Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Title: Captain America: The First Avenger
Summary: Steve Rogers, a rejected military soldier, transforms into Captain America after taking a dose of a “Super-Soldier serum”. But being Captain America comes at a price as he attempts to take down a war monger and a terrorist organization.
First off, a quick (or not-so-quick; I tend to ramble) note on how this whole “let’s recap the entire MCU!” idea came about: I was recapping a very boring book over on my site. It was so boring, in fact, that I kept randomly going on side tangents about Marvel movies, which I’ve been rewatching lately to try to stave off the existential dread brought on by, well, *gestures broadly to the world at large*. [Note from Future Me: This recap was started waaaaay back in Sept. 2020. The world is providing slightly less existential dread these days.] Wing read this recap and said, “Hey, we should do a group MCU recapping project!” I agreed whole-heartedly (I had in fact been idly considering doing it alone; it’s a much less intimidating proposition when there are friends around to divide the load), then Wing tagged bat, who responded with “I’m in!” and Dove, who decided she’s not enough of a Marvel fangirl to do recapping justice to the movies (America’s Ass is still judging you for that, Dove), but agreed to entertain us with commentary instead. [JC: This recap now contains 100% more Surprise!Raven commentary! Welcome to the clusterfuck, Raven!] [Raven: Hello! Happy to pitch in with Superhero Snark.] [Dove: I am Groot.] [JC: We are Groot.]
I immediately pissed a territorial circle around all the Captain America and Thor movies, and then got handed Doctor Strange while I was at work and having trouble keeping up with the group chat. It’s cool; I seem to be the only one around here with any love for Doctor Strange. [bat: I have watched that film three times now and find it so dull. Doctor Strange is fine in supporting roles, but not as a main character.] [JC: We have many movie opinions that we will have to agree to disagree on. 🙂] [Wing: I will watch Doctor Strange for the first time only because you’re recapping it, JC. Look at the sacrifices I make. Look at them.] [Raven: Nowt wrong with the good doctor.]
It’s been agreed that we’re recapping according to the in-universe chronology rather than the release order of the movies. Meaning I’m up first with Captain America: The First Avenger. My love for Cap is relatively new. I used to think of him as too much of a Boy Scout to actually be interesting. [Wing: This is how I felt about him the few times I read him in the comics (I’m a Marvel girl, but growing up it was X-Men not Avengers), but Ostrich’s brother convinced me to give this a try, and I ended up enjoying the hell out of it.] Upon rewatching the movies, I was wrong. His journey is an interesting one, starting at unquestioning patriotism then evolving and developing nuance as time goes on and he learns to question everything. Also, I too hate bullies and will happily punch Nazis in the face. And if you somehow find that a controversial statement, well, what are you doing here?
[Wing: We actually have received criticism from a few readers over our political stances, wildly enough, though mostly over at Devil’s Elbow. If you spend more than 30 seconds in our recapping world without (a) realizing how we trend toward the liberal and are critical of media and (b) understanding that we won’t change how we recap or approach the world just because it annoys you, it’s really on you.] [Dove: *blinks* And here was me thinking our biggest problem was the muppet who kept posting our recaps to Archive of Our Own as their own work. Which, fucking weird thing to do.]
We open on a barren, windy snowscape. Two guys (S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, they’re S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, okay?) [Dove: Believe in The Shield. Oh, wrong fandom. Why am I here?] exit a vehicle and are met by another dude. There’s something in the ice, spotted by the Russians eighteen hours ago. When asked what it is, one of the men quips that it’s probably a weather balloon. Excuse you, sir, this is definitely not Roswell.
One of the guys mentions craning the thing out of the ice, and he’s told he’s going to need a hell of a crane. This thing is huge. And kinda hard to see, because it’s very dark. [Wing: I wish this trend of dark scenes because “where would the light come from” would go away. I want to be able to see what I’m watching, people!] But there are flares going around a very large area, which I assume is the outline of the “thing.” There’s also a bit of it sticking out of the ice, and the bit sticking out looks a lot like Pride Rock from The Lion King, so I’m fighting the urge to start singing “The Circle of Life” right now. It moves us all, you know.
A laser cuts a hole through the ice and metal, and the inside of a structure is revealed. It’s a . . . well, is “spaceship” correct? Probably not. Airship? I’m gonna go with airship. [Note from Future Me: It’s a plane. I don’t know why I tried to get fancy and overthink things here.] The two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents rappel down into the ship and start looking around. It’s full of ice and snow, so there must be a breach somewhere. The agents approach a console and shine a light on it, revealing something in the ice. One of the agents tells someone over the headset to get hold of the Colonel, despite protestations that it’s three in the morning. Agent Dude tells Headset Dude that this one’s waited long enough.
And who might he be talking about? Hmm, no idea.
Move in on a close-up of the shield, then we cut to a man running across cobblestones toward a tower with gunshots and explosions sounding in the background during what is obviously WWII era. The man enters the tower and speaks Norwegian to an older man. I don’t actually know it’s Norwegian, by the way, but I turned captions on, and that’s what it says. Thanks, closed captioning!
Everything in the tower starts rattling, and then some sort of heavy tank comes busting through the front of the building. The Running Man gets buried underneath, and when Old Man moves stone off of him, he’s definitely dead. I also just realized that Old Man is David Bradley, aka Filch from Harry Potter/Walder Frey from Game of Thrones. There’s no Red Wedding in this movie, but there is a Red Skull. [Wing: Oooh, it is him! And a Red Wedding sounds like a very Hydra thing to do. (I have neither read nor watched the books/show, but fandom osmosis has given me a solid understanding of what happens.)]
A car with a Cthulhu emblem on the hood (yes, yes, it’s Hydra, I know) [Wing: I love that emblem, and it is terrible that Hydra has ruined it for me. Damn you, Hydra. Damn you.] drives into the fucking tower, and
Elrond Agent Smith Megatron [bat: Tick Mitzi Del Bra V] [Raven: Narrator, Strange Packer In Supermarket, Thug (Uncredited)] a man who we so far will only know as Schmidt gets out and walks into the tower, where several of his minions are attempting to shove the lid off a sarcophagus. He flatters the Tower Keeper (as he’s listed in the credits), then shoves the top of the sarcophagus off all by himself, revealing a skeleton clutching a glass cube. Schmidt takes the cube, announcing that the Tesseract was the jewel of Odin’s treasure room, thereby dispelling my notion that Pinhead and his Cenobites were about to show up. Then he drops the cube on the floor, where it shatters into a million little pieces. The Tesseract, he goes on to say, isn’t something one buries. [Wing: Except it clearly is. Buried in the sarcophagus, buried in Odin’s treasure room before that, buried inside a Flerken (SPOILERS), it’s buried more often than it isn’t!]
