Okay, here's how this is going to go. I have a bunch of stuff I wrote before the movie, because I thought it would be useful in assessing it after and also I was indulging my anxiety because I really wanted this movie not to suck. That's first. And then I'm going to feelings-dump until I have to stop, and then I'm going to read all your spoilery posts, and then I'll probably be back tomorrow to talk some more about things other people have said.
(Oh, and guys? You know there's two post-credits scenes, by this point, right?)
- Winter Soldier = Bucky, obviously.
- Something is rotten at SHIELD.
- The Winter Soldier goes after Fury, who ends up in the hospital.
- Steve and Natasha go on the run.
- Steve makes a gauntlet-throwing speech to SHIELD, leaning over a console?
- Meeting Falcon.
- Peggy reunion scene somewhere.
- Major setpieces: some opening sequence that I didn't watch; Steve in the elevator; a city-streets one (Fury's car blown up & Steve/WS knife fight); Steve chasing the WS through offices; a highway based one? (WS using metal fingers to brake, ripping cars apart; also SHIELD attacking Steve on his bike?); Helicarrier crash(es).
Major things I didn't know:
- Robert Redford's character's role. I assumed he was a bad dude, and connected with the Russians somehow, but I wasn't sure how it would play out.
- Why the Winter Soldier was going after people now, though honestly I do not expect to care that much; I thought the Macguffin plot of the first movie was just marking time.
- Whether the endgame was Bucky recovering his memories, or merely being defanged as the Winter Soldier.
- Whether the movie was keeping Natasha's Red Room backstory (trained by Bucky, lovers, much older than she looks, though I suppose theoretically the last one could be dropped if the Red Room survived the fall of the USSR?).
Also: I didn't actually have many feelings about Bucky. I was too occupied with Steve and Peggy in the first movie, and I don't have a comics background. (And, unlike many people of my acquaintance, I don't find him particularly pleasing to look at.) So I was eager for this movie for Steve, and Natasha, and also to meet Falcon, and I was perfectly willing to obtain feelings about Bucky, because the storyline is compelling, but I don't want to break out in italics to convey my feelings about him, you know?
Okay, that was a lot of throat-clearing to work out my anxiety over this movie not sucking. What did I think?
Not perfect, but I'm still really happy. I think I will resort again to numbered lists to, not so much corral my feelings, as allow me to jump from feeling to feeling without the need for transitions:
- Steeeevvve. That's the character I adored in the first movie, you're back, ALL THE FEELINGS, KEYSMASH.
- Sam Wilson: cutest meet-cute, you're adorable and badass, I love you, fandom, prove me wrong and do well by your tragic backstory, your hard-won well-adjusted self, and your epic journey with Steve to recover Bucky—all of which is way more fodder to work with than Clint Barton. Ahem. (Also, your flying scenes were great.)
- Natasha: you're adorable and a badass, I love you, I ship you and Steve harder than ever and now I have way more to base that on.
- (Well, okay, the movie's truest OTP is Steve/his shield, but I'm sure he has room for more than one significant relationship in his life.)
- I love the way this movie destabilizes things so productively. Steve out of SHIELD, Natasha reassessing her life, Fury burning his eyepatch, so many possibilities opened up.
- There's always the problem, which Avengers had too, which is that when you have corrupt institutions in a genre of fantasy of political agency, sub-category superhero, you never get a truly satisfactory answer to the problem of corrupt institutions. The answer is always "superheroes," which is to say, these individuals who are also not answerable to anyone, just we like them better. Instead of, say, transparency and oversight. And Natasha's stint in front of whoever at the end, while emotionally satisfying, falls on the "because we're badass" side of things and not the "build a structurally-sounder institution."
- I'm not surprised that we didn't get Bucky's recovery, because it was a lot to fit into one movie, and that's fine, we're promised it at the end, but I hate to wait until after Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- (That first post-credits scene, people more in the know than me identify them as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch; they're mutants in the comics, right? But there was something about volunteers in the scene, so maybe they're experimented-on instead? (That was Loki's staff, right? I was pretty tired by the end.))
- I thought I would hate removing the Red Room and moving the Winter Soldier's origins to SHIELD, but apparently in the months since, the shots of the old SHIELD facility acclimated me to the idea. I really miss the WS/Natasha training/lovers backstory, though. That does make me sad.
- Computer stuff: makes no sense at all. I have no idea why "we can identify the geographical coordinates where a program on a thumb drive was written" is worse to me than "1970s computer tech allowed the uploading of personalities," but there it is.
- HYDRA existing within SHIELD from the start (1): ugh, do I have to start caring about Agents of SHIELD now? Because I don't wanna.
- (Agent Hill: love.)
- HYDRA existing within SHIELD from the start (2): both awesome and the same problem as, uh, *hits preview* #6, which is that pervasive surveillance and preemptive government assassinations are bad . . . if HYDRA does it. Or, only if you're Steve, if SHIELD does it. And Steve is the hero, but the strength of his position early sort of gets shuffled aside in the later bits, where it's cool that people try to stop the launch (hi Abed!), but only after Steve's speech. Charitably, you could say tipping point, but still. I like the commentary and the relevance and I'm not sure it's realistic to expect a big action flick like this to actually critique existing government institutions, but it feels like a more obvious pulled punch than the Mandarin (for all that you know I love the axis that did comment on).
- (I'm glad that Agent 13's identity as Sharon Carter was left implicit (she's not even named that in the credits).)
- A while back, I was contemplating the pattern of sympathetic deaths in the MCU: Yinsen in Iron Man, Bucky Barnes* and Abraham Erskine in Captain America, Phil Coulson* in Avengers, Maya Hansen in Iron Man 3, Freya in Thor 2, where the * mean "except not really." And I was not happy that only the white non-(explicitly)-religious-minority dudes were the ones who got resurrected. So I will give this movie half a point for faking Fury's death: I spent the death scene going, "Wait, I thought I remembered something definitely post-injury in the trailers or released footage, did they cut it misleadingly to not spoil it?" But only half a point, because probably most people were not in doubt.
- (Speaking of misleading, I flat-out squeaked when Pierce's "your work has shaped the century" line turned out to be to the Winter Soldier. Awesome.)
- Was that what's his face, the guy with the shock sticks who was sad about disappointing Cap and fighting Falcon, being all burned and treated at the end? I assumed so but now I'm not sure.
- Speaking of confusing at the end and fakeouts, am I right that Natasha shorted out Pierce's phone and therefore, somehow or other, only got a partial charge from the biometric device? It didn't put a hole in her clothes, I think, after all.
- Oh yeah: those are really dumb places to put servers. I mean, "this episode was BADLY WRITTEN" levels.
- Otherwise I liked the action sequences. I liked the parkour flavor and could follow things and was impressed by how much of the hand-to-hand was shot to be super-clear that yup, that's the actors doing a lot of that. And I love watching improvisational intelligence and I got a lot of that.
- Peggy, lovely and sad. Is it comics canon that she married a Howling Commando, specifically the black guy who spoke all the languages, or is that just this one fic I read? Anyway, I'm glad she did marry (apparently she didn't change her name, which would have been very unusual?) and I'm glad we saw her. Not sure how I feel about an Agent Carter TV show now, though.
- I still don't have ALL the Bucky feels, but I have more now in his own right, so good work on not much opportunity.
okay, I have finished and proofed this with my left hand on my tablet, because The Pip woke up and is holding my right to go back to sleep, so whatever I've forgotten will have to wait. As will the trailers.