With the release of The Lego Batman Movie in theaters this week, let’s continue celebrating superhero films! On Monday, we looked at who might direct the next Batman film, and today we’re going to compare two of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the last two Captain America films. In my opinion, Marvel has really saved some of their best and most important material for the Captain America films as he is somebody who really grounds the MCU, and through him, we experience the fish-out-of-water narrative that he experiences.
Of course, this narrative is most apparent in The Winter Soldier since it was the first film in the post-Avengers world for Steve Rogers. What the Winter Soldier, or Bucky, did was bring him back into the world he used to live in. Now, he’s torn between the present and the past, and since the present world is becoming a world that he’s not happy being a part of, he doesn’t know which world to chase. He has the option of chasing after Bucky to pursue his past or fight against Bucky to protect his present. In addition, the rise of HYDRA in the film further distances him from the present world and makes him long for the past. His longing for the past was hardly touched on in The Avengers, so this element was something new (albeit expected) for his character.
This relationship is expanded on in Civil War and tested even more since Bucky represents a “threat” to the world, and Steve has to make the decision to turn on his past or his present, once and for all. This decision also either separates him from Bucky, or from everybody he’s come to know since being unfrozen; this decision creates two factions amongst the Avengers. Steve thinks that the Avengers should not be subject to governmental interference, while Tony Stark disagrees. Also, Steve’s connection to and protection of Bucky makes him an enemy of the state and separates him further from the world he was forced into.
The Winter Soldier presents him with his problem, and Civil War tests him further, but the former I think does much more in terms of his relationship with the present world; Bucky, HYDRA/SHIELD, Black Widow/Nick Fury, and Peggy are aspects that pull him in both directions. In Civil War, he no longer has his ties with Peggy, Nick Fury, HYDRA, SHIELD or Black Widow, which means that Bucky is his sole connection to… anything. So, he didn’t have much of a choice in the latter film. The Winter Soldier really tested him more, I think, in his relationship between himself and the past or present. Plus, learning that everything he has been a part of was really his enemy the entire time was much more impactful than the events of Civil War. The biggest event of that film was learning that Stark’s parents had been killed by Bucky, and then Steve having to defend his best friend from Stark trying to avenge them. Again, not much of a choice as he was just saving a life instead of fighting to take one.
Even if Civil War gave us incredible heroes like Black Panther and Spider-Man, amongst a dozen others, I don’t think there was any moment in the film as impactful as Steve seeing Bucky for the first time in 72+ years, or their battle at the end and Steve completely surrendering himself out of love. Those moments in the film are two of the many reasons why The Winter Soldier is my favorite MCU films, and I don’t think any film will supplant it in my top spot, definitely not Civil War. What about you? Which of these films do you prefer and why? The action? The tone? The other characters? Let me know! Join me back here on Friday to count down our Top 5 Batman films for this week’s Top 5 Friday! As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!