Schmidt threatens the Tower Keeper’s village, then sees a frieze of Yggdrasil, the Nordic World Tree, and pushes a bit that pops out a box. When he opens the box, his face is illuminated with blue light. He laughs a little at how the Fuhrer is still digging for trinkets in the desert. So, uh, that was totally an Indiana Jones reference, right? [Wing: If it’s not, I’m taking it as such!]
Schmidt closes the box holding the Tesseract and gives the order to open fire on the village. Tower Keeper tells him he’ll burn for this; Schmidt counters that he already has. Then he shoots Tower Keeper, which splatters a bit of blood onto the skull part of the Hydra insignia on his uniform. So, it’s a . . . red . . . skull? [Wing: Subtle.] Then he moves his jaw around and massages his cheek a little. Aw, what’s wrong there, little buddy? Something up with your face?
Cut to NYC (is that the Brooklyn Bridge? someone with a little more travel knowledge help me out here?) and an Army recruiting base, where we meet Steve Rogers for the first time. He’s a scrawny little fucker so far, and although the CG to scrawnify Chris Evans is pretty good, there’s still something off about it. I think it’s the face. Like, his eyes are too big/far apart for how much they thinned the rest of his face out, and it looks not quite right. Or maybe it’s just because I know what Evans looks like, and I know that ain’t it, and my brain is arguing with what my eyes are seeing? (Fun fact: I always remember Chris Evans as being a lot more blond than he actually is. Like, Fiancé and I just rewatched Not Another Teen Movie, and Evans’s hair in that movie is practically black, but my brain just keeps going, “Nope. Blond.” No clue what’s up with that.) [Raven: I think Skinny Evans looks perfect. In fact, I think he looks more realistic than Buff Evans. It’s the difference between a pipe cleaner and a condom full of walnuts.] [JC: Well that’s certainly a mental image.]
Anyway. Steve tells the doctor his father died by mustard gas, and his mother died from TB, and then we see a long list of Steve’s own maladies. These include asthma, high blood pressure, scarlet fever, heart trouble, easy fatigability, and “nervous trouble of any sort.” My . . . hero . . . ? The doc tells him that the asthma alone would be enough to keep him out of the Army. I would think the heart trouble would be more worrying, but okay. Steve asks if there’s anything the doc can do, and he says he’s doing it – he’s saving his life. Then he stamps a big “4F” on Steve’s record, which is the designation for “unfit for military duty due to medical issues.” You know, like heart palpitations and rheumatic fever. Like, I admire the can-do attitude here, but . . . no, Steve. No. [Wing: I admire his determination, but Steve, dear, you’d be a liability to the rest of your unit. It sucks, I’m sorry, but they have a good reason for keeping you out.]
Cut to Steve at the movies, watching the wartime news reel, and some jackass in the theater yelling to just start the movie already. Yeah, cuz the projectionist can just hit fast-forward, right? Moron. Steve goes from “Hey, show some respect,” to fighting the guy in an alley. Er, I mean . . . getting his ass kicked in an alley. Oh, also? Foreshadowing:
The guy (who is listed in the credits as “Loud Jerk” and now I can’t stop laughing) knocks Steve down a few times, but Steve keeps getting back up. Loud Jerk tells him he just doesn’t know when to quit, does he? and Steve replies that he can do this all day. Yup. That’s what people do – we get back up when we get knocked down. There are parallels here to Captain Marvel, which Wing will be recapping next, and the “getting back up” montage in that movie legit gives me chills and makes me tear up every damn time. [Wing: Me too! Not that I wasn’t going to see it anyway, but the trailer that uses that montage got to me and there was no way I wouldn’t be there opening night. This also nods forward to that scene in Avengers when the one old man just won’t kneel for Loki, because he’s had to kneel before to men like him and got back up from it (i.e., fucking survived).] [Raven: “There are no men like me.” … “There are always men like you.” Great stuff!]
Loud Jerk punches Steve one more time, then a dude in full Army uniform pops up out of nowhere and tells him to pick on someone his own size. Presumably because it’s the 40s and that isn’t a cliché yet. Army Dude punches Loud Jerk and then literally kicks his ass out of the alley. Bucky! *heart eyes emoji*
Because, yes, this is James “Bucky” Barnes, Steve’s BFF. Sorry, Sergeant James Barnes, because everyone refers to themselves by their full name whenever talking to their besties, right? Anyway, he got assigned to the 107th, Steve’s dad’s old regiment, and the one Steve hoped to be assigned to, and is shipping out to England first thing in the morning. [Wing: Note that we later learn that Bucky was drafted, he didn’t enlist. He stays fairly upbeat throughout all of this part, but he doesn’t want to go to war, and he’s being forced to do so and exactly where Steve wants to be. I’m glad I’ve never seen people belittling him for not wanting to go, for having to be drafted. He’s still a hero even if he’s forced to join, as so many good men were. (I’ll leave out an argument about whether a draft should exist in times of peace, as it is not relevant to the movie which is not during a time of peace, but my thoughts are there.)] [JC: I keep reading now that Bucky was drafted, however I’m coming up empty trying to remember if it was ever mentioned onscreen anywhere.]
Bucky gives Steve some shit about lying on his enlistment form, as this is the fifth time he’s tried to enlist. Also, Bucky is indignant that Steve claimed to be from New Jersey this time. Ah, yes, jokes about Jersey never get old! . . . I have no stake in this New Jersey/New York fight. [Wing: Me neither, except that Dove and Raven have had terrible experiences in the Newark airport, so — New York it is! Fuck Jersey.] [Raven: Newark Airport… *shudder*. Part of me is still there.] [Dove: Sixteen hours is the shortest time we’ve ever spent in that fucking airport. So, go team New York!]
They head off to the World Exhibition of Tomorrow to celebrate Bucky’s last night stateside. Bucky tells Steve that he’s about to be the last eligible man in New York, with three and a half million women around. Steve says he’d settle for just one. I mean, he better be careful, what with the asthma and heart trouble and exposure to TB and all.
Of course Bucky has a date, who has a friend for Steve. Don’t worry, he’s only told them all the good things about Steve. I’m actually more curious about the bad stuff, to be honest. What dark secrets does Captain Boy Scout have? [bat: Steve stuffs newspapers in his shoes. There. That’s about as bad as it gets?] [Wing: I guess the multitude of fights could be considered a bad thing too. Plus I’ve always thought he probably came across as judgmental whether or not he actually was. That sort of paragon of goodness often does. And he has a temper.] [Raven: Also, crack.]
