Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recap: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Part 2: Right to Bear Arms

Nick Fury shot!

Who could be behind this?

...Other than the powerful, influential character we've never seen before this movie played by an actor too awesome for Marvel to hire across multiple films?

It sure is a mystery.
Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff can only watch from the viewing area as doctors get to work on the battered and broken Nick Fury. Natasha wants to know about his assassin, but Steve can't give her much. Only that he's fast, strong, and has a metal arm. Given that this movie’s called “The Winter Soldier,” I’d say that the shooter is probably….

Cable.
Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) enters to give them the bad news: they can't track the bullets. But Natasha knows before Hill even says it that the bullets themselves were Soviet-made. Before anyone can ask about this, Fury flatlines. Despite the best efforts of the defibrillator, Nick Fury ends up dead at 1:03 AM.

Remember how my sister joked that she wouldn’t give me a ride home if Pepper died in Iron Man 3? She said the same thing about Fury here. And the only thing that gave me some semblance of confidence in Fury’s return was the fact that Samuel L. Jackson still had some movies left in his contract.

Steve and Natasha take a moment with the body to mourn before Maria Hill tells them that she needs to take him. Natasha takes it hardest. In the hallway, she wants to know exactly why Fury was at Steve's apartment as Rumlow arrives to say that S.H.I.E.L.D. wants Cap back at base.

Steve tells her he doesn't know, but she smirks and lets him know that he's a terrible liar before heading off. Before Steve himself heads off, he hides the flash drive in a vending machine that was being restocked, right behind the Hubba Bubba.

How could this not be foolproof?
Once back at the Triskelion, Cap passes "Kate" in the hallway before he meets with Pierce. They exchange pleasantries, and Pierce takes his sweet time getting to brass tacks. The first thing he does is show and old picture of Fury getting sworn in as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

Didn't that guy ever have any hair?
Pierce tells the story about how five years before that picture was taken, there was a hostage situation in Bogota. That was where he met Nick Fury for the first time. Fury was a Deputy Chief of the local S.H.I.E.L.D. station, and suggested a secret raid through the sewers to rescue the hostages, but Pierce rejected the idea. But lo and behold, Fury did it anyway while the others were learning that the rebels didn't want to negotiate.

Alexander Pierce: "Nick had ignored my direct order and carried out an unauthroized military operation on foreign soil, and saved the lives of a dozen political officers, including my daughter."

For that illegal act of insubordination, Fury got a promotion.

Alexander Pierce: "I've never had any cause to regret it."

Pierce asks the big question again: Why was Fury at Cap's apartment?

Steve: "I don't know."

Since Steve is a pretty terrible liar, he instead chooses to reveal only certain truths.

Alexander Pierce: "Did you know it was bugged?"
Steve: "I did, because Nick told me."
Alexander Pierce: "Did he tell you he was the one who bugged it?"

And to further the atmosphere of paranoia, Pierce brings up some footage of the Batroc interrogation-in-progress and says that they've discovered some very troubling things. Batroc was apparently paid to attack the Lemurian Star. He was contacted by email and paid by wire transfer. But there was still a trail that could be followed. And it leads back to a man named "Jacob Veech," whose last known address was 1435 Elmhurst Drive. And Fury's mother used to live at 1437.

So the big theory is that the hijack was a cover for Nick Fury to sell classified intelligence.

Alexander Pierce: "The sale went sour and that led to Nick's death."
Steve Rogers: "If you really knew Nick Fury, you'd know that's not true."
Alexander Pierce: "Why do you think we're talking?"

Pierce explains that Fury was the one who asked him to be on the World Security Council because they both believed that building a better world "sometimes means having to tear the old one down."

Alexander Pierce: "And that makes enemies."

Of course it does; you tear down the world, you’re going to get complaints from the idiots who live in it.

Alexander Pierce: "Those people that call you dirty because you got the guts to stick your hands in the mud and try to build something better. And the idea that those people could be happy today makes me really, really angry."

"I'm pretty sure Dr. Banner has a huge bag of weed he'd let you borrow."
Alexander Pierce: "Captain, you were the last one to see Nick alive; I don't think that's an accident. And I don't think you do either. So I'm gonna ask again. Why was he there?"
Steve Rogers: "He told me not to trust anyone."
Alexander Pierce: "I wonder if that included him."

