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Nitpicking Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Posted on the 09 April 2014 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

Captain America: The Winter Soldier may be among the best movies yet accomplished by Marvel Studios, but it is still ultimately a comic book movie, not immune to the incessant nitpicking which follows all films of this variety.  Even so, for a movie whose plot is so centered on a conspiracy going back 7 decades Winter Soldier probably 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?


When you read a Captain America or Thor or Batman or Superman comic you know there’s a possibility that a member of the Avengers or Justice League might pop up, but you shouldn’t expect it, no matter how high the stakes get.  In the case of the Avengers, the mantra is supposed to be, “And there came a day unlike any other when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat.”  It’s a bit more difficult to remember that with the movies, though.

For the movies so far, the “day unlike any other” has only 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 conflict 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?  Well, considering that 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 an act of faith for 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

That just leaves Hulk and Hawkeye, and Winter Soldier’s producers have promised that Hawkeye’s absence was actually be design, with his whereabouts relating to the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron.  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

The Winter Soldier film seems less interested in the mystery over the titular character’s identity, and more inspired by the nesting doll approach to villains utilized by Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises and Shane Black in Iron Man 3.  We had been led to believe in all of their marketing that the Winter Soldier was the primary villain, but just as the Joker gave way to Two-Face, Bane to Talia al-Guhl, and the Mandarin to Aldrich Killian we come to learn that the Winter Soldier is actually a specialized foot soldier for the true enemy: Hydra, mostly represented by Robert Redford’s Alexander Pearce.

The misdirection works in a film full of surprises, and though not the star of the show Winter Soldier is not simply a tacked on villain ala Bane in Batman & Robin.  Plus, the reveal of his identity convinces Captain America to not save SHIELD but end it and Hydra completely.  However, by the end of this movie the Winter Soldier’s story has only really just begun, and though that’s not a surprise to anyone who knows that eventually Barnes becomes 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 strange if they’d gone with a different title, but that’s not what happened so here we are.

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 only 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 that the main characters are all going to be perfectly fine by the end.  We always kind of assume that, but then we can be surprised when Rachel dies in The Dark Knight.  So far, Marvel’s only major death which stuck:


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.

There are whispers that this could change, with Whedon maybe killing someone off in Avengers: Age of Ultron (although due to his TV shows he’ll always be assumed to want to kill of characters) or Steve Rogers dying in Captain America 3 to allow Chris Evans to retire and Sebastian Stan take over as the new Cap, just as the Winter Soldier did in the comics.

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 nearly century long con resulting in the Nazi’s overtaking our intelligence agencies.  They’re all about pulling some Minority Report-level shit in stamping out opposition before it’s ever even really started, which is exactly the world as it is vs. the world as it should be type of conflict tailor-made for Captain America to combat.  However, their 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 something about paying so much homage to the conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s only to reveal that the bad guys mean to shoot us all down from the sky felt like a slightly jarring transition.  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 wondered if Thor would be able to show up and take the hellicarriers down with his command of lightning.

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 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 that these ships were located over water, 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, Scarlett Johansson (who is only 29).  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 that 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 just so we could see that she was all right.  They didn’t do that, of course, but in their thinking Hawley was perfectly fine, a willing participant as someone sympathetic to Nick Fury.

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

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