Steve’s date is less-than-interested in him, and in fact the girls seem to be more into each other than the guys? Poor Steve. His date acts like he’s trying to poison her when he offers her peanuts. They all end up in front of Stark Industries’ demonstration of a hover-car. Yup, Stark Industries. Howard Stark, future daddy to Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. I’m not sure how the math works out on this. Either I’m bad at judging ages, or Tony was a pretty late-in-life baby for Howard. [bat: Howard should have skipped the “fondue” and got to making Tony, I guess. ALSO I LOVE YOU, Dominic Cooper!] [Wing: I remember how surprised I was when I saw hot!Howard Stark. Who knew? And I think Tony is intended to be a late-in-life baby; Howard cared far more about his inventions than making a family (as did Tony for quite a lot of his life). Are we are nature, are we our nurture, etc.]
Anyway, the car hovers for a minute, then comes crashing down. Still pretty impressive for 1942, and oh yeah, IT’S 2021 WHERE THE FUCK ARE OUR FLYING CARS?! [Wing: I want a flying car! I’m not entirely convinced I want most other people to have a flying car.] [Dove: On the one hand, I’m totally against it, because most people are awful drivers, particularly the owners of white Audis (you know you are, and if you argue with me, you’re just proving you’re obnoxious online too), so no way should people fly. On the other hand, if we can all fly cars, maybe Newark Airport will go out of business?]
Steve has spotted another Army recruitment center, and peaces out while the girls are busy ignoring him. Bucky catches up, and wants to know who he’s going to be this time – Steve from Ohio? Hmm, why not Jackie Daytona? [bat: Steve is the original Yankee Doodle Dandy!] Bucky tells Steve he’s going to get caught, or worse, accepted. After all, there are plenty of things he can do to help here! Steve wants to know what Bucky wants him to do; collect scrap metal in a little red wagon? Aw, just like Timmy in the wartime newsreel!
The whole time they’re arguing, Stanley Tucci is creeping around the hallway listening to them. He probably thinks Steve has heart or something. [bat: Pluck. Steve has pluck.] [Raven: Bucky and Plucky. And soon, Stanley Tucki.]
Bucky quickly realizes he can’t talk Steve out of trying to enlist again, but still tells him not to do anything stupid until he gets back. Steve asks how can he; Bucky’s taking all the stupid with him. Then they hug, exchanging a “punk” and “jerk.” This episode of Supernatural is brought to you by Marvel! Then Bucky heads off, presumably to have a threesome with the girls.
In the medical exam room, a nurse comes in and whispers something to the doctor with Steve. They leave, telling him to stay there, and there just happens to be a conveniently placed sign behind Steve that informs him it’s illegal to falsify enlistment papers. Steve clearly has a Very Bad Feeling about this [bat: AMERICA’S ASS SUFFERS GUILT JUST LIKE THE REST OF US!], and sure enough, an MP comes in a second later. But right on his heels comes Stanley Tucci, whose character is called Dr. Erskine. He sends the MP out of the exam room and asks Steve if he wants to kill Nazis.
Just getting right to it, huh doc? [Wing: He doesn’t have time for subtlety.]
There’s some discussion of where the doc is from (Queens, before that, Germany; does that bother Steve?), and then questioning of where Steve is from, as he’s tried five times to enlist, putting down a different city every time. But the doc isn’t interested in that; it’s the trying that got his interest. So he’ll ask again: Does Steve want to kill Nazis? And yes, this is a test.
Steve replies that he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he just doesn’t like bullies.
(And it’s right about here I think I’ve pinpointed why his face looks so uncanny valley to me – whatever they’ve done to his eyes make them look really expressionless and dead. Not a great look.)
Dr. Erskine says that so many big guys have gotten a chance; maybe it’s time for the little guy. Insert your own “that’s what she said” joke here.
The doc asks where Steve is from really – Brooklyn. Then he stamps Steve’s form with an “IA,” which apparently stands for Individual Augmentee, which is a soldier deployed with a unit on a temporary basis, usually because they have a specialized skill set or knowledge. Would they give him this designation before he’s even been through boot camp? I dunno; I come from a Navy family, and my dad almost never talked about anything military related, so I don’t know much more than non-military brats, honestly.
Cut to Schmidt in his super villain lair, which is literally inside a mountain [Dove: As all good lairs should be, if there are no volcanoes available, obv.]. He and Dr. Zola are talking about the Tesseract, powering it up and running tests and the like. Schmidt opens the box the Tesseract is in, and lifts it out with a clampy . . . thing . . . geez, words are not my friend today. [bat: SCIENCE TONGS!] [JC: MY NEW FAVORITE DESCRIPTIVE TERM!] Anyway, it looks like an awesome blue glowy lantern as he transports it over to a machine and locks it in. Zola starts turning dials, powering the machine up to 20%, then 40, then stabilizing at 70. There are already blue energy sparks going on, but Schmidt gripes that he didn’t come here for safety and pushes Zola out of the way to crank the dial all the way up. YES! TURN THAT BITCH TO 11!
Blue energy travels along the cables connected to the machine, then fills the room with glowing, floating blue aurora borealis looking shit before everything shorts out. But now there’s a new lantern-looking thing full of the blue energy, which Zola says transferred stably. He marvels that this energy can power all his creations, which will change the war. Schmidt counters that this will change the world. I guess Zola isn’t a big picture kinda guy.
And now we’re back with Steve at basic training. His flak helmet looks about three sizes too big, by the way. Agent Peggy Carter walks up to the ranks, and a smart-ass soldier asks her what’s up with her English accent; he thought he was joining the US military. She asks him to step forward, and he asks if they’re gonna “wrassle” because he’s got some moves he knows she’ll love.
And then she straight-up punches him in the face.
The only thing that could make me happier would be if she had punched him in the dick.
[Wing: This comes up more often in the tv show, but I love that Peggy’s fighting style is brutal. She’s not really graceful or flippy, she’s brutal. She hits hard, she hits to put people down, and she uses whatever’s around her to hit harder. Someday I want to see a fanvid making use of the different fighting styles in the MCU (though many of them fight the same) or, possibly better, fighting styles of women in different movies and tv shows.] [Raven: I guess I should go watch Agent Carter. And Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and probably a lot of other stuff too. I’m down with the films, and some of the post-Endgame shows, but there are gaps in my catalogue.]
Colonel Phillips comes on the scene and starts giving a speech, stumbling a bit when he spots Scrawny Steve, looks back at Dr. Erskine, then continues talking about winning the war, and good men fighting, and honestly I tend to zone out a little during the rah-rah yay war stuff. The colonel’s speech continues over a training montage, and we’re informed that this is the Strategic Scientific Reserve. Oh, okay, I guess Steve’s IA designation does make sense now.
Yeah, basically they’re searching for one man to be their first experimental super soldier. All during this speech, the montage shows us Steve basically getting sabotaged by the asshole soldier who got punched. Apparently his name is Gilmore Hodge. And the actor’s name is Lex Shrapnel. A guy playing a potential super soldier is named Shrapnel. What is happening right now? [Wing: I never knew this, and it is amazing.]
Anyway, Steve isn’t doing so hot with the physical stuff, but wouldn’t ya know it, he just refuses to give up. He’s got moxie, this kid!
Cut to the group of recruits running the track. The sergeant stops them in front of a flagpole and points out that that flag means they’re only at the halfway point, and any man who can get the flag down for him gets to ride the rest of the way back to camp in the Jeep with Agent Carter. Cue the group of recruits clambering over one another, trying to climb the pole. Have you ever seen monkeys at the zoo? Yeah, picture that. [Raven: A pile of wanking gibbons?] [JC: Gibbons are apes, Raven, not monkeys! Hi, I’m here to be your zoology pedant for this recap . . . and the rest of eternity.]
Steve holds back, watching and thinking, then when everyone else has given up, he walks forward and pulls a couple bolts and hinges, and the flagpole swings down to the ground, allowing him to pick the flag off. Ha ha ha, clever boy!
The sarge is shocked, Agent Carter is impressed, Hodge is pissed. We’re told that no one has gotten that flag in 17 years, and I am skeptical. Really? So not only did no one ever think to do what Steve did, but no one was ever able to climb the pole, either? This doesn’t give me much confidence in the US Army, honestly. [bat: Does anyone else immediately think of the similar scene in Mulan when watching this?] [Wing: 100% thought of that scene, which is one of my favourites. No one else being able to climb the pole isn’t believable, though.] [Raven: I dunno… Do Not Climb Your Flagpole is literally Point One on the Things Not To Do To Your Flagpole website. Then again, Do Not Lick Your Flagpole is number three.]
Cut to more training – push-ups this time, with Agent Carter trolling the recruits about what weak little babies they are. Colonel Phillips and Dr. Erskine debate why Steve is there, complete with Phillips calling him a “ninety-pound asthmatic” and saying he thought Steve might be useful to Erskine “like a gerbil” but he never thought he’d pick him. Erskine counters that Steve is the clear choice. You know, probably cuz the kid’s got moxie and whatnot.
Also, “gerbil”? If he’d said guinea pig I could understand, but . . . gerbil? What the hell? [Wing: *don’t make that joke don’t make that joke don’t make that joke*] [JC: Bad Wing. No.]
As the recruits move on to jumping jacks, Phillips argues that Hodge passed every test with flying colors, he’s a soldier. Erskine is against it – Hodge is a bully. Phillips sneers that you don’t win wars with niceness, you win them with guts.
And then he pulls the pin on a grenade and tosses it into the midst of the recruits.
Everyone runs away from the grenade, except Steve, who jumps on it and curls himself around it while yelling at everyone else to get away. And I pointed this out when Dove and I recapped Child’s Play 3, but I’ll do it again here – according to Mythbusters, Hollywood actually gets this right. Throwing yourself on a grenade really will protect those around you. Now, an argument could be made (and has been by the guys on the CinemaSins YouTube channel) that the other soldiers did what you’re supposed to and got clear of the blast, and that Steve was an idiot for sacrificing himself for no goddamn reason. I mean, sure, maybe. But the point here is the willingness to sacrifice himself for others. [Wing: CinemaSins. Oh, CinemaSins. They are sometimes funny and sometimes say something smart, but they too often want movies to hold the viewers’ hands while watching, and their analysis is often lacking.]
Anyway, the grenade doesn’t go off. It’s a dummy grenade. Steve realizes this, and asks if it was a test. Uh, yeah hon. [Wing: Everything is a test.]
Phillips is annoyed; Erskine is proud; Agent Carter (at some point I’ll start calling her Peggy, won’t I? Have I made it awkward by going on this long?) is impressed. The boy’s got heart! Phillips snarks that he’s still skinny, though.
Aah, eat a dick, Phillips. [Raven: I like Phillips. Actually, I like Tommy Lee Jones. He’s value.]
Later that day (night?), Erskine comes to talk to Steve. This is some involved backstory, but basically Hitler wanted Erskine to help make the Nazis strong; Erskine had no interest; enter Schmidt, the head of Hydra – Hitler’s research division. Schmidt was even more obsessed with the occult than Hitler, and when he heard about Erskine’s super soldier formula, he forced him to inject him. Erskine tells us that the serum wasn’t ready, but more than that, it amplifies what’s already inside the person – good becomes great, while bad becomes . . . worse.
Yeah, the serum turned Schmidt into Super Strong Evil Villain Man. (And . . . possibly burned off his face . . . ?)
Erskine tells Steve that this is why he was chosen – because a strong man who has been strong all his life may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and compassion. Steve’s like, Uh, was I just negged? Is this what negging is? and responds with, “Thanks . . . I think.”
Then Erskine pours schnapps for them both to toast to the “little guys,” before realizing Steve can’t drink anything because he has the procedure in the morning and can’t have fluids. Welp, that’s a double for Erskine, then! Bottoms up!
And now we’re back in the mountainside villain lair, following Dr. Zola as he walks into Schmidt’s sanctum. Schmidt shuts the light off so we can only see him in silhouette against the window. He’s having his portrait painted, and the artist’s palette sure does seem to have a lot of red on it, hmm. Schmidt says they’ve found “him,” and Zola spots photos of Dr. Erskine on the desk. Since his serum is the only thing the Allies have that can stand against Schmidt’s strength, Erskine must obviously be eliminated. The order has already been given.
Then the light goes back on, and Schmidt asks what Zola thinks of the portrait so far. Zola declares it a masterpiece. The audience sees nothing. I’d like to think it looks something like this:
And yes, he is flipping a double bird.
Cut back to the streets of NYC. You know it’s the 40s because there are kids playing stickball in the streets like goddamn heathens. A car drives by, then we’re inside the car with Steve and Peggy. Yep, I’m switching to Peggy. I think we’re on a first-name basis by now. Steve knows the neighborhood – he got beat up in that alley over there. And in that parking lot. And behind that diner. Peggy asks if he had something against running away, and Steve replies that once you start running, they never let you stop [Raven: Easy there, Forrest]. You’ve got to stand up. Okay, but maybe you could have learned some self-defense?
Just a thought.
Peggy says she understands what it’s like to have every door closed in your face. Steve sticks his whole foot in his mouth by commenting that he guesses he doesn’t understand why you’d want to join the army if you’re a beautiful dame – er, woman . . . agent?
Well, at least he avoided calling her a “female” like a goddamn Ferengi.
