This movie, oh, this movie. Where to even begin? Captain America is not a comic book character that I actively follow, so all I really know about him comes from the cinematic universe and the cartoons. His stories are not normally my kind of thing. I’m more into something like Thor, because of the magic and mythology—yet it seems that every time a Captain America movie will come out, I’m probably going to end up loving it even more than I love Thor. And I don’t know why.
Massive spoilers ahead.
I think I know exactly why I love this particular movie so much, and it’s not because Black Widow ended up being a central and amazing part of the narrative. And it’s also not because it introduced us to another black superhero. (Although those both count in the movie’s favor.) I loved The Winter Soldier because it ended up being one of the more suspenseful movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, it still reuses numerous plot points from the first film—it ends with Captain America falling into water unconscious and then waking up in a hospital room—but it also took the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a direction that I was not expecting it to go, and the ending to The Winter Soldier is going to have a massive impact on all future Marvel films.
Essentially, the plot is that Hydra is still around. It’s been working at infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. over the past so many decades, and unfortunately, it’s been succeeding in this goal. S.H.I.E.L.D. has built three new Helicarriers that Hydra plans on using to wipe out twenty million people in order to control the rest of the population with fear. With Hydra in control, Captain America, Black Widow, and our new superhero Falcon end up as fugitives. And because S.H.I.E.L.D. is unknowingly taking orders from Hydra, they have to fight both organizations at the same time. Making their struggles even harder is the Winter Soldier, who is really Bucky Barnes from the first movie.
Bucky had been experimented on back in the 40s, and because of that, he was able to survive the fall that supposedly killed him. Hydra preserved him in a cryogenic sleep for all those years and used electroshock therapy to erase his memories—even though in actuality, electroshock therapy doesn’t work like that. At all.
Naturally, our heroes still manage to save the day. They destroy the Helicarriers, Captain America is able to convince Bucky that they were friends, even though Bucky doesn’t remember it, Black Widow uploads all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s and Hydra’s classified information to the internet, and S.H.I.E.L.D. formally disbands. Nick Fury disappears to somewhere in Europe, Black Widow is now a spy with no resources or hidden aliases, and Captain America and Falcon team up to track down Bucky, who’s also disappeared on his own personal journey to figure himself out.
I can only imagine what an ending like this is going to mean for something like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or even the next Avengers movie. But the excitement doesn’t stop there. The Winter Soldier has two extra scenes after the credits, and the first one shows the Maximoff twins, Pietro and Wanda, living in captivity. They are officially our first two mutants to appear in this particular universe.
I don’t have too many complaints about The Winter Soldier, if only because I’m still freaking out too much about the end of S.H.I.E.L.D. to really think hard about this movie’s failings. Overall, I really loved this movie. I loved the dialogue, I loved the action, and I loved Captain America’s relationship with both Black Widow and Falcon. Steve is still someone who fights for freedom and is very honest, whereas Natasha has a shady past and still engages in some morally questionable behavior. By the time this movie starts, they’ve been on numerous missions together, but Steve is still learning to trust her. Additionally, she’s learning to not always wear a metaphorical mask and how to live her life by being herself. Uploading all of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s information to the internet also means that she told the entire world what kind of person she used to be. This is something that’s going to have a lot of consequences. But she still does it, because when Steve says that he wants to disband S.H.I.E.L.D. due to it being a terrible organization, she ends up agreeing with him that it’s the right thing to do. She gave up being in the KGB to join S.H.I.E.L.D., which ended up being just like the KGB.
Our other hero, Sam Wilson aka Falcon, is also a very well-developed character. He and Steve meet during a morning jog and get to talking with each other. Sam is part of a support group for former soldiers who are having trouble making the transition back into a civilian lifestyle. As such, he understands a lot of the problems Steve is going through, and being a likeminded individual, he’s someone Steve finds himself trusting. When S.H.I.E.L.D. starts hunting down Captain America and Black Widow, they go to Sam for help, because he’s the only person they know who isn’t trying to kill them. When Sam hears about what’s going on with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, he decided to lend them a hand—and lo and behold, what a coincidence, he used to fly an Iron Man-like suit with wings. If this had been any other universe, I’d say this would have been too much of a coincidence—but it’s Marvel, so this kind of thing is apparently a normal happenstance.
I really do think that Sam was a wonderful inclusion to this movie. He became essential in helping stop Hydra, and he was just a fun character to watch. Not only do I want Black Widow to have her own solo film, I want Falcon to get one as well. Right now, all of our main superhero movies star white men, and it’s really about time to change that.
There are still some questions from the previous movies that The Winter Soldier doesn’t answer. We still don’t know what happened to Red Skull after being taken up in the Bifrost during The First Avenger, and even though Black Widow features throughout this movie, her former partner Hawkeye is nowhere to be seen. He’s not even mentioned. I’m still waiting to hear about what happened to him after being mind-controlled by Loki. But these things I suspect future films will answer in time. The Winter Soldier is a really good movie. It’s fun, it’s action-packed, and it’s well worth your time.