Saturday, October 26, 2013

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Trailer 1

"This isn't freedom, this is fear." Oh, yea,...
The story line is, it's after the events depicted in The Avengers (Loki blowing up New York City) and Steve Rogers is trying to adjust to our century. Bucky (Rogers' friend James Buchanan, also known as The Winter Soldier, shown at the very end of the trailer above grabbing the shield Rogers throws at him, with his face covered, more on that below), after World War II and Rogers' crash into the ocean, became a Soviet assassin and still is an assassin in modern Washington which is filled with villains trying to kill Rogers at every turn as the conspiracy keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,...
So, what does it mean?
I'm glad you asked.
Captain America exhibits the trademark "Avenger" problem: he's out of place. Just as Tony Stark lost his real heart in Iron Man (when the shrapnel entered his heart) and was a living human without a real functioning heart, and just as Thor was out of place one earth, belonging in Asgard, and the Hulk being,... well, you know, two guys at once, Captain America is really old. There is a negative and positive way of accepting this: the negative way is, it sucks to be a superhero because you never feel like you belong and you can never have a "normal" life wherever you are; everything you do is for others, never yourself. On the positive side, we can see how each person has taken their gift/talent and is turning it towards a positive end of helping others, rather than letting it destroy their own self. If Captain America is going through some soul searching, we shouldn't be surprised: isn't that what The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was all about? Rogers will probably face similar questions as Logan did, and have to make a gift-affirming decision just as Logan had to affirm his gift of immortality. There is a lot to be said about how this trailer sets up the plot, and expands upon what we saw in the first film, but we will only touch upon some topics for the time.
You, dear faithful reader, have had me ramming the importance of the "political identity" of modern Russia in American cinema since Oblivion (Tom Cruise) came out earlier this year, and that will pay off for all of us in April when we see The Winter Soldier. As we have mentioned previously, the "Winter Soldier" means that Bucky is a soldier of the "Cold War," suggesting that the Cold War was never won, but--like at the border between North and South Korea--there was just a silent but deadly "stand-off" between capitalists and communists (recall, of course, the big Cold War film of last year, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy where so many Englishmen sacrificed so much for even one small victory against socialism). In the trailer above, at 1:01, we see 42 written on the side of one of the ships; this could be a reference to the film 42 and the Jackie Robinson story, reminding us of the victories and sacrifices Americans have made to stay capitalism and how it was capitalism that was the very vehicle that made it possible to overcome other social problems.
When the first trailer and posters for Thor the Dark World came out, we were able to note that nothing had really changed or was missing in the posters: everything we expected to see of Thor was present (his armor, his good looks, his cape, his muscular frame, his hammer, the thunder in the background) but that's not the case with Steve Rogers. The image on the left and center are from Captain America: The First Avenger and the left image shows us the first shield Rogers used; what's wrong with it? The first shield was in the shape of the traditional European Coat of Arms which signified the carrier was of noble birth (or at least rich enough to purchase a coat of arms); the shield doesn't work for Captain America because he doesn't want to place himself above anyone else out of his humility, which is one of the reasons why he was chosen to receive the serum (the other reason is discussed in a moment). The round shield, shown in the middle image, is like King Arthur's round table, where all the great knights are equal in their own ways with their own talents and gifts (Cap didn't go and fight the Nazis by himself, he has that whole team behind him). Even in the center image (click on the picture anywhere and it will expand) you can see the chipping red paint; in the image on the right, the red paint is nearly completely worn off, and this is a definite change; why? Red, as we know, symbolizes our blood (rather ironic since Captain America doesn't seem to be able to die) and we either give our blood for someone we love more than our own self--the ultimate proof of love, which Captain America made at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, because he believed he was going to die when he crashed the ship--or red can symbolize an appetite, such as spilling the blood of another out of anger (the opposite of love) or giving up one's life in pursuit of world pleasures/power (which we will probably see quite a bit of in Washington DC where the film takes place). So, why has the red disappeared from Cap's shield? Peggy. In the trailer above, they take quite a bit of precious time to show Black Widow telling Cap that one of the girls wants to date him and