The Soldier and Sentinel

On December 20, 1940–almost a full year before Pearl Harbor–the world was introduced to a mythology that is my absolute favorite mythology in modern America: Captain America. I have been reading a steady diet of Captain America since his death in 2007, even going back to Stan Lee’s reintroduction of the character in 1964 with the frozen in ice and “man out of time” concept in Avengers #4 (1964). In 2011 Marvel Studios released Captain America: The First Avenger (CA:TFA) to introduce the character to their shared cinematic universe that climaxed in the 2012 ultra-hit Marvel’s: The Avengers. This was my favorite movie of the “Phase 1” films because, more than any of the other films that led to the team-up film, it had heart and a hero to aspire to just like the 1978 hit Superman: The Movie starring Christopher Reeves.

Below is the trailer for the sequel to CA:TFA, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS). Their is a couple of things in this film that are worth pointing out on why it might be Marvel’s best effort on presenting the core of who the character is.

Okay, take a second to calm down after that 2:30 of pure adrenaline-pumping awesomeness. Seriously, I need to just watching that again for the umpteenth time.

Now note two things that this film is seeking to capture: Steve Rogers is the super soldier and the sentinel of liberty.

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier

Right at the beginning we see Captain America jump out of a quin-jet without a parachute, in a very nonchalant manner too. Then in the elevator, Cap takes down some eleven enemies. The suit that Cap is wearing for most of the trailer, what has been referred to as the Stealth Suit, is designed off a costume worn by Cap in a book called Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. What this movie is trying to capture is that Steve Rogers is the best the US has to offer to defend herself.

The super soldier serum empowered Rogers beyond what any mere soldier, at the top of his/her game, can physically do. His speed and coordination and strength allow him to do things that no other human can do. It’s what allows him to use the shield as he does, whipping it around the battlefield at unique angles to turn it into a boomerang as much as a shield. He is the image of the soldier that Hitler believed to be the master race, turned against fascism.

This is what the SSR unleashed upon the Nazis and their Hydra division. This is what SHIELD unleashed upon Loki and his Chitauri army. And this is what SHIELD is now going to unleash upon those who would seek to terrorize the world.

Captain America: The Sentinel of Liberty

In the comics, Cap has earned the nickname of “the Sentinel of Liberty” because of a fan club that Marvel started. But go back to the trailer at the 1:18 mark. In the trailer hear Robert Reford’s Alexander Pierce talk about tearing down the old world to make way for the new. We see Fury tell Steve that SHIELD is going to stop stuff before it starts, get the bad guys before the can unleash their evil schemes. We see the new helicarriers, equipped with all kinds of big guns as well as the fighter jets.

Cap has told Pierce that he joined SHIELD to protect people (0:35). Cap has told Fury, “I thought the punishment came after the crime.” (1:12) And now we hear Rogers respond to Fury’s SHIELD takes the world as it is not as an ideal at 1:18, “This isn’t freedom, it’s fear.” My favorite moment of the trailer that didn’t showcase the Winter Soldier.

I really encourage you to read “Steven Attewell: Steve Rogers Isn’t Just Any Hero.” He does an excellent job of delving into the history of Steve Rogers, when he group up and where, and how that would impact who he is. And also how being frozen in the ice for decades, skipping over McCarthy, would enable him to maintain the ideals he would have adopted as he grew up. The freedom/fear dichotomy that is present in the trailer grows out of a worldview from the New Deal and FDR’s progressive view of America.

I was at the 8:00 pm “Midnight” premier of Thor: The Dark World (Phase 2’s version of Iron Man 2) talking about this CA:TWS trailer. One person I talked to believed that this movie is going to be against having a big government. But I think he missed a more fundamental critique that the Captain America character embodied, anti-fascism and anti-police states. Cap believes that a criminal has the right to be left alone until he commits a crime. The trailer is painting Pierce as trying to build a SHIELD-led police state in America. And ideas like “innocent until proven guilty” don’t belong. The trailer seems to paint America as accepting some ideas of fascism as a result of the 9/11-esque event of Loki’s alien invasion.

Cap’s anti-fascism, watch CA:TFA again where he singled out Hitler and the Nazis as opposed to Japanese Imperialsim, will rear its face and force the hero to challenge this new “world” that Pierce is building via the Winter Soldier and SHIELD. Pierce is turning SHIELD into the same bully that Hitler and the Red Skull had turned Nazi Germany into. And Cap is going to be the lone sentinel for freedom against a nation ruling by fear. Cap will do everything he can to stop criminals, short of violating their rights given them by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It’s up to the movie to execute what they’ve presented in the trailer. Warner Bros. had a similar thing going with their Man of Steel movie that came out this past June (2013). The trailers presented a Superman movie that sought to recapture the same feelings that the Donner/Reeves film did in 1978. But when we watched the film, it didn’t live up to the promise of the trailers. CA:TWS has set up a great premise in the trailer: the super soldier challenging a nation being ruled by fear instead of freedom. But the ultimate question is, can they execute this? I pray they can. It’s the quintessential Captain America story. It’s do or die for the Star-Spangled Avenger.

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~ by hankimler on November 9, 2013.

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