Film Lists

Nitpicking Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is among the better movies yet accomplished by Marvel Studios (read our review here), but it is still ultimately a comic book movie with a side helping of the conventions of a spy thriller.  Sure, the plot centers on a conspiracy going back 7 decades, but it also features a man whose brain has been transferred to a stack of old computers, an assassin who doesn’t so much assassinate as he consistently takes the slow-and-steady approach to killing thus allowing his prey the opportunity to escape, and villains whose ultimate plan is basically to shoot people with lasers from the sky.  So, even if Winter Soldier holds up better to second thought than most comic book films there are still a couple of things you can’t help but think, “Hey, wait a minute…”:


1. Where were Hawkeye and Iron Man?


In the comics, the mantra for the Avengers goes something like, “And there came a day unlike any other when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.” The only “day unlike any other” in the films has been that time Loki led an army of intergalactic aliens through the skies and streets of New York.  Otherwise, the President of the United States apparently being abducted by the Iron Patriot, and guarded by an army of mutant-like soldiers was just your standard day at the office for Iron Man.  Plus, a Dark Elf showing up in London with intentions of bringing darkness and death to not just Earth but all 9 realms of the universe is nothing Thor can’t handle on his own, albeit with help from his girlfriend, her mentor, intern, and intern’s intern.

So, is there anything necessarily “day unlike any other” about Winter Soldier‘s three hellicarriers taking off to be a murderous eye in the sky with targets set on millions, including several of the Avengers (Tony Stark and Bruce Banner)?  Well, considering Captain America already had help from his own mini-Avengers team of Black Widow, Falcon, and Nick Fury, I guess not.  Plus, after Iron Man 3 ended with Tony Stark arc reactor-less and sacrificing all of his suits as a sign of devotion to Pepper Potts we don’t really know if he’s even Iron Man anymore.  Thor is actually on Earth as of the ending of The Dark World, but you’d imagine that after this:

Thor Dark World final kiss
Thor and Jane Foster are probably going to be little busy making their own kind of thunder for a while

Hulk is too much of a wild card to show up, but what about Hawkeye? Winter Soldier’s producers have promised Hawkeye’s absence wil be made clear when we see him in Avengers: Age of Ultron next year.  But, come on, Hawkeye is a freaking’ agent of SHIELD, and Winter Soldier ends with that organization completely dismantled.  Nick Fury warns Captain America not to trust anyone thus explaining why he might not reach out to Tony Stark or Hawkeye for help, but surely with a plot featuring an also-ran SHIELD character like Sitwell getting a significant role they could have at least included a throwaway line explaining Hawkeye’s absence.

2. Can we please have more of the Winter Soldier in a film called The Winter Soldier?

That shield may be your's someday, Bucky
That shield may be your’s someday, Bucky

For some, the Winter Soldier actually spoke for them when he asked, “Who’s Bucky?”after Capt first sees his face and recognizes his old friend.  That’s understandable, but, come on, there’s a reason they have Captain America go to that museum in the beginning and look at the exhibit about the Howling Commandos, with such an emphasis on Bucky.  It’s to say, “In case you forgot, Cap used to have a best friend who died – wink, wink.”

The real issue, and this may rise above innocent nitpicking to a genuine criticism, is that there is so little of the Winter Soldier in The Winter Soldier.  He has been utilized somewhat similarly to Ben Kinglsey’s the Mandarin from Iron Man 3 in the advertising, giving audiences a bait-and-switch approach to the villain in order to maintain the surprise (a tactic completely ignored by Sony’s no-holding-back approach to Amazing Spider-Man 2).  Of course, we now know that the Winter Soldier is nothing more than a highly specialized foot soldier for the true enemy, Hydra, represented by Robert Redford’s Alexander Pearce.

The explanation the directors gave Empire Film is that though the Winter Soldier is not the narrative thrust of the film he provides the emotional stakes, giving Cap not just something to fight for but a reason to destroy not just Hydra but SHIELD as well because they are two sides of the same coin.  Still, by the end of this movie the Winter Soldier’s story has only really just begun.  Though that’s not a surprise to anyone who knows Barnes became the new Captain America in the comics it might be a frustrating lack of closure for those expecting a little more of the Winter Soldier in The Winter Soldier. Heck, we end the Winter Soldier with Captain America promising to go after the Winter Soldier.  Maybe that wouldn’t seem so jarring if they’d gone with a different title, but I guess Captain America: Hail Hydra was too big of a giveaway.

3. Marvel needs to stop with all of the “fake kills” – just kill a character off for good for a change

It’s going to hurt, and we may not like it when it happens, but eventually someone significant is going to have to die in one of these Marvel films – and actually stay dead!

10-1 Coulson 5
Coulson dead? Nah, he has his own TV show now.
Pepper dead? Nah, she actually comes back and saves Tony.
Loki dead? Aw, hell no. Marvel’s not crazy. Heck, Loki’s the King of Asgard now.
Captain American Winter Soldier Fury Hurt
Nick Fury dead? Only mostly dead, as it turns out.