he completely shrugs it off; why? He's lost his heart, he has lost the very thing which qualified him to become Captain America (remember in the first film when he jumped on that grenade? Remember how he met the challenge of the flag pole? He did that because he wanted to be with Peggy, and making a date with her was the last thing he did in his "natural" life and now all his friends are dead). So, when we look at the shield in the right image, the red that has "drained" from the shield illustrates how love has "drained" from Rogers' heart and THAT'S WHY Bucky can grab the shield at the end of the trailer: Rogers' love was what propelled that shield and made it a weapon, and now that the love is gone, it doesn't have power anymore. We have seen a similar device in Talia's Tree in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (the barrier that protected Camp Halfblood, and the barrier that protected the people of Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful) because these are "shields" just like Captain America's shield that has been weakened. Why should we care about a dead girlfriend? It's a political statement on at least two levels. First, in not having anything to look forward to, or a particular person to defend, or even a sense of personal happiness to defend, Steve Rogers is just clocking in like anyone of us in our cubicle jobs. Rogers might think that it's more virtuous not to forget his devotion to Peggy, but he's the one ultimately being hurt by it, and that is ultimately hurting the world BECAUSE INDIVIDUALS MATTER. Socialism doesn't hold to this, that's why Bucky's face is covered up when we see him in the trailer: he has become, like Seneg in World War Z, an anonymous being, devoid of personal ambition (like Darth Vader in Star Wars, with his whole identity being consumed by the Dark Side like his black armor and suit). Even though love hurts and causes us pain, it reminds us of how human we are, and that reminds us of how human others are which strengthens our bonds to other people (consider, please, that after Black Widow tells Rogers about asking out the girl from statistics, that he jumps out of an airplane without a parachute; that's far more preferable to him than carrying on a discussion about going on a date with some girl he doesn't have an emotional investment in). The second political statement is POSSIBLY, as we have seen in some other films like Oblivion, that England (Peggy is English) is a dead ally because they have become so consumed by socialism, rather than capitalism. I don't know that anyone could love the English more than I do--being primarily from English ancestors myself--but this is an issue given the financial situation and political unrest in the country. That this is an accurate issue in the film--although the film will obviously develop Rogers' emotions and psychology more in-depth--we have the dilemma with Black Widow being Russian and Bucky being a "convert" to communism just as Black Widow (her through her father?) was a defector from communism.
Two opposite things have happened in the Captain America plot line: in the first film, Steve Rogers went from being the scrawny kid to the ultra buff all-American soldier after he received the injection; in the second story, Bucky goes from being a great American soldier to a communist assassin. Whereas Steve progressed, Bucky has digressed. 
Captain America: The First Avenger,... what a very humbling memory this is, and yet, this reminds us of why Steve Rogers was chosen: he was weak physically, but he was fearless in his heart (like Mike in Monsters University). Like Steve possibly forgetting "where he came from" and the true source of his strength, America faces the same problem today (I think we will see this in X-Men Days Of Future Past as well, which comes out not long after The Winter Soldier).
"I thought the punishment usually came after the crime," Rogers tells Nick Fury, and the reason this line is important (it might remind you of Minority Report) is, as Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky put it, "In America, you are innocent until proven guilty; in Russia, you are guilty until proven innocent." Dostoevsky said that even before communism hit his homeland, but The Winter Soldier makes a timely case because of how the NSA has spied, not only Americans, but also upon world leaders. "We take the world as it is," Fury tells Rogers, "not as we would like for it to be." This isn't the first time Rogers has been disappointed in the plottings of Fury and SHIELD (he found all those weapons on board the SHIELD ship in The Avengers and confronted him about them) but Fury illustrates the point we the audience are meant to get: it's not how the world is, it's how we ourselves are. Captain America isn't strong because of an injection, he's strong because of his heart, and that is true also of America (please recall in Emperor with Tommy Lee Jones, how the Japanese soldier is compared to the American soldier, but it's the American soldier who wins and gives the Japanese the compassion they so desperately need even though they didn't show that same compassion to America). Without American ideals, there isn't a single war we--or anyone else--can fight. Film makers promised us a political thriller, and we are going to get it! 
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner