Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A LitFlix

Cover from Captain America #11 by Ed Brubaker

Cover from Captain America #11 by Ed Brubaker

Okay, I’m over a month late on getting out a Captain America: The Winter Soldier LitFlix, and for that I am sorry. I can blame the A to Z Challenge and all the things we put off writing about in April, but that’s not it entirely. I think the problem is, there’s just too much to say about this film.

I was also left with a question: what was it about this movie that made me love it so much?

After seeing it another two times, I think the answer is quite simply that it is a good movie. It works internally with itself. It works as a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. And it works within the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, the characters and events fitting in with the larger happenings in other films. It did the things it needed to, and did them well.

My goal however is not to present you with a review – though I will provide you with a list of solid reviews to the film. My goal is to compare this film to the comics it is based on, in the full fashion of our LitFlix. So needless to say, all sorts of spoilers to follow!

Winter Soldier Reviews

There have been a ton of reviews out there for this film, because lots of people are going to see it, and lots are walking out thoroughly entertained and satisfied and happy and excited and other adjectives. Here are some of the reviews I’ve read from around my local blogosphere:

  1. Film Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Believe the Hype
  2. Nitpicking Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. “With You ‘Til the End of the Line”: The Bold Bromance of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Even Holly and I got in on the action, with posts about the larger implications from the film and its real villain, and on what it meant for Agents of SHIELD. So the point now is not a review – that’s been done.

(Thanks to Sourcerer as well for a roundup of some of these reviews.)

Who the Hell is Bucky?

Found on but not sure if that's the source. There's plenty more where this comes from... Tumblr!

Found on but not sure if that’s the source. There’s plenty more where this comes from… Tumblr!

I touched on one meme generated from this movie before, but there’s one other that has cropped up: around the devastating moment, the sheer lack of recognition, on the part of the Winter Soldier.

“Who the Hell is Bucky?”

This is not some crazy movie invention – this is straight out of the comics. And this is the beating heart of the film: the Winter Soldier and his identity, the effect it has on Captain America. And these aspects are directly from the comics. The plot stems from this, the title – occasionally maligned for the fact that the Winter Soldier is not the main villain of the film – comes from this.

Iron Man 3 came out of the Extremis comics, but the villains and situations were added and came out of the progression that already existed in the films; in much the same way, The Winter Soldier pulled from the comic plot, but then also worked in continuing plot and ideas that fit the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

From Captain America #8 by Ed Brubaker.

From Captain America #8 by Ed Brubaker.

Whoa, sorry, that was one long run-on sentence, but this film pulled it off. Solid connection to an existing, established comic plot, while keeping a connection to the other films. It kept the spirit of what happened in the comics, without having to stick with every fact.

In the comics, the Red Skull has gotten his hands on the Cosmic Cube. Okay, again, much like with Extremis, here is an original plot point from the first film and origin story, from a more recent comic that ends up a basis for a later film. Well, just in his moment of triumph, the Red Skull is assassinated – by the Winter Soldier. An angry Russian ends up with the cube, uses it to mess with Cap, blows things up, hijinks ensue. The bad guy group is a radical offshoot of AIM, rather than Hydra; the villain ends up with Red Skull in his brain, so there’s a Hydra connection; Crossbones is a major villain as well helping bad things happen; Fury goes off the reservation; Cap turns to Falcon for help… There’s lots of connections.

Oh, and Bucky is indeed the Winter Soldier, found by the Russians (not Hydra, though to be fair Hydra could have been Russian in the movie too) and turned into an assassin they kept on ice, waking him up every so often to do a big-deal assassination. So, yeah, exactly the same origin. One point I liked from the comics is that they found him with modern facial recognition, which showed he had aged only about 5 years over the course of decades – and that was how they finally connected all the murders to the Winter Soldier. Because otherwise, who would believe it? It’s a ghost story.

Very clearly they read these comics to shape this film. But they didn’t do a direct adaptation. For instance, they bothered to include Sharon (Carter) as Agent 13 without putting too much into her. Really, they seem to be setting her up for the next film, continuing the comic storyline. Similarly, really, Winter Soldier is setting us up for the future, and the same overall plot.