"But then if he was telling me not to trust him, then I couldn't trust him to tell me to not trust anyone, but..."
"Forget it."
Steve Rogers: "I'm sorry. Those were his last words."

Unless he said anything in the hospital. Like “For the love of God, give me something for the pain.”

Alexander Pierce: "Captain, somebody murdered my friend and I'm gonna find out why. Anyone gets in my way, they're gonna regret it. Anyone."

"Even me?"
"Uh... yes, that was the gist of the threat."
“Oh. You know, this conversation got more and more villainous the more you talked.”
“I wouldn’t read too much into that.”
Steve exits the meeting and enters the elevator, where he's soon joined by Rumlow and a couple other Strike agents. Rumlow is heading down to forensics and tells Steve that they found some fibers on the roof. 

Agent Rumlow: "You want me to get the tac team ready?"

What, to rough up some fibers?

Steve: "No, let's wait and see what it is first."

Speaking of seeing, Cap can't help but notice that the Strike agents have their hands on their holsters and are looking around nervously. And the guys on the next elevator stop sure look nervous and sweaty. And there sure are a lot of big, muscley men in this elevator....

Steve: "Before we get started... does anyone want to get out?"

"Actually, yeah, if we could wait until the next stop..."
"Too late, I'm going for it!"
A big, burly brawl breaks out as the good Captain gets tackled into the elevator wall. They manage to magnetically restrain him to the wall for a bit, but he still ends up kicking their collective butts because he's Captain-freaking-America.

Agent Rumlow: "I just want you to know, Cap, this isn't personal!"

He says right before jamming his electric baton into Cap's gut. But like the others before him, Rumlow gets knocked out.

Steve: "It kind of feels personal."

Jasper Sitwell, monitoring the situation, has sent in more guys, who Cap avoids by smashing the wall and breaking the elevator cable with his shield. But with troops on every floor with orders to find him, Cap has no choice but to bust out of the great glass elevator and use his shield to break the fall. Then he gets up and runs off to get his motorcycle, which he escapes on.

Pausing only to take out a pursuing Quinjet that was shooting at him with his shield, of course.
Inside the Triskelion, Jasper Sitwell takes charge of the situation. Because with Nick Fury dead, he's the ranking bald guy in S.H.I.E.L.D. He tells them to stop traffic, ground planes, and get everybody they can out there to take down America's number one threat... Captain America. Oh, the irony.

Agent Sitwell: "Scan all open sources. Phones. Computers. PDAs. Whatever."

This is like James Comey’s wet dream.

Agent Sitwell: "If somebody tweets about this guy, I want to know about it."

"Sir, somebody just tweeted 'OMG, captain america is the hottest avenger.'
Hashtag avengers, hashtag sexy gentleman. I’d recommend sending out a team.”
Agent 13: "With all due respect, if S.H.I.E.L.D. is conducting a manhunt for Captain America, we deserve to know why."
Alexander Pierce: "Because he lied to us. Captain Rogers has information regarding the death of Director Fury. He refused to share it."

"He refused to share information with us, so we tried to kill him in a hail of bullets.
The logical step, I'm sure you'll all agree."
So Steve Rogers, now a fugitive, puts on a suspicious Unabomber hoodie and heads back to the hospital vending machine to buy some Hubba Bubba. But horror of all horrors, somebody beat him to it. And she's still there, chewing a big wad of gum.

She must have bought, like, thirty pieces of gum. Where’s she keeping the rest of it?
Having had enough of all this crap he's been dealing with, Steve takes her aside into an empty room and tells her what's what.

"Listen here, young lady, this is a hospital. Stop popping your gum and show some respect to these patients."
Steve: "Where is it?"
Natasha: "Safe."

Is it secret? Is it safe?

They start trying to get information out of each other, but it soon becomes clear that Nick Fury trusted them both. Widow with retrieving the data from a ship filled with corrupt agents, and Cap with keeping it out of the wrong hands. But more than that, Natasha reveals that she knows who killed Nick Fury.

Natasha: "Most of the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists."

Why? Is he a Yeti?

Natasha: "The ones that do call him the Winter Soldier."

Still not ruling out the Yeti thing.

Natasha: "He's credited with over two dozen assassinations in the last fifty years."
Steve: "So he's a ghost story."

Yeah, because it's not like stranger things have happened. Say hi to Thor for me, Steve.

Natasha: "Five years ago, I was escorting a nuclear engineer out of Iran. Somebody shot out my tires near Odessa."

