When The Avengers was released in May of 2012, it was quite the blockbuster and pretty easy to see why. Each of the principal characters had the luxury of being developed in their own films beforehand, it had a story that was wonderfully reminiscent of much of the source material, included dazzling special effects, and had a director that understood how all of the unique and perhaps disparate elements could be combined into a wonderful whole. By evoking the Avengers comics, it also helped to translate the tone of those particularly larger-than-life stories, since the threat in the film was so big that it required the combined forces of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk to defeat it.
In those comics, the standard-bearer for the heroes is always the Star-Spangled Avenger himself, Steve Rogers. Cap is the team's leader, but he also regularly embarks on missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., which means there's probably more crossover with supporting characters between Captain America and Avengers than with Avengers and most other Marvel universe comics. It looks as if the movies are going to be emulating this approach within the Marvel cinematic universe if the prerelease materials for Captain America: The Winter Soldier are any indication.
More than any other Marvel Studios film, The Winter Soldier seems to be the most direct sequel to The Avengers that a solo Marvel Studios film can be. Since both Thor and Iron Man largely have their own distinct supporting casts, their films largely make them stand-alone adventures that aren't as connected to the more interconnected world of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap, on the other hand, doesn't have the luxury of many friends since everyone he knew and loved is either very old or dead, so the institution of S.H.I.E.L.D. is really the only place he can then go. His involvement with the organization necessitates this, but The Avengers also helped solidify Cap as the iconic hero of the Marvel cinematic universe, a place he shares with his counterpart in the comics.
The Original Comic Writer's Perspective on the New Film
The comic book story arc of "The Winter Soldier" from 2005-'06 has garnered a place as one of Marvel's absolute best Captain America stories, if not in the character's entire history, then at least of the last 20 years. It came about due to writer Ed Brubaker's perception of a big fat question mark hanging over one of Cap's most important early supporting characters, and felt that ambiguity was very potent story territory if approached from some of the angles Brubaker knew best from his previous writings and his own interests: a perspective grounded in history, intrigue and espionage. Since he wrote the original story, people have been seeking out Brubaker's opinions on the upcoming film, and to the delight of comics fans everywhere, they seem to be very positive.
While Brubaker has something of a reputation as a "company guy" at Marvel, he is also uncompromisingly honest if expressing an opinion. If the writer was appalled by things that he saw while on the set or in the script, he likely would have downplayed any of that disappointment by saying something amenable, but ambiguous.
Instead, Brubaker has nothing but the highest praise for the adaptation of his story. In an interview with IGN, Brubaker heaped praise on the forthcoming film, saying, "It’s the best movie that Marvel has ever made... The stuff I’ve seen from it, it also has two of the best fight scenes that I’ve ever seen on film." He added, “It’s gonna make a billion dollars. I got to go and be on set for awhile and watch them film and stuff. It was just amazing. I couldn’t be happier with how it came out.”
Themes: A Modern Story for a Man Out of Time
If that weren't worth getting excited about, consider this: by forcing a man from "the greatest generation" (a period where the United States and the Allies had to defend liberty across the Earth from an easily seen collection of enemies) into the present, how might that person react to the modern machinations of warfare? Enemies have evolved, it seems, beyond the need for uniforms, or states for that matter, and an ideological confrontation about something that may have been lost in the intervening 70 years will bring up very interesting and even politically relevant questions to today's audiences.
Simply from the perspective of story, it also seems that the film will emulate one of the absolute best parts of the original comic book arc: the conflict from the original story also comes from a place readers weren't expecting, and general audiences may be just as surprised if the film does something similar. If prerelease buzz from critics who have already seen the film is any indication, then as the last stop with the Phase One mainstay heroes before Avengers: Age of Ultron, this will likely be an excellent note to go out on before enduring the year-plus wait for the next time we see Cap alongside the other major Marvel heroes.
This film looks like it'll be one to remember, and like the geek writing this piece, I hope you're excited to see it.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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