What the Comics Say for the Next Films

So I just mentioned Agent Carter, so let’s start there. I really liked how they used a known character – Black Widow – as Cap’s partner-in-herotude rather than Agent 13. The point with Agent 13 was that they had a history together, had been adventuring already in earlier comics. In the film, it would have been forced. Falcon was almost forced, but they made it pretty natural. In a film fundamentally about trust, could they really have dropped that many new characters on Cap, had him trust them, and had us believe it?

From Civil War #1

From Civil War #1

So that worked for me. But from the initial storylines introducing the Winter Soldier, the comics move on into the Marvel Civil War. The Civil War was fought over super hero registration – a la The Incredibles – and Cap was on the side of freedom, rather than registration.

Honestly, I don’t think the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enough heroes in it to do justice to a plot like this – you really need there to be a critical threshold of heroes to make everyone upset enough that you need registration. We might get there, but not yet. So I think the heroes versus SHIELD versus Hydra versus heroes dynamic was like a small Civil War – people had loyalties, and SHIELD tore itself apart. I think this might be as close as should reasonably be gotten to this plot.

But part of why I bring it up is because of the panel I show above – the idea behind the elevator fight scene, straight out of Civil War, when SHIELD tries to bring Cap into the fold. So they were tapping into this too. Which means I read further in the comics – I read this scene and, having seen the elevator fight pre-Thor: The Dark World, wondered how far they were going to go.

Cover to Captain America #1 by Ed Brubaker. Captain America, Red Skull, Agent 13, and Nick Fury!

Cover to Captain America #1 by Ed Brubaker. Captain America, Red Skull, Agent 13, and Nick Fury!

The plot right after Civil War is The Death of Captain America, the plotline I remember catching a lot of press back when it happened, regardless of how long it lasted. And when Cap was killed – in spoilery ways by spoilery people – it’s Bucky Barnes who takes up the mantle and becomes Captain America – the idea. The hero.

Because what has Bucky been up to? Well, since Fury has gone into hiding and is no longer in charge of SHIELD – sound familiar? – he find Bucky, who is fighting to break free of his identity as the Winter Soldier and remember – and recapture – his past, and they spy and do missions together. So that’s where I expect Fury to be what I expect Fury to be doing, as well as the Winter Soldier.

Also, I think that a growing presence for Sebastian Stan in the movies will work out just fine – the fandom seems to have accepted him and invited him in just fine.

And Age of Ultron? I am now pretty well convinced that will be a result of Hydra, and Arnim Zola, and Zola’s algorithm. The idea of a computer code able to decide who is a dangerous person on Earth? Sounds like great targets for a constantly adapting and evolving evil AI presence powerful enough to challenge the whole of the Avengers. Wanda and Pietro? That is, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver? Time will tell.

And one other thing: rather than have the Skull make clones, or inhabit other people’s brains, or other things, he can really just come back in the movies: he was last seen scooped up by the Bifrost, never to be seen again… until he is. Captain America 3, bossing around Crossbones and causing mayhem for Steve Rogers? Maybe.

Sorry if you’ve ended up spoiled for the future movies, but I have no idea if you are or not! Speculate away in the comments below as to where you think the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going from here!


20 responses to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A LitFlix

  1. lol. I wondered why you were looking at my archives from a month ago. I’m glad you did, though, I found a comment from a friend on that roundup post that I’d missed.


  2. Thanks for the link! And thanks for the comic details. I’m one of those fans who’s really coming to Marvel through the MCU, and I’ll admit my interest in them is mainly about “What’s going to happen to the movie characters, and what subtleties did I miss?” I’m easing my way into them in general, I’ve been a DC girl for a long time. 😉

    Also, definitely agree that Stan/Bucky has been embraced. Introducing new characters tactfully will be a vital element if they’re really going to keep this going for decades.


    • I think what’s been important has been that they’re making the cinematic universe make sense unto itself – the stories fit together. Occasionally you get a moment that just screams of the comic for no reason – like in Iron Man 3 when he breathes fire with Extremis. They can do it in the comics, so I guess they thought they had to fit it in… but I’m pretty sure it only happens once and is a bit odd because of that.

      If they avoid moments like that, and keep making the characters interesting – keep doing things like not forcing romance – I think they’ll keep doing well!

