Now, before I get into the movies, I should explain that I never saw the first movie when it came out. It just didn't appeal to me, probably partially because I judged it from the title - and, well, as a Canadian, movies that appear to be about how great America is really don't appeal to me. But, hey, that was my mistake, because it's really not about how great America is at all, if anything, the franchise is actually about how much America continually disappoints it's own ideals. Yay!
I'm getting ahead of myself, though... back to the narrative of my life...
Somewhere between the first CA movie and the Avengers, I joined tumblr. Now, tumblr is a horrible place full of horrible things... and sometimes these horrible things are gifs and fanart of things that I DO NOT WANT TO WATCH... but I keep seeing these awesome fanarts and these intriguing gifs, and I start getting curious...
Fanart got me to watch Sherlock. Gifs got me to watch Teen Wolf. And the terrible power of fanart AND gifts got me interested in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And then complete spoilers for the ending of CA:TWS got me to read fanfic... because it was the situation that I absolutely love... listen, you all know that I'm a hurt/comfort whore... and basically, there is no kryptonic for me quite like stories about broken people who are never going to get better, but end up being okay anyway.
This is all to say that I was completely spoiled for the plot of both movies - more so The Winter Soldier than The First Avenger. That being said, I wasn't entirely sure what order things happened in.... and actually, my initial assumption about the order of scenes in The Winter Soldier left it with a fare bleaker ending then it actually had.
I just want to point out though that I'm not upset that I was spoiled and I don't think being spoiled hampered my enjoyment of the films - because if I HADN'T been spoiled, then I wouldn't have watched the films. And there were still surprises!
Now...on with the movies...
Captain America: The First Avenger
I was going to wait until I watched both movies before I talked about either one of them. But I happened to watch The First Avenger on Sunday, and then Sunday night I logged onto Skype for my kinda-routine chat with my BFF - the Bucky to my Steve or probably more accurately (in terms of my lack of moral compass and ability to forget aspects of my own personality) the Steve to my Bucky.
Anyway, he asked me what I had done over the weekend, so I told him about seeing the movie, and then he asked me how I liked it - and I ended up typing out a review to him. So, here it is:
Captain America [:TFA] seemed rushed, like the sole purpose of the movie was to set up who Captain America was for the Avengers movie - but, because of the rush, we really didn't get enough moments to REALLY emotionally connect with him or his friends... which was a shame, because there was GREAT stuff in there for drama, but again, just too quick to really enjoy it. It would have been better as several films, I think.
I just think you really had two films - you had Steve becoming Captain America and then having to go rescue Bucky (end of film one) and then you had Steve forming the Howling Commandos and taking down Hydra (film two).
If they had divided it into two films, we would have gotten more time to really care about Bucky as much as Steve did...and then both his MIA and rescue (in film one) would have been more emotionally resonant and also his death (in film two) would have packed a harder punch. We also would have felt slightly more about Peggy, because they would have had time to establish more of a connection before Steve's "death." So, it would have been "great love-story is tragically cut-short" rather than just "girl I sort of flirted with will miss me, I guess."
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
So, this afternoon I met up with cordelia_gray for the first time ever and we went to go see the second film. It was her second time seeing it... and I FELT like it was my second time seeing it, because I had already seen a lot of it out of order and in gif form on Tumblr. But order is important guys... order is important...
This movie didn't suffer from the same problem as TFA, because it was just one story. Yay! We got time to know the characters and time to empathize with them... we got time to breath into the silences and time for words and actions to resonate. AND we still had lots and lots of action.
I really liked Sam. I hadn't known that he wasn't affiliated with SHIELD at all, and that was a really cool thing not to be spoiled about. Also, I just love the fact that he's a soldier like Steve, like...a traditional soldier like Steve is in his heart. Steve's feeling out of place in his life because Steve doesn't know how to be a superhero, he really only knows how to be a soldier. Sam's friendship winning quality with Steve, I think, is that Sam treats him like a soldier - but not only that, he treats him like someone who is capable of being broken, who IS broken (because he is), and who wants to help him as a fellow soldier who is willing to listen and try to understand, knowing full well the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Steve's particular trauma.