Well, that's not too shabby, you made it all the way to Texas.

Natasha: "We lost control, went straight over a cliff. I pulled us out. But the Winter Soldier was there. I was covering my engineer so he shot him straight through me."

Oh, hey, now we know where she keeps the rest of her bubble gum.
Natasha: "Soviet slug. No rifling. Bye-bye bikinis."
Steve: "Yeah, I bet you look terrible in them now."

Which is the real tragedy, I guess...?

Anyway, as Steve and Natasha go to figure out exactly what's on that flash drive that the Winter Soldier shot Nick Fury over, the World Security Council have decided to not respect Nick Fury's request to slow down Project: Insight. After all, the guy hired a mercenary to hijack a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship. The working theory is that Fury knew that Insight would end up exposing his own dirty dealings. And so, the Council has already decided to reactivate Project: Insight to expose Fury as well as anything else anyone is planning.

Councilman: "If you want to say something snappy, now would be a good time."

"Nah, I'll take a raincheck."
Elsewhere, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanov are walking through a mall, disguised as Clark Kent and the girl behind the counter at every Hot Topic. They make their way to the Apple store, where they prepare to take a look at the flash drive with one of the laptops on display. And since it has a homing program, it signals their location to S.H.I.E.L.D. as soon as they start working. So they're going against the clock. Strike is quickly mobilized while Natasha tries to bypass the drive's security.

Natasha: "This drive is protected by some sort of AI; it keeps rewriting itself to counter my commands."

"What the hell is an 'Ultron.exe'?"
She starts tracking the file's source as Steve has to contend with an overly-chummy Apple store employee. It seems for a second as if he recognizes Steve, but merely notes that they have the same hipster glasses. With that momentary comic relief sorted, Natasha narrows down the location to Wheaton, New Jersey, which Steve recognizes. But no time for that, Strike has infiltrated the mall. So Natasha unleashes all the disguise skills she learned from both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Soviets.

Natasha: "Shut up and put your arm around me. Laugh at something I said."

If I had a dime for every time my girlfriend said that to me... well, I'd probably have less than twenty cents. I'll have to find some other way to make imaginary money.

Strike utterly fails to locate Steve and Natasha. Rumlow even passes them on the escalator, but ignores them because they're making out. The two manage to escape the mall with little incident and begin their journey toward New Jersey in yet another Chevy.

Natasha: "Where did Captain America learn how to steal a car?"
Steve: "Nazi Germany. And we're borrowing. Take your feet off the dash."

Geez, could you act any more like an old man, Steve?

But speaking of being old, Natasha has a question for Cap.

Natasha: "Was that your first kiss since 1945?"
Steve: "That bad, huh?"

Well, people use a lot more tongue these days.

Steve: "I'm 95, I'm not dead."
Natasha: "Nobody special, though?"
Steve: "Believe it or not, it's kind of hard to find someone with shared life experience."

Oh, come on, there’s bound to be some 70-year-olds out there. You could easily score a woman twenty years younger than you.

Natasha: "Well, that's all right. You just make something up."
Steve: "What, like you?"
Natasha: "I don't know. The truth is a matter of circumstance. It's not all things to all people all the time."

Isn't that kind of the definition of the truth, though?

Natasha: "Neither am I."

"For example: Iron Man 2? I added pointless complication to the Tony-Pepper angle.
The Avengers? I had a deep meaningful relationship with Hawkeye."
"Today? I'm a possible love interest for you.
Maybe next time I'll just pull some romantic attraction towards Bruce Banner out of my ass."
Steve: "That's a tough way to live."

"Yeah, well, I'm still waiting on a movie of my own. Maybe then I’ll be written consistently.”
Steve: "You know, it's kind of hard to trust someone, when you don't know who that someone really is."
Natasha: "Yeah. Who do you want me to be?"
Steve: "How 'bout a friend?"
Natasha: "Well, there's a chance you might be in the wrong business, Rogers."

"You're a superhero. I can’t be just ‘a friend,’ since the formula requires you to have a damsel to rescue.
Pepper Potts, Betty Ross, Jane Foster, Alicia Masters...."
"Who's Alicia Masters?"
"...I don't know."
The conversation ends as they pull up to the abandoned husk that was once Fort Lehigh, where skinny little Steve Rogers failed basic training. They look around, but find nothing but an odd flashback where Steve and his own flashback take a second to look at each other, like Steve's actually hallucinating or something.

