As always, Spoiler Alert
Of all the Marvel movies I’ve seen – which is most of them – Captain America: The First Avenger, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are by far the standouts.
Simple: their heart.
At the core of it all is Steve Rogers/Captain America’s purity of heart. His gracious, warm, kind nature is very appealing in today’s troll-populated, cynical society, and is captured perfectly by Chris Evans, the (apparently equally gracious, warm, and kind) actor who portrays him. It’s refreshing to see a superhero who’s a superhero, as opposed to the anti-hero with a tortured soul that is so common in the Marvel universe.
But there’s more to it than that.
Captain America: The First Avenger takes place during World War II, and is an origin story, showing the stereotypical 97-pound weakling Steve Rogers repeatedly trying to enlist and being denied due to his many health issues. He is eventually noticed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who admires his persistence and motives – Steve doesn’t want to kill Germans, but to stop them because they’re bullies, and he doesn’t like bullies – and offers him a chance. Steve takes it, even though it means being a human test subject in a dangerous experiment – the results of which leads to him becoming Captain America.
In the film, we see Steve’s own heart reflected in those he surrounds himself with, especially his best friend, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Bucky is the complementary stereotype to Steve, a handsome, swaggering, self-confident soldier. But he’s not so stereotypical as to be dismissive of the weaker Steve. Their friendship is clearly a deep one, which leads to Captain American defying orders to rescue – and then ultimately once again lose – his friend after he’s captured.
And this is where The Winter Soldier comes in, and why it beats out The First Avenger as my favourite Marvel movie.
The titular Winter Soldier is, in fact, a physically altered and brainwashed Bucky, whose mission is to eliminate Captain America. Steve is understandably upset to discover that not only has his friend has been alive all these years – The Winter Soldier takes place in modern times – but he’s been turned into a killing machine by the bad guys. He says he will not kill his friend, and in subsequent scenes holds true to his word, trying instead to help Bucky to remember their past.
Yes, the dialogue between them generally comes between punches, but it is a superhero movie, and punching is what they do. But the pathos in the quieter moments, when Bucky strives to remember, is quite moving. Steve vowing to once again save his friend shows that after all the years and everything he’s been through, his heart is still as pure as ever. And in both cases, male characters are allowed to be more vulnerable than is normal, especially in this genre.
It’s a refreshing take that lifts these Captain America movies well above the standard Marvel fare.
To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.