Up until now the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (M.C.U.) played it relatively straight. Every movie was mostly a self-contained story in which a protagonist takes on an antagonist and saves the world at the end of the day, each movie adding something to this universe by setting up the next Avengers movie. Events portrayed in these movies had hardly any impact outside of these movies aside from an occasional episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It is therefor surprising how much impact the events of The Winter Soldier has on the entire M.C.U. So much that they will resonate into the movies following this movie and generated a major turn of events in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is all due to S.H.I.E.L.D. turning out to be compromised by HYDRA for decades now and thus breaking the one central element that tied all these movies together.
Even though a lot of people didn’t like Captain America: The First Avenger I thought it was an enjoyable entry in the M.C.U., mostly because the 1940’s setting made it stand out from the rest. At the end of that movie Steve “Captain America” Rogers was frozen in ice only to wake up present day. The Avengers already glimpsed on his re-entry in modern day society after being in a coma for over 60 years and realizing almost everybody you once cared about being deceased, but The Winter Soldier shows us how he visits museums and keeps a list of things he should watch or listen that are suggested to him. But because this isn’t a lifetime movie stuff starts exploding pretty soon.
It all kicks off with an assassination attempt on Nick Fury, right after he was stumbling on suspicious data concerning the agency he works for: S.H.I.E.L.D. After being attacked by a group of people he considered team members, Steve goes off the grid together with the one person he can seemingly trust: Black Widow. Together they must unravel how much of S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised and take on formidable new foe: The Winter Soldier. A highly skilled assassin who has ties to Steve’s past.
The first series of Marvel movies were basically set-ups for The Avengers. Their quality was inconsistent, though none of them was really bad. Now that origins have been told and The Avengers have assembled it’s time for these characters to develop themselves further. Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeds with flying colors in doing so as it explorers the character of Steve Rogers while shaking up everything we have grown accustomed to. If the entire first phase of the Marvel movies was to build something, The Winter Soldier is about breaking it down. A trend that Captain America: Civil War will follow.
This results in a movie resembling the spy thrillers made in the 70s, where no one could be trusted and the fate of the world would rely on a MacGuffin like a micro film. In this day and age the MacGuffin is a small disk drive which surprisingly is compatible with 30 year old computers. The approach to this movie is an interesting one because it not only moves away from the standard super-hero movie, but it also answers that one question everybody will have in most of the stand-alone Avenger movies: where the fuck are all of the other Avengers? When you’re in deep shit, why not call a fellow Avenger like Tony Stark? It’s one of the problems the M.C.U. has in all the standalone movies since The Avengers save for the origin movies like Guardians Of The Galaxy of Ant-Man.
What The Winter Soldier doesn’t evade is the almost obligatory “end-of-the-world” scenario. Not only must Steve reveal to the world that SHIELD has been infiltrated by Hydra and take on armies of former allies in the process, but it just so happens that they were planning to release an entire squadron of helicarriers being able to target anyone in the world.
Those remarks aside Captain America: The Winter Soldier is truly a surprisingly fresh take on the superhero genre being a movie that almost transcends the “Comic book movie” like Watchmen did a few years back. With The Winter Soldier Marvel has done the impossible: create a layered enigmatic hero of a guy wearing the American flag.