He goes on to say that no, well, she is beautiful, but . . . Peggy tells him he has no idea how to talk to a woman, does he? Nope, he thinks this is the longest conversation he’s ever had with one. Girls aren’t exactly lining up to dance with a guy they might step on. Then he figured he’d just wait for the right partner.
Okay, fair enough to that part. But I guess this is as good a place for this mini-rant as any: I hate the whole “I don’t know how to talk to women” bullshit. We’re people, not some mysterious, mystical alien species. Stop othering us like this! We’re people; talk to us like you talk to any other goddamn person! Talk to us like we’re people. Because we’re people, just like you. If you can talk to someone who’s not a woman, you can also talk to a woman. Goddamn.
(I do give this a soft pass here, though, partly because it’s not the entire takeaway from the conversation, and also because it was the 1940s, and men and women were socialized very differently back then to what they are now.)
[Wing: Still love this moment of JC Goes Boom, though! And you’re right about talking to women like they are people because we fucking are.]
The car pulls up to an antique shop, and as Peggy and Steve go inside, at least three dudes outside are giving them very obvious side-eye. You’d think Hydra would train their guys to be a little more subtle [Raven: Why bother? When one dies, two take its place. So sending the crappest agents out into the field is basically a Hydra Recruitment Tactic.]. As you might suspect, the antique shop isn’t just an antique shop, and they’re buzzed into a secret basement(?) area after Peggy gives a code phrase to the proprietor. Who just so happens to have some sort of automatic weapon under the counter. A bookcase opens up to reveal a secret facility. I’m assuming we’re underground.
They walk into an open area set up for Steve’s procedure, and everyone shuts up as soon as they spot Steve. That’s cool; not awkward at all, guys. Dr. Erskine greets them and tells Steve to take off his shirt and hat. By military regs, his hat should have come off as soon as he entered the building, but whatevs.
Phillips is there, along with a senator he’s invited, Brandt, who isn’t sure why he’s there. Phillips is also introduced to someone from the state department, Clem something [Raven: CLEM FANDANGO!], and this actor is Richard Armitage, aka Thorin from the Hobbit movies; Guy of Gisborne from the BBC’s Robin Hood series; and he was in the BBC’s North & South miniseries as well. Point is, watching him attempt an American accent is . . . odd. [Dove: On the subject of accents, watch Ragnorok and count how many people are suppressing their natural accent. It’s basically most of the cast.]
They watch from up above as Steve climbs onto the operating table, and the senator comments “Somebody get that kid a sandwich!”
HA HA HA YES HE’S SKINNY THANKS WE HADN’T FUCKING NOTICED, SENATOR.
Hey, Howard Stark’s there, too. Ready as he’ll ever be, although they may dim half the lights in Brooklyn once they get going. Peggy heads off to watch from the booth, giving Steve a “good luck” sort of look as she goes.
Erskine gives a bit of a speech to let the spectators know what’s about to go down as Steve is secured to the table with clamps and straps. BDSM in the 40s was weird. [Wing: LOLOL] There are large vials of blue serum that are going to be injected into the major muscle groups. Oh, okay. That sounds like fun. For some reason there’s one extra vial left behind, but I’m sure it’s fine. Won’t come into play in a few minutes or anything.
The clamps are situated over the muscle groups, and apparently have little needles in them, because this is how the serum is delivered. Good times, good times. Then Howard hits what I swear is an arcade machine joystick, which raises the table up vertically and closes wings around it so that Steve is now inside a capsule/pod-like device. He’s now going to be saturated with . . . vitamins? (I turned captions off and didn’t quite catch this part) to stimulate growth.
Erskine knocks on the pod and asks if Steve can hear him. Steve replies by guessing it’s too late to use the bathroom, huh? We-ell, I guess it depends on how comfortable you are with wet pants?
Oh, I think it was definitely “vitamins,” because one of the many knobs and steering wheels(!) Howard turns is labeled “Vita-ray.” Cool. They get to 70% before Steve starts screaming. Everyone (including
Thorin Clem Whoever) looks very concerned, and Erskine and Peggy start yelling to shut it down. But our boy Steve yells no, he can do this, so Howard turns the dial to 100%.
YES, CRANK THAT BITCH TO 11!
Oh, I already used that joke, huh? *shrugs* [Wing: If the movie can repeat the visual, you can repeat the joke. It’s a theme now or whatever.]
Lights start sparking, then blow out, but the procedure is done. The pod opens, and Scrawny Steve now looks like this:
Things I’ve learned from Marvel movies: the pants will somehow always fit, even if you’re now a foot taller and put on a hundred pounds of muscle.
Everyone is very impressed by Jacked!Steve, including Peggy, who nearly grabs one of his new muscle man boobs before restraining herself and handing him a shirt. And apparently the almost-pec-touch wasn’t in the script; it was Hayley Atwell’s genuine thirst-reaction to Chris Evans. [Wing: Hayley Atwell is many of us, including me. Look at him. Actually, Howard kind of gives him a look, too, which I love.] Anyway, Peggy asks him how he feels, and he says, “Taller.”
Also, State Department Clem has left his cigarette case behind on his chair in the booth. We know this is important because the camera zooms in on it. As everyone is celebrating turning Scrawny!Steve into Jacked!Steve, Clem Whatsit (I think his name is actually Clemson (it actually is Heinz Kruger; he’s only pretending to be Clem Whosis) but if you think I care then you’ve obviously never read one of my recaps before) pulls out a lighter and hits a button on it. The observation booth proceeds to go boom. [Wing: Not the fun kind of boom, either. Or, well, mostly not. Pretty much any explosion is partially a fun kind of boom when it comes to fiction.]
See? Told ya that cigarette case was important.
He then pulls out a gun and shoots Erskine a bunch of times, grabs the one remaining vial of super soldier serum, then takes off running as Peggy fires back. Steve goes to Erskine, who jabs him in the chest a couple times before he dies. Either Stanley Tucci was also in awe of Chris Evans’s physique, or Erskine is reminding Steve to remain a good man with a heart of gold. Or vibranium. Whatever.
Clem Whosit tears ass out of the building, shooting anyone who gets in his way, and Steve now gives chase after being motivated by Erskine’s death. Clem jumps into a car driven by one of the totally inconspicuous Hydra guys from earlier, and Peggy shoots the driver from ridiculously far away and after Clem Thorin blew up the car behind her as a distraction.
Okay, Peggy is definitely on my zombie apocalypse team.
Clem jumps into a cab and drives toward Peggy, and now she’s got the shooting accuracy of a Storm Trooper. Huh. Funny how that works. Steve tackles her out of the way a second before Clem would have turned her into roadkill, despite her protestations that she would have had him. Steve apologizes and runs after the cab. Barefoot, btw. My feet are crying just thinking about that.
