A Man (Still) Out of TIme

It would seem that the not-so-small Marvel Studios has decided to cross the genre streams by combining their superhero films with other types of movies.  Audiences first saw it with the Iron Man 3’s “buddy-cop” feel and now the merging of Marvel’s “Capsicle” with a 70’s political thriller vibe has given audiences the recently released Captain America:  The Winter Solider.

The latest entry into “Phase Two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe finds Steve Rogers on his first adventure post-Avengers and working for the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division (SHIELD) alongside Sam Jackson’s spot on Nicholas J. Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to rescue a team of SHIELD agents from a hostage situation.  It’s the execution of this mission that begins to sow seeds of intrigue into the plot and doubts in the mind of Steve Rogers as to what he is – or should be – doing with his life.  These initial doubts lead to a larger danger and conspiracy at work that leads to the death of a major character and SHIELD in a battle for it’s very soul as a agency of global security.

This is one of the best films Marvel Studios has done to date.  No it’s no Avengers and not Joss Whedon, but it’s still a great film.  Rogers is still very much a “man out of time” adjusting to an entirely new century, country, and culture (and wanting so badly for life to be as it was then, signified by his visit with an aged Peggy Carter).  For all of the twists, turns, and uncertainty this movie displays and forces its characters to confront – and presents the audience with some rather prescient political issues threaded throughout like The Dark Knight Rises did a few summers ago – there is a constant in the film that doesn’t change:  Captain America.  Presently, the Star-Spangled Man still possesses that Greatest Generation sense of moral fortitude and it shows in the early scenes he has with Nick Fury and later scenes with The Winter Solider and new ally, Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) a military veteran returned from the front and working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help others adjust to being back home from deployment.

The conflict in this film over the soul of what SHIELD is becoming is mirrored by the personal conflict Steve Rogers deals with concerning SHIELD: should he stay or should he go?  Does what he stood for as a herald of the Greatest Generation still have a place?  In Avengers Phil Coulson gives an assuring “yes”, but once the identity of an international assassin is revealed to be that of his best friend and brother-in-arms – James “Bucky” Barnes – thought to have died in 1945, that really begins to change.  For 50 years Barnes has been used to shape the direction of the world through assassination and preserves though cryo-sleep and mind-wipes.  Rogers feels responsible for what happened to his friends and risks his own life to try and bring his friend “back to the good side”.  (I felt was a hat-tip to Return of the Jedi considering that this is the third film that Captain America has appeared in and both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm are under the same parent company; it’s no accident that Star Wars was crossed off of Cap’s “Things You Missed while a Capsicle” list…and Trek was not).  In an interesting parallel, Phil Coulson and his hero, whom he sought to affirm in Avengers, Steve Rogers, go though similar internal conflicts around the same time but separate from one another; on the small screen and the other on the silver screen.

Having seen the film three times opening week, the thing that stuck with me most is actually what is happening with Black Widow’s character, namely that she is still searching for redemption, inner-peace, and a sense of self alongside Steve Rogers internal conflict.  In Avengers the audience is given the sense that she has been given a second chance by SHIELD and wants to use to that opportunity to nullify all the things she did before, to wipe the slate of her life clean from her darker past.  As she says more than once “I’ve got red in my ledger” and she wants to make it right, as if that will create a sense of absolution by balancing the scales.  nevertheless, she struggles with the knowledge that maybe working for SHIELD isn’t what she thought it would be.  Sin and evil are very real and apparent to this character because of her darker past – a past used as a reason to not expose SHIELD’s secrets because it will also expose what she was – yet she risks the truth about her being known.

Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and the Marvel Universe as a whole – has always been grounded in our world as much as possible through the use of real-life locations like New York City and Washington, DC and real people – even giving our universe its own designation as the 616 Universe – I wonder if that means that Jesus is present too (Cap’s throw away line in Avengers about “there is only one God…” is as much evidence as we’re given but at least it’s positive).  Granted it is unlikely that writers will allow Widow’s character to go that direction and embrace redemption and peace that way – not everyone gets to be Kurt Wagner – but it still lingers as I consider her arc and the desire for redemption.  Than again, the writers of Captain America and  The Winter Solider DID write the screen treatment for the Chronicles of Narnia films.

The big question this movie leaves the audience with is “what happens now” as this film really did change many things in the MCU, reverberations that are being felt in a big way on Agents of Shield, but that’s another story…


Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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