles, but he has come to realize that the people giving the orders can’t always be trusted – even when you like them, or think you should. He has given up everything in service to his nation, only to realize that the lines have blurred and his mission is no longer clear – at least as it is presented by his superiors. Much of the underlying struggle centers around his efforts to understand how different this new century he was thrust into is from his own, and why he was brought here to fight a war he doesn’t know enough about to understand which side he should be on.
The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, is purely a tool – emblazoned with a bold red star on the mechanical arm which becomes, as the movie progresses, a symbol of his degradation by the elite who control him. I can’t help being reminded of a similar tool in the person of Che Guevara, but I digress. Unfortunately, The Winter Soldier also turns out to be Captain America’s childhood friend and combat partner, Bucky – long thought dead, but cruelly resurrected by the enemy as an assassin and catalyst for the implementation of their totalitarian utopia.
We are left, not unexpectedly, with questions unanswered and the promise of a sequel at the end. I am happily looking forward to the next episode in the story of Captain America and The Winter Soldier.
Frances Byrd is the National Director of Liberatchik.com, and a contributing writer at Western Free Press and BlogBytes. Her articles have also been published at Big Hollywood . Mrs. Byrd’s conceptual art and writing can be viewed at MachinePolitick.