Oh, and now we can see that Steve’s pants are too short, but they still fit his waist perfectly. What the actual hell, Marvel? At least make your magic pants consistent! Because if you’re trying to tell me that Jacked!Steve’s waist is the same size as Scrawny!Steve’s, we need to sit down and have a little chat. [bat: is this my new HOW DOES MAGIC WORK thing? HOW DO CLOTHING SIZES WORK, MARVEL?]
Steve is as awkward in his new jacked body as a newborn jacked gazelle, and crashes through a shop window, getting tangled up with a mannequin in a wedding dress. And then shouting another apology and running through the broken glass on the ground. Again, barefoot. This Die Hard reboot is weird. [Wing: I really like how he’s awkward in his body. That sort of growth would be horrifying all at once. It was bad enough growing taller in great bursts over weeks and months, much less a few minutes.]
He clears a six-foot high chain-link fence no problem, and chases the Clem Cab down the street, jumping from the tops of cars. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how you play Frogger, Steve. He jumps on top of the cab and car surfs while desperately trying to avoid Cabbie Clem shooting at him through the roof. Then Clem crashes, rolls the car, and pops back up to keep shooting at Steve, who luckily has grabbed the door that came flying off the car to use as a shield.
Clem has other ideas about what constitutes a shield – he chooses a small boy-child. He runs, then turns to shoot Steve, but fortunately he’s out of bullets. Then he throws the kid into the . . . river? eh, some body of water. [bat: Canal?] [Wing: While reading this, I realized I’ve always assumed it was the Hudson River, but I don’t know if that actually, you know, works here.] Clem runs, and oh no, whatever is Steve to do? Save the kid, or chase Clem?!
The kid tells him to go get Clem; it’s okay, he can swim. Oh. Phew. I can’t swim. I would have to be rescued, and the bad guy would get away. I, uh, should probably learn to swim, huh? [Wing: Yes, but mostly because it’s fun.]
Then Clem clicks the button on his apparently all-purpose James Bond villain Zippo and a motherfucking submersible vehicle rises up out of the water. Bahaha okay. Steve dives into the water to swim after it, punches through the glass, and drags Clem out, throwing him up onto land. Or brick. I’m not really sure what’s going on with the water’s relation to the buildings and streets here. Anyway, kudos to whoever decided to put Chris Evans in a white t-shirt and then dump water all over him. I mean, I try to do that and all I get is a restraining order.
The last remaining vial of super soldier serum smashes on the ground. Whew! We’ll never have to worry about more super soldiers popping up now, will we? Steve asks Clem who the hell he is, and instead of singing “The Misty Mountains Cold“, Clem tells Steve he’s the first of many, cut off one head and two will grow back. [Wing: It’s cheesy and completely unsubtle, and I love this for Hydra.] Then he crunches down on a false tooth, presumably full of cyanide, and dies frothing at the mouth and hailing Hydra. Steve is understandably flummoxed. But maybe he’s just in shock at his new physique, as he stands there breathing hard and staring down at his own body. I honestly can’t tell if Marvel is pandering to me, or tormenting me. [Wing: Why not both.] [Raven: I wonder how many Hydra agents have dies when accidentally swallowing their Suicide Pill? Like, eat the hard shell of a taco the wrong way and you can lacerate your gums. Housing their get-out-of-jail card in their mouth is bound to cause problems.] [JC: I would grind my teeth too hard in my sleep and wake up dead one day.]
And now we’re with Schmidt and some Nazis, walking down what is obviously a corridor in the Death Star. No, I don’t care that that’s a different franchise. [Wing: But both owned by Disney now!] Hitler is apparently fed up with funding Schmidt and some lackey tells him that Hitler believes “the Red Skull has been indulged long enough.” Oh my damn, we finally referred to him as Red Skull! [Raven: Did he get to chose his own Villain Name? This diss from the Fuhrer makes me think others coined the term as a derogatory putdown, neglecting to see that Red Skull is a BADASS moniker. I’ll bet more than a few call him Raspberry, Beetroot Boy, or Ruptured Testicle behind his back.] [Dove: Or Taser Face?] [Raven: It’s metaphorical!]
Schmidt shows the friendly neighborhood Nazis into his lab to show off what he’s been working on, and one of them snarks that Schmidt still hopes to win the war with magic. Uh, no, dude, I think that’s your boss who was obsessed with the occult, you fuckwit. Schmidt corrects him – not magic, but science. He can understand the confusion, though. He begins fussing with some dials around a big lasergun thing, talking about how he’s harnessed the power of the gods and has enough to decimate every hostile capital in the world, then he looks like he’s counting the number of people in the room. So why are you not running away now, guys?
One of them thanks Schmidt for showing them how mad he is, while another one notices that Berlin is on the map of “hostile capitals.” Oh. Well then. Schmidt agrees that it is, and then activates the gun, which completely vaporizes them one by one. Schmidt then apologizes to Zola, but tells him that they both knew Hydra could grow no further in the shadow of Hitler. Everyone left in the room hails Hydra while Zola’s internal monologue of “oh shit, oh fuck, what the actual fuck have I gotten myself into” couldn’t be any clearer if he were actually screaming it from the rooftops. (Toby Jones is such a great character actor.)
Back at HQ, a nurse finishes up drawing blood from Steve while Peggy tells him that his blood is the only hope of reproducing the serum, but without Dr. Erskine it’ll take years. Mmhmm. Meanwhile, Howard Stark is inspecting the submersible and telling Phillips and the senator (I think? I’ve lost track of who all these military/government dudes are) that he has no idea what’s powering it; they’re years away from this technology. Phillips tells him it’s Hydra. Oh. You know about them. Okay.
Phillips and Peggy quickly exposit to the senator about Schmidt and Hydra, and Phillips informs everyone that we’re taking the fight to them. Peggy and Howard are to pack immediately. Oh, not Steve, though. He’s going to Alamogordo, a town in New Mexico whose name I only know because it’s an episode title of the HBO show, Carnivale. Phillips complains that he wanted an army and all he got was Steve. And that’s not good enough for him. Some people are never satisfied.
The senator tells Steve that Phillips is being a fucking dumbass trying to hide Steve away in a lab, especially now that the country has seen what he can do. Then he shows him the front page of the newspaper with a photo of Steve holding that cab door up like a shield, with a headline about a mystery man fighting Nazis in New York, and I’m left to wonder how much time has gone by. I suppose it’s the day after that happened? Unclear. Anyway, Senator Brandt asks Steve how he’d like to fight on the most important battlefield of them all? Steve replies that that’s all he wants to do.
Oh no, Steve. I don’t think this is going to be what you think it’s going to be.
But he is a captain now, so . . . there’s that.