But which Steve? Dun-dun-dunnnnnn!

The whole MCU was the daydream of Steve Rogers to distract himself from running laps with both polio and asthma.
What a twist!
Anyway, their search leads them into a whole heap of nothing. Until Steve's encyclopedic knowledge of Army regulations comes into play. Apparently, there's a munitions bunker too close to the barracks. They break inside and find an old base for the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, Logistics Division, which is an odd name, considering that it was founded decades before 9/11 made “Homeland” into a buzzword.

And this base is very old. Possibly even the very first one. At the very least, it's one of the first, based on the pictures of Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.

Natasha: "Who's the girl?"

Oh, right, because one of the top S.H.I.E.L.D. agents doesn't know about Peggy "Original Member of S.H.I.E.L.D." Carter. Do they not teach the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D. to their own agents?

...Then again, the Agent Carter One-Shot has been declared non-canon, and the Agent Carter show got the axe before we could see the beginnings of S.H.I.E.L.D. So who knows what’s canon anymore.

And as we’ll soon see, they don't teach many agents about the origins of S.H.I.E.L.D.

But a breeze coming from a crack in a shelf alerts Steve to a secret door, which is all kinds of suspicious. Moreso than secret doors usually are.

Steve: "If you're already working in a secret office... why do you need to hide the elevator?"

Natasha scans the keypad for fingerprints, and her device not only gives her the digits, but somehow also magically determines what order the buttons were pressed in.

And people say Dr. Strange will be the first magic user in the MCU? P'shaw.
The two of them head down to the super-secret-sub-basement full of secrets and find a huge room filled with a buttload of computer old-school computer terminals, with the reels upon reels of magnetic tape everywhere.

Natasha: "This can't be the data point. This technology is ancient."

And yet, there's a rather modern USB port hooked up to the central terminal. Which is very impressive, considering the decades between these two pieces of technology. It's like putting OnStar in an old Thunderbird.

Natasha puts the flash drive into the port, apparently forgetting that the flash drive has a homing program that will alert S.H.I.E.L.D. to their whereabouts. Magnetic tape reels spin, computer noises are made, and the camera lingers on a camera above the monitor that looks a little familiar….

Then the computer turns on.

INITIATE SYSTEM?

Natasha types in a "Yes."

Natasha: "Shall we play a game?"

True story: I was about to whisper that comment in the movie theatre to my girlfriend, only for Natasha to beat me with the reference.

Natasha: "It's from a movie that was really..."
Steve: "I know, I saw it."

Well, he had to learn about the Cold War somehow.
Speaking of movies, green Matrix text appears on the screen, forming a bespectacled face. A face which speaks.

Computer: "Rogers, Steven, born 1918. Romanoff, Natalia Alianovna, born 1984."
Natasha: "It's some kind of recording."
Computer: "I am not a recording, Fraulein. I may not be the man I was when the Captain took me prisoner in 1945, but I am."

Yes, this is the triumphant return of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who Steve Rogers identifies as a German scientist who worked for the Red Skull before his eventual death.

Zola: "First correction, I am Swiss. Second, look around you. I have never been more alive."

Well, except for when you were actually… you know. Alive.

Zola explains that in 1972, doctors told him he was not long for his world. So he devised a way to at least save his mind. As for how Zola got to the U.S. in the first place, well, you can thank Operation: Paperclip, where America recruited German scientists. Notably, Wernher von Braun who went on to work for NASA and get a mention in Iron Man 3.

And a coveted xkcd mention.
But S.H.I.E.L.D. got more than they bargained for with Zola. After all, HYDRA's creed is "Cut off one head, two more shall take its place." As Zola explains, HYDRA didn't anticipate exactly how much the world would resist HYDRA's attempts at world order.

Zola: "Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded, and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew, a beautiful parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“HYDRA is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
Zola: “For 70 years, HYDRA has been secretly feeding crisis, reaping war..."

No wonder S.H.I.E.L.D. did virtually nothing during the Mandarin's terrorism spree.
They were probably helping Killian.
Zola: "...and when history did not cooperate, history was changed."