      I’m a Marvel guy, and only really getting DC from the movies and Arrow, so a bit of a reversed situation!


      • Agreed — Sometimes it’s completely obvious to me they must be making a comic reference even though I have no idea what that reference is. I don’t mind, so far they’ve done a good job of attracting comic fans and new fans. I’m constantly impressed by how well they’re handling the whole thing, learning from their misses (like Iron Man 2), etc.

        I actually got into DC because of Batman Begins, and comics at all because of Watchmen (but I read the comic long before the movie came out… I guess you could say I got into comics because of the Watchmen trailer!)


        • I kind of feel like they did some work in Winter Soldier to redeem Iron Man 2 – for instance, knowing that Senator Sterns was Hydra and wanted the Iron Man technology changes that entire dynamic. Also, knowing that Howard Stark was killed by Hydra changes the need for secret communications from father to son and makes that more interesting. I now kind of want to rewatch that movie and see if these do some work on making it better…

          I was into comics (Marvel mostly) when I was younger, and there were great 90s animated shows as well – X-Men, Spider-Man, and Batman all come to mind fondly. However, they lost me for many years. Decided a couple years back now to go see what they had going on, after reading Watchmen as well… and there’s some pretty great stuff going on in the comics world. A lot of great indie stuff as well, much of which Holly and I still need to write about!

          Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Here’s the source for that image! (My dumb superpower finding the source.)

    Not much otherwise to add, but I really enjoyed getting into the characters more than the set-up, although I think the first movie had good development for Cap’s relationships with Bucky and Peggy, and it’s fun to see him embracing contemporary culture even more so than in Avengers.


    • All of which is to say, he’s being presented like a real person having to deal with these things. He has a past, he cares about it, but he’s also taking time coping with his new reality.

      The characters definitely made this movie. I have another theory too, but it’s the sort I get to say “I’m gonna write a blog post about it!” 😉


  4. It’s strange…if someone had asked me before the Marvel Franchise started which one my least favourite Superhero is, I would have said “Captain America”. I honestly could never stand the character, because he embodied everything I dislike about America – the overblown patriotism, the believe that the US won WW2 singlehanded even though they actually send most of their troops into the pacific, a “we are better than everyone else” message…it’s understandable in the context the comics were made, but it always made the character were hard to stomach for me.

    But in the Marvel franchise, the Captain America movies are easily my favs. I liked the first one because it subtly questioned all the propaganda which was attached to the original comic. And I love this one because they managed to write Captain America as war veteran without a constant “woe me” attached to him. Just some small reminders that Steve Rogers doesn’t fight because he wants to, but because he feels that he has to.

    And putting his honest and open character in contradiction to Shield – it just works. It is a very subtle criticism on a state which somehow believes that it has the right to spy on its own allies.


    • I would say not only Cap, but most all of the Avengers were a big shrug for me before the movies started rolling out. I love Spider-Man, and his villains; the X-Men; Silver Surfer; Ghost Rider. Heroes like that.

      Movie by movie, Marvel Studios has been winning me over to these characters. Making them more than stereotypes, more than archetypes, more than comics characters, and more than meets the eye. And having Cap tear apart SHIELD is really one of the best examples – the character who is their poster boy being their destruction: that’s some complicated stuff.

      I would say they have also won me over in the comics: the current run of Avengers, by Jonathan Hickman, is AMAZING. I’ve written about that a bunch here on the blog. I’d never read an Avengers title before, but had had subscriptions to some of the titles for the names above. They’ve won me over on these guys, for sure.


      • Well, it would be a lie to say that I was into Thor and Ironman beforehand (I’m not a reader, btw, I only know those characters from TV and movies), but Captain America always actively annoyed me.

        I think there are five characters in the franchise which are so outstandingly written that they manage to pull every story they feature in on the next level, and those are Captain America, Black Widow, Loki, Fury and Coulson.


        • I like that list. Coulson carried Agents of SHIELD for a long time. Black Widow won The Avengers. And Nick Fury has changed race because Samuel L. Jackson might secretly be Nick Fury. So good.

          And Loki definitely steals the screen when he’s there.

          I would add that they’ve finally hit on a good Hulk that works. I would watch a Mark Ruffalo Hulk movie, for sure. But I have no idea what plot to give it.


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