Cut to Steve in his silly first Captain America costume, putting on a show to sell war bonds. The Star-Spangled Man, indeed. But at least he gets to punch Hitler.
Sort of, anyway.
Cue the musical montage of shows across the country and Captain America propaganda comics and movie reels. Hey, the people love him! Despite the Dollar General Halloween costume! [bat: GO BACK TO PARTY CITY WHERE YOU BELONG!]
[Wing: There’s a nice fanvid from several years ago that visually juxtaposes the dancing girls in Captain America with the dancing girls in the Iron Man movies, among many other comparisons. Note, it’s from far enough back that there weren’t very many women in the MCU to use in the vid; otherwise, I’d be annoyed at the focus on the men.]
At least until, you know, someone got the bright idea to put him in Italy, in front of actual Army troops.
Steve: How many of you are ready to help me sock ol’ Adolf on the jaw?
Army Guys: *crickets* *heckles* Bring back the girls! Nice boots, Tinkerbell!
That One Guy: *moons Steve*
So it’s not going so well.
Then they start throwing tomatoes, and what the hell. Were they planning to do that? Why did they bring tomatoes to a USO show? Steve runs off stage and the girls do come back out to cheers from the Army guys. Steve is told the guys will warm up to him. Sure they will. Maybe he can show them the cute little drawing he does of a monkey in a Captain America sweater and shield riding a unicycle across a tightrope. Endear himself to them with his art.
As he’s drawing, Peggy shows up behind him in the rain. Except officially she’s not there. She comments on the performance, and Steve tells her that the audiences he’s used to are usually a little more . . . twelve. Huh. Twelve-year-olds must have been a lot easier to please in the 40s.
Steve says that at least he gets to do this; Phillips would have had him stuck in a lab. Peggy asks if those are his only two options – a lab rat or a dancing monkey, while looking meaningfully at his drawing. Come on now, Peggy, that monkey is clearly unicycling, not dancing!
Steve tells her that for the longest time he dreamed of coming overseas and being on the front lines, and he finally got everything he wanted – but he’s wearing tights. I mean, be careful what you wish for? And anyway, I don’t think he’s wearing tights. They’re more like . . . sweatpants?
Peggy informs him that these men have had it rougher than most – his audience consisted of what was left of the 107th, the rest were killed or captured by Schmidt. Steve’s like, oh shit, did you say the 107th?
He runs to Phillips and asks to see the casualty list, then tells him he just needs one name – Sergeant James Barnes. BUCKY!!! Phillips tells him that he’s signed more condolence letters than he cares to mention, but the name does sound familiar and he’s sorry. Steve asks if he’s planning a rescue mission, and Phillips tells him yeah, it’s called winning the war. They’re not going after the rest of the 107th because they’re 30 miles behind enemy lines, through impossible terrain, and they’d lose more men than they’d save. Oh, but he doesn’t expect Steve to understand because he’s a chorus girl.
Hey, Phillips? Fight me, old man. And then set yourself on fire and jump into a swimming pool of gasoline. [Wing: Seriously! He wanted a supersoldier, he got a supersoldier, and now he’s not letting his supersoldier do any fighting.] [Raven: This seems a very “I don’t like it either, but it’s reality” decision that he is snarkily resigned to. Much like everything he says.]
Steve tells him he understands just fine, and then takes a good long look at the map pinned to the wall. Peggy notices him noticing the map, but Colonel Phillips tells her now’s a good time to keep her opinions to herself. Okay! Aye aye, sir!
She catches up to Steve and asks if he plans to walk to Austria, and honestly, he probably could, couldn’t he? I mean, thirty miles, okay, sure, but on the other hand . . . super soldier. Fortunately, Peggy is on his side and gets Howard to fly them in a Stark Industries plane, and gives him all the intel she has on the situation.
For some goddamn reason Howard thinks that now is a great time to invite Peggy for late night fondue if they’ve got time, and Steve looks back and forth between them before asking Peggy, “So are you two . . . do you . . . fondue?”
Listen, the way Howard said it really really did make it sound like a euphemism, so I can’t blame Steve for thinking it was something suggestive. If I were single, I think I’d make that my new pickup line. You know, see someone cute, sidle up to them, wink and ask, “So do you . . . fondue?” [Wing: I’d let myself be wooed by that at least, to be honest. Howard does real well with making fondue sound absolutely filthy.]
Peggy answers by handing Steve a transponder. Then the plane starts getting shot at, so it’s time for Steve to parachute out, even though Peggy insists they were going to take him closer. He tells her to turn the plane around as soon as he’s clear, and she tells him he can’t give her orders. Oh, but can’t he, he says – he’s a captain now! Okay, but, what is Peggy’s rank? Does she have one? She’s Agent Carter. Agent isn’t an Army rank. I’m confused as to who outranks who here.
Cut to Schmidt and Zola walking through a factory with a lot of large components with glowy blue cores in them. Zola tells Schmidt that construction of the Valkyrie is right on schedule. [Wing: Someday, someday we’ll get to the delightful, wonderful Valkyrie in Ragnarok, and my joy will know no end.] Schmidt isn’t satisfied with that and tells him to increase the output by sixty percent, despite the prisoners not having the strength for it. There are always more prisoners.
And now we see some of those prisoners, cells and cells full of them, in fact. Including Neal McDonough as Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, complete with bowler hat and a fabulous handlebar mustache, snarking at one of the guards as he’s shoved back into a cell.
Oh, and now we’re back outside with Steve, who jumps into the back of a covered truck heading into the facility and beats up the two guys in the back, tossing them out into the road. Once the truck is inside the facility and parked against a building, he knocks an inspector out with his shield and runs through the area, somehow not being spotted despite the big American flag shield hanging off his back. Mmkay, Marvel, I totally believe this. [Raven: Maybe he slept through Camouflage Class.]
He makes it into the building, punches a few more people, pockets what looks like a lighter with a glowy blue bit, then finds the POWs and knocks out another guard. One of the prisoners asks who he’s supposed to be, and he answers that he’s, uh, Captain America. Only it sounds almost like a question. Aw. The hero thing is super new to Steve.
He starts letting everyone out of their cells, and Dugan spots prisoner Jim Morita and asks if they’re taking everyone. Morita shows him his dog tags in annoyance and informs him that he’s from Fresno. Okay. So. That comment was clearly directed at Morita because he appears to be Japanese (even though the actor, Kenneth Choi, is of Korean descent), and Japan was allied with Germany in WWII. Haha, he’s actually American, right? Big laugh! Yeah . . . if you ignore the fact that during this time, the American government had imprisoned all our citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps. Eventually the government realized they needed more soldiers and decided those in the camps could fight for us – if they were willing to sign a form with a question asking if they were willing to disavow their allegiance to the Japanese emperor. These were, in a lot of cases, people who were born in the USA, had never set foot in Japan, and considered themselves Americans through and through. Because they fucking were. And the only way they could be let out of these camps, the only way they could be allowed to fight for their country, was to basically put in writing that they’d been traitors loyal to a foreign body up to that point. You can imagine, there were a lot of people who refused to answer and sign that. There was no way to win with that wording. It’s the equivalent to that old chestnut about being asked if you’ve stopped beating your wife. There is no good way to answer.