What? Generally speaking, the world has actually become more stable than ever, even ignoring the fact that Tony Stark successfully privatized world peace. The fall of Rome, the Black Death, World Wars I and II… world-changing events still happen, but not as catastrophically as they used to.  And when you factor in the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s clear that all the really chaotic events have little to do with HYDRA. The stuff with the Norse Gods in New Mexico, theChitauri invasion

Unless... that's what Zola means when he refers to changing history; stabilizing it. So as to not interfere with their plans. Let a bunch of “smaller” crises fester under the watchful eye of HYDRA while nipping larger, more destabilizing events in the bud.

Natasha: "That's impossible. S.H.I.E.L.D. would have stopped you."
Zola: "Accidents happen."

And the headline showing the death of Howard and Maria Stark in a car accident speaks volumes. And, in fact, puts together the rest of the pieces.

I already mentioned this, but it’s worth going over again in light of this new revelation and new information.

Think about it.

In the 40s and 50s, Howard Stark and his buddy Anton are working on the most powerful reactor in history. Somebody close to Tony, likely Obadiah Stane, pressures Howard into deporting Anton because of allegations that the man is a traitor. Howard acquiesces, but ends up naming his son Anthony, after Anton. Clearly, Howard Stark still respects Anton. Maybe enough to believe that Anton was framed? Either way, Howard starts getting seeing shadows and shelves the arc reactor project.

At the same time, Howard becomes cold and distant to his son in an attempt keep these shadows from hurting him through Tony. Tony’s right; sending him off to boarding school was his dad’s happiest moment. Because he knew his son would be away from harm.

When it becomes clear that Howard Stark isn't worth the trouble of keeping him alive, HYDRA has Obadiah arrange for the "accidental" death of Howard and Maria, leaving Tony alive, inheriting Stark Industries and mentored by Obadiah.

Eventually, Obadiah makes plans to on dispose of Tony and take control of Stark Industries, so he can use Stark assets and weapons to further the HYDRA cause by "feeding crisis." But Tony coming backfrom the desert changed the plan. And also changed the course of HYDRA’s plans. Now they were all about getting their hands on Tony’s suit. Obadiah attempted to take the secret, as did the U.S. government, which likely has some HYDRA moles in its ranks. HYDRA was probably even responsible in some way for getting Ivan Vanko to Justin Hammer in order to create a knock-off Iron Man suit, just to arm HYDRA's forces inside of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"And now we finally know why Captain America was on threat-watch."
Zola continues to explain that HYDRA engineered a world that's finally ready to sacrifice freedom for security. And all HYDRA needs to do is eliminate a few undesirables. Can you tell that these guys were originally Nazis?

Zola's victory speech angers Steve to the point that he punches out the main monitor, only for Zola to pop up on a smaller one to the side. Which is pretty funny.

Steve wants more answers about the drive, and Zola explains that the drive contains an algorithm. But he refuses to say what the algorithm does, since the S.H.I.E.L.D. missiles heading to their location will make the point moot.

With the elevator locked down, Steve and Natasha barely escape through into floor grate before the missile hits. Then the next step is escaping the Strike agents sent to verify the kill, which is actually easier than it sounds, since they do it off screen. With no other choice, Rumlow radios in the order to call in "the asset."

Coming up in Part 3! Cutting off heads.

4 comments:

  1. I'll be honest, I'm "actor blind". I mean, why try to see actors, when you can see people. It just kills experience. So when people say "this guy is played by big star, he must be important, mystery weak!" I'm always baffled, because I NEVER have this problem.

    - Faceless Enigma

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  2. Well, as seem in Civil War, Stane wasn't the one responsible for the Starks' assassination, the Winter Soldier was. Though I suppose Obadiah still could have been involved in the plan in some capacity, he wasn't portrayed as the mastermind. Not trying to undermine your theory, just trying to set things straight. Oh, and the actual recap was good too. Just so you know.

    - That One Anon

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    1. True, there's no doubt that the Winter Soldier did the deed. My theory has more to do with who decided it was time to kill the Starks.

      Once Obadiah decided Howard didn't have any more golden eggs, all he'd have to do is put in the call and say "I think it's time to bring in the asset."

      Maybe Obadiah wasn't a MASTERMIND, but he could very well have been a HYDRA mole who had been watching the Starks for years with the intent to usurp the company for HYDRA once Howard stopped being useful.

      Personally, I'm just glad Jarvis wasn't driving the car when the Winter Soldier struck.

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    2. Alright, that's certainly plausible. Sorry if I misinterpreted you. Oh, and agreed on that Jarvis part.

      - That One Anon

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