(Sidenote here, because I DO spend too much time on Tumblr: I don't want to offend anyone with my use of the word "broken", I don't mean to imply that people who are having a hard time with things are in anyway less than people NOT having a hard time or ACTUALLY broken.)
Everyone is broken in this movie... but the particular problem Steve has is that he's an idealized hero. He's supposed to be this symbol of morality and everything Americans want their country to be... and in reality he has absolutely no idea what he's doing, or if the people he's taking orders from are good or evil. Steve hates the Insight program whether it's under hydra OR under SHIELD. He hates it regardless... but he doesn't know what to do when the organization that Peggy helped create is doing something he doesn't agree with.
Anyway... before I get to Bucky, let's get talk about how heartbreaking Steve visiting Peggy was. Man, I mean, as you probably guessed, I didn't really end up feeling much about their romance in the first movie. I liked Peggy, there just wasn't enough time given to really get a feel for their relationship. This one scene in TWS blew the entirety of TFA out of the water though... I mean, geez, my heart.
Another thing before we get to Bucky...Natasha!
Can we just have whole movies about how awesome Steve and Natasha are as BFFs4life? I would enjoy that. I loved everything about this movie because it is 1)a movie without a romance driven subplot (take off the slasher goggles, I'm serious here), 2)a movie that has a man and a woman being platonic friends where neither one of them wants it to be more than friendship and have never wanted it to be more than friendship and never WILL want it to be anything more than friendship.
Really, I just want all the movies about Steve, Sam, and Natasha hanging out and being awesome.
(Sidenote here: I saw someone on Tumblr complain about how Sam kinda leers a bit at Natasha when he meets her - kind of obviously shows that he's interested in her romantically/sexually. They complained because it was the only time in the movie that Natasha was treated like an object - something that shows how cool Steve is, getting into a car with a sexy girl - like she's a status object instead of a person. But I LIKE the fact that Sam shows us that he finds her attractive in that first scene, because he then subsequently NEVER ACTS ON IT OR BRINGS IT UP AGAIN. Seriously, it's awesome. You know why he never acts on it or brings it up again - because it's not the damn TIME for shenanigans! People are injured and in danger and there is a world to save and, like any sane non-douchebag, Sam shelves anything not-important and treats Natasha like a fellow soldier/comrade-in-arms rather than something he wants to stick his dick in... I mean, just think of some movies you've seen where some guy starts off leering at a girl and then even when the world is going to shit around them, he's STILL hitting on her, like... seriously?!?Is THIS THE TIME?! What the hell kind of priorities do you HAVE?!)
So, speaking about how there's no romantic subplot in this movie... let's talk about Bucky.
Oh man, Sebastian Stan makes the SADDEST FACES EVER. Gifs don't even do it justice.
Bucky's story is the most heartbreaking... but I love the fact that they set it up in the context of Natasha trying to set Steve up. Okay, here me out - I love the fact that basically what we're being told is that Steve is LONELY. Natasha tries to remedy this the modern way - with romance... but Steve shuts that down, because he's Steve's not lonely for romance, he's lonely for people people who KNOW and/or UNDERSTAND him. Natasha's argument is that if Steve gives someone a chance, they can grow to know and understand him... Steve's argument is that everyone and everything he ever knew is dead (or suffering from dementia in a nursing home) and how the hell do you start over from that?
The reason I love this set-up is... (and again, please remove your slash goggles and shelve your bisexual!Steve headcanon for a moment, as I have done)... the reason I love this set-up is that they're AGAIN reiterating that romance is not the be all end all of love and happiness. That the solution to Steve's loneliness rests more in friendship than it does in romance. Just because you aren't in a romantic relationship doesn't mean you are by necessity lonely... moreover, a romantic relationship might not cure loneliness at all. Steve would be lonely whether he's dating the girl from statistics or not. He's not lonely because he isn't dating; he's lonely because ALL HIS FRIENDS ARE DEAD.
Even without Bucky, this movie is really about Steve making friends with both Sam and Natasha and starting to slowly move away from that loneliness.