It seems silly to complain about comic book movies killing characters off just to bring them back again. That’s just what comic books do, where not even Uncle Ben from Spider-Man has truly stayed dead.  However, with this recent run of fake deaths in the Marvel films we can now roll our eyes when we see Nick Fury supposedly die in Winter Soldier because we know he’ll be back before the end of the same freaking movie.  There needs to be dramatic consequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while there will certainly be plenty of those resulting from Captain America’s actions in Winter Soldier we still go in to these movies knowing the main characters are all going to be perfectly fine by the end.  We always kind of assume that, but then The Dark Knight can sneak up on us and kill Batman’s almost girlfriend. Marvel’s only claim to fame in that area is Thor’s mom:

Goodbye, Frigga. If only you’d been a more significant presence in the Thor films we might have been a bit more bummed when you went.

But hear me and hear me well: if you kill off Tony Stark or Loki I may never forgive you. The most likely candidate for the chopping block are probably Iron Man and Captain America, given how each star’s contracts run out after Avengers 3, with Evans already indicating he wants to retire from acting to try directing.

4. Does Hydra’s plan make any sense?


Sure, Hydra infiltrated SHIELD from the very beginning, like if those Nazi scientists we forgave and used after WWII had managed to orchestrate a 70 year con resulting in the Nazis overtaking our intelligence agencies.  That’s certainly nitpick-worthy, but I was cool with it (read all about Operation Paperclip to find out why).  So, they’re going to use Minority Report-level tech to stamp out opposition before it’s ever even really started (not if Captain America has anything to say about it, though).  However, Hydra’s end game was to build 3 flying killing machines to instantaneously cleanse the Earth of threats?  There is a certain popcorn movie logic to it since if they were successful in pulling off that first strike who would really be left to mount an opposition? The world would be thrown into chaos, but doesn’t it all seem the slightest bit silly? Maybe I’m just in denial over how the U.S. government already does that kind of thing with targeted killings, or maybe I just want to know if Thor would be able to show up and take the hellicarriers down with some next level lightning.  I get the basic idea is spies infiltrated our government for years, orchestrated the building of WMDs, and then hijacked the WMDs to exert control.  I’m curious what their next steps would have been had Cap failed to stop them?  Would they just become the world’s new leaders, ruling with helicarrier-enforced justice?

5. How many people do we think died at the end?

This is our Randall from Clerks moment, but what must the collateral damage of that final battle have been like?  How many SHIELD agents/Hydra moles died when the last hellicarrier struck the SHIELD headquarters building?  How many innocent civilians were harmed/killed by falling debris?  Sure, they wanted to make it clear these ships were located over the Potomac River, but once destroyed and in free fall to the ground they wouldn’t necessarily definitely stay away from land.  Plus, being so close to national monuments is there a chance that once of them fell on the Washington Memorial or something?

6. Wait a sec, exactly how old is Black Widow supposed to be?


A some point during Winter Soldier Black Widow’s year of birth is identified as being 1985 (unless I misheard), making her around as old as her portrayer, 29-year-old Scarlett Johansson.  So, why then does Widow say in Winter Soldier that she was a KGB agent when she would have only been 6 or 7 by the time the Soviet Union and KGB fell in 1991?

In the comics, Black Widow started out as a 1960s Russian spy, but by the time the Johansson version of the character would have turned 8 the KGB was gone, replaced by the Federal Security Service and Foreign Intelligence Service.  Maybe the KGB reference in Winter Soldier is simply a bit of an Easter egg for the comic book fans, or it simply sounded better to say KGB instead of FIS, or they genuinely mean Widow was a KGB agent when she was just a little girl.  We won’t know until they fill us in on her backstory, whenever they choose to do so.

7. What happened to the real Councilwoman Hawley?


When Councilwoman Hawley erupted into martial arts bad-ass-ery I could hear many a whispered, “WTF?” in my theater as we had no reason to expect this character to exhibit such skills, particularly agile ones for an older woman played by Jenny Agutter.  Of course, I immediately assumed it was Black Widow in disguise, ala Total Recall or a Mission: Impossible-style mask, and delighted at the slightly odd sight of Agutter (or her stunt double) kicking some butt before removing her mask and turning into Scarlett Johansson.

It does beg the question: what happened to the real Councilwoman Hawley?  According to the directors, they worried audiences would think Johansson had somehow cut off the poor woman’s face, and they considered having her seated next to Black Widow during her testimony in front of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end. Sort of like, “Look, everybody, that old woman is totally okay.”. They didn’t do that, though.

8. The Joint Chiefs of Staff just let Black Widow walk right out?

It was sort off impossible to watch Black Widow mouth off to a high level DC council, and then walk out like a rock star without being reminded of Tony Stark’s defiant appearances in front of the US government in Iron Man 2. It was surprising that they resisted having her namedrop the Avengers on the way out the door, maybe assuring the gathered Senators that though SHIELD was gone she knew some heroes who could assemble when needed. However, come on, Black Widow and Captain America just basically Julian Assange’d SHIELD, flooding the internet with decades of top secret files implicating multiple country’s governments from around the world. Our government is desperate to get its hands on a whistle blower like Edward Snowden, yet we’d just let Black Widow walk out in the middle of a meeting because she was done talking? Of course, they’d read her file. They probably knew they had no shot at actually keeping her there if she was motivated to leave.

If you like this, check out our other “Nitpicking” Articles


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