I'm a Steve Rogers fan. Have been for years. I generally enjoy heroic characters in general and I tend to prefer genuinely kindhearted heroes over the more cynical in it for themselves types of people.
One of my biggest worries, both for the first Captain America movie, and now this one, is that the writers would misunderstand what Cap is about. I was grateful to say that I was wrong.
[Spoiler (click to open)]For one thing that they got very very right, is that they made Cap the legend of World War 2. I read some CA fanfic before Winter Soldier came out that had people unaware of the truth about Cap or the things he did and it never felt right. Part of what makes Cap work so well, is that people remember his name. That they knew whom he was, what he had done and that there's that built in admiration, even before you meet him and find out that the legend doesn't even come close to describe what a good man he is in real life.
That doesn't mean that Steve Rogers is perfect, what it does mean is that he keeps trying. That when possible, he'll do the right thing and nine times out of ten, when he says something is wrong, you'd better trust him on it.
Another good thing the movie did, was how much it humanized Cap. Sure there's lots of fighting, martial arts and stuff like that. but they rooted all the spectacular action in a story of a soldier who's never had a chance to come home from war. This notion of 'what else can I do', the dealing with PTSD. (I especially loved the group session led by Sam Wilson (who was just amazing), where you have a female soldier explain the consequences of PTSD in real life. Not in some over the top event (which admittedly also happen), but just in your daily life and how painful it can be. Mentions of little things like beds being too soft, or finding your place....
In a story about the penultimate soldier, things like that should be dealt with, should be mentioned and as such it makes Steve Rogers a better characters because through Sam we get to see the man as well as the legend.
Chris Evans basically rules this character as much as RDJ does Tony Stark.
People have mentioned this before, but CA:WS is about as much Natasha's movie as it is Steve's and she rules. The movie takes time to let her breathe as a person, rather than just the badass spy, showing us whom she is, and that just because she acts like she knows everything, that that doesn't mean she actually does.
I already mentioned how much I love Sam Wilson, whose kindness and caring is not just a nice way to show us more of Steve, but who gets a spotlight thrown on himself as well. On why he does what he does, how he lives and helps others, his trauma of losing his wingman. And then you find out just what he did when he was a pararescue and we get into just how cool he is as the Falcon and it's just... amazing. His every scene is breath taking and the way him and Steve and Natasha flirt with one another is heartwarming.
I will get to the titular Winter Soldier, promise.
But I first wanted to mention what this movie does both with Nick Fury and Secretary Pierce in making them feel real. Two sides of the same coin, yet with one thing separating them for all time.
Alexander Pierce: I would protect the life of seven billion people, at the cost of twenty million. It takes courage to do that.
Nick Fury: And it takes courage not to.
I'll freely admit that before the Avengers, I had never been much of a Nick Fury fan. Sure he's cool, but I'm really not much into all that spy stuff. And then the Avengers did something amazing. They gave us a moment where the security council ordered a nuclear strike on New York in order to save the rest of the world.
Kill a few million for the possibility of saving everyone.
And Fury refused. Fury flat out refused to be part of such a sacrifice.
CA:WS continues that characterization. Like all the major characters, the movie doesn't end at having him be cool and make sketchy decisions, but they show us why he makes the decisions he does and then they show us just where he puts his boundaries. That when it comes down to it, he'll do the right thing over the expedient thing. And it's that what makes him as much of a hero as the rest of the people he leads.
The movie does that a lot really, they could have easily made Winter Soldier about Cap saving the day through the use of force. but they didn't. Sure there's a lot of fighting. But there are a lot of characters who can pull that of. What makes Cap Cap isn't his fighting, it isn't the super soldier serum. It's Steve Rogers and Steve Rogers greatest superpower of them all is the ability to inspire others to do the right thing.
He's not just one soldier, he's a leader who can give others the strength to do the right thing.
Whether it's making Sam Wilson come back into battle to help his friend, teaching Natasha to trust again and open herself up to others, showing Nick Fury what real courage is, making agent thirteen question orders... or just making a simple lowly clerk behind a computer, even with a gun aimed at his head, sit up and say: "I will not launch these helicarriers"
The world needs heroes like that, who don't just save us, but who inspire us to save ourselves and/or others. To inspire us to become better people ourselves for our sakes and others. And that is what makes Captain America a hero worth following, even for a Belgian like me.
Now there's one character who of course had the biggest impact on most of fandom.
And it's understandable. Sebastian Stan did an amazing job. He's silent for most of his screen time, and when you see the actor, he's not really all that imposing. But when you see him brought in in full Winter Soldier outfit he's terrifying. They put in every effort to show just why he's Cap's equal as a fighter.
But it doesn't stop there. Then they show us his vulnerability, that for all that he is dangerous, he's not a bad guy. He's most definitely not a monster.
He's a victim, a weapon aimed by the true monsters who took a good man and turned him into a tool to be used for their benefit.
They already built up Bucky and Steve's friendship, showing us the man beneath the programming, so when Bucky loses his mask and Cap recognizes him, we're there with him in shock and pain at what was done to Steve's best friend. And when he completely blanks out, it shows just how much pain seeing what has happened to Bucky does to him, because for Steve it's like losing his friend, his brother all over again.
It centers the movie and gives it a purpose. you know, beyond taking out Hydra and saving the world. Things like that are often too huge to have a true emotional impact. (though admittedly I do prefer superhero movies that aren't just about saving the hero's girlfriend, one of the biggest flaws of the first three Spider-Man movies imo, but are about saving strangers, the city, the world... showing us that all the damage done in its name is actually worth it)
But still, that can't be all the movie is about, or it becomes little more than pop corn fodder. What makes a good superhero movie great is when there's that other conflict, the personal conflict for the hero to achieve, whether i's coming to peace with himself, or as in this movie, saving not just Bucky's life, but his soul, free him from his programming and then inspire him, give him a chance to find himself again. And there we get back to that magical verb. To inspire.
Not to force someone to be what you want them to be, but to have them find themselves and make them want to be a better person, make them want to be an improved version of themselves.
And that... ladies, gentlemen and others... is why I loved Captain America: Winter Soldier and why I would encourage anyone who still has the chance to do so, to go see it.
Also for those who are more interested in that stuff. The movie also turns a spot light on current day issues like how much freedom are we willing to give up to feel safe, and is it justified to take out a threat before it has happened. And it does a great job with those kind of metaphors as well