With Bucky though, this movie just kicks ass all around... because Steve is being given the thing that he wanted most in the world via the worst way possible. Congratulations, you're best friend is alive, but he's been through 70 years of torture and brainwashing... at worst, he doesn't know who you are anymore, at best, he's a shell of the man you used to know.
And Bucky is awesome, because he's still a person. I was worried, going in, that they'd make him some sort of robot man... mainly because that's how a lot of fics portray him. But, I'm happy that's just quasi-poor characterization on the part of the fic writers (or at least character interpretation that I don't agree with.) Bucky still feels things, even as the Winter Soldier. Yeah, he's detached from the killing that he's doing, but so is Steve at this point... detachment happens to everyone given a smooth enough integration of violence into their lives (seriously, there's a fantastic book about it - Police Battalion 101. Read it.) But when Steve calls him Bucky, he responds "who the hell is Bucky?" Someone who is a robot does not add things like "the hell" to their speech, and they also don't look at you like you've just really confused them. Bucky still has a full range of emotions as the Winter Soldier. His life just sucks. That's all.
Anyway... things that I HADN'T been spoiled for (besides order of events): 1) Zola being still "alive" as a series of 1970s computers. What the hell?!!? 2) Fury allowing Steve to take full control of the situation and becoming Steve's subordinate rather than his director. 3)Hydra's plan. 4)Stan Lee's guest appearance. 5)Maria Hill being a complete badass and awesome.
A word about the ending...
First off, as heartbreaking as it is, I love the fact that Steve's plan, as soon as he knows Bucky is still alive, becomes "save Bucky or die"... seriously... there is no way you can convince me that Steve planned at any point to survive once he ordered Maria to fire.
Secondly, okay... so, when I originally was spoilered with all those gifs, I put them in the wrong order. Up until like, yesterday? Monday maybe? I thought that the scene with Bucky saying "But I knew him..." and then getting his memory wiped again was the last time we saw with him in the movie. That's right. I thought that this movie had the most depressing ending ever. Because I didn't realize that there was a break (for Bucky) between the encounter on the bridge and the encounter on the helicarrier. It was only when I saw the joke on tumblr about how when you saw bucky "at the end of the movie" at the museum, you didn't see the 20 minutes it took him to convince the security guard to let him through the metal detector... and I was like "Wait. Bucky goes to the museum at the END of the movie?!" And I remembered that I am FAR more cynical a human being that the majority of humanity and that perhaps I had gotten the order of events wrong.
My point is: The ending was awesome. As I told cordelia_gray, I'm actually kind of bummed that the next Captain America appearance is going to be an Avengers movie, because I want it to be the Steve & Sam Look for Bucky Adventures.
Oh, another note about Natasha... man, did I ever feel for her when she realized that she hadn't actually been working for the good guys after all. It's even a worse disappointment than Steve's disappointment about it, because Natasha was trying to MAKE UP for the evil she had done and she just accidentally did more evil. Also, I think she makes a bigger sacrifice than anyone does in this movie when she decides to back Steve's plan of leaking everything about everything...including her own past.
Also, one more random note: I love the fact that Steve shut down the "romanticize the past" train as soon as Sam brought it up. The past was not better than today. There was no golden age. Steve lived through the depression and a war while having health problems up the wazoo in a time when modern medicine was just getting its footing. A future where his amputee BFF can have a cool metal arm and they can look up anything they want to on the internet is WAY better than sleeping on couch cushions on the floor because they're broke and Steve's mother is dead of [probably some illness that we can now vaccinate against.]
Okay, I guess that's it. I realize that I just went on AT LENGTH about The Winter Soldier and BARELY touched on The First Avenger, but given what I DID say about The First Avenger, I would think the reason for that is obvious.
So, for those of you who have seen these movies - let me know your thoughts in comments!
I could probably go on much longer, but it's 10:30 and I have not had dinner yet because I came home from the movies and started typing this and that was two hour ago.
For people who don't want to be spoiled:
Captain America: The First Avenger - Good. Not great. Too much plot crammed into too little time.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Awesome. Must see. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a better first movie.