But yes, Marvel, haha he’s from Fresno.
Thanks for coming to my mini history lesson.
[Wing: Yes, good.]
Steve asks if anyone knows where Bucky might be, and he’s told there’s an isolation ward, but no one’s ever come back from it. [Raven: “Nobody ever goes in, nobody ever comes out.” The Red Skull is Willy fucking Wonka.] He tells everyone to fight their way out and he’ll meet them in the clearing with anyone else he finds. Someone asks him if he knows what he’s doing, and he tells them, yup, he’s knocked out Adolf Hitler over 200 times. Everyone’s just like, Hurrh? Oh, Steve.
Punching and shooting ensues with the Howling Commandos (are we calling them that yet?), who find Schmidt’s tesseract-powered weapons and really start fucking shit up. Did I say weapons? Yeah, I meant a tank. Dugan starts driving a tank around with the French guy as his gunner. (I didn’t look his name up, sorry. I hereby dub him Beret Boi.)
Schmidt sounds the alarm and spots Steve on the world’s oldest security camera, then starts setting self-destruct timers because his forces are outmatched. Well, I suppose the Red Skull is nothing if not pragmatic?
More fighting ensues while Zola and Schmidt gather their shit up to make a run for it and Steve finds Bucky alone in a room, dazed and strapped down to a table with some very nasty-looking equipment all around. Steve gets Bucky off the table and tells him that he thought he was dead. Bucky replies that he thought Steve was smaller. That’s . . . what she said? Does that work here? Am I doing this right?
Also, I’d like to point out that Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans are the same height, but they take great care from here on out to try to make Steve look taller/bigger than Bucky. I’m not sure how well it works, since I didn’t even realize it was happening until I read the trivia for this movie. [bat: I could talk A LOT about how movie magic makes actors “taller” compared to their actually much taller costars but that would just give me more imaginary points for my Trivial Pursuit: KS edition game.] [Wing: My go to example of this is Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. They spent so much time making Vin Diesel seem tall and broad in the earlier Fast and the Furious movies that when they brought in Dwayne Johnson, they had to balance that out.] [JC: It’s even funnier now that John Cena is in the mix!] [Dove: People keep saying Cena’s in F&F, but I just can’t see him. ba-dum-cha!]
Anyway, Bucky asks what happened to Steve, since if you remember, the last time he saw him he was Scrawny!Steve, and Steve replies that he joined the Army. I mean, that’s great and all, Stevie, but I think he’s going to need a little more info than that. Which apparently he does give him while we’re cutting between their escape and the fighting outside, because Bucky asks if it hurt (a little) and if it’s permanent (so far).
You know, sometimes I like to imagine Bucky watching Steve’s musical promos for war bonds and laughing his ass off. He probably would have trolled him about it for years if not for . . . well, you know. Spoilers. (I’m actually pretending there are people reading this who don’t know what happens, aren’t I?)
The self-destruct timers count down to zero, and things start exploding under the catwalk Steve and Bucky are escaping on. Schmidt and Zola are across a walkway, and Schmidt is definitely trolling Steve about the Captain America films, even if Bucky hasn’t had the chance to. [bat: Imagine Bucky showing them to Sam decades later, ‘ARE YOU SEEING THIS, SAM?? SO HILARIOUS!’] [Dove: I’d also expect Tony Stark to set it as Steve’s default screensaver/welcome screen/whatever at Avenger Tower when the time comes, given that we later find out he loves to troll Thor.] [JC: Tony would make it a “Welcome to Avengers Tower” video that plays on multiple screens whenever anyone walks in the front doors.] Steve and Schmidt walk out to the center of the catwalk for dramatic purposes, and Steve punches Schmidt in the face. His face, uh, moves a little more than a face should. Then Schmidt punches Steve’s shield, leaving a fist-shaped dent in it. Uh, Howard, could we get on that vibranium shield soon, please?
Zola pulls a lever that retracts the two sides of the catwalk, separating our two super soldiers, and Schmidt decides fuck it and pulls his face off. I present you all with the Red Skull! Bucky might still be in shock, because his only reaction is to ask Steve, “You don’t have one of those too, do you?” Well, no one’s going to mistake Schmidt for Elrond now, anyway.
Schmidt goes on this short rant about Steve not accepting that they’re superior, and how Schmidt has embraced it without fear. [Raven: Basically a Magneto speech bought from Wish.] Steve asks why he’s running, then. Um, I don’t know, maybe because everything is blowing up? Just a thought.
Steve and Bucky try to find a way out, while Schmidt goes to the roof to take off in some sort of plane and Zola heads down to drive Schmidt’s ostentatious car with the Hydra hood ornament. I don’t know why I’m calling it ostentatious, actually. It’s pretty cool and I would drive it in a heartbeat. But fuck Hydra. Do you think I could add some more tentacles and turn the insignia into Cthulhu? [Wing: YES! I will wear that with pride.]
Inside, everything is still exploding, with lots of fire. Steve makes Bucky go first to do a tightrope walk across a very unstable steel beam, which comes loose and falls down into the fire just as Bucky gets across. He yells at Steve that he’s not leaving without him, and a million Stucky shippers do the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme right here. (Sorry, I’m selfish – I don’t ship Bucky with anyone but myself. Don’t tell my fiancé, okay? While he’s noticed my very obvious Loki crush, I think he’s still clueless about my Bucky love.) [Wing: I love Steve/Bucky. And Bucky/Darcy. And Bucky/M’Baku. And — look, a good fic can sell me on most pairings, and I’ve read good ones for each of those and more. But once Bucky gets that metal arm of his, I want him. Unf.]
So, rather than leave his BFF and find another way around, Steve bends some railing out of the way and takes a running start, leaping across the chasm of fire. A fireball flies up at him about halfway across, and we don’t see him land, instead cutting to Phillips dictating a letter to Senator Brandt informing him of Steve Rogers going missing and declaring him killed in action. Peggy comes into the tent, and Phillips informs her that he can’t touch Stark because he’s rich and the Army’s biggest weapons supplier, but she’s neither. Then he says that Steve and all those other soldiers died because Peggy had a crush.
No, seriously, why doesn’t Phillips die in this movie? Get fucked, you damn relic of the dark ages.
Peggy tells him she didn’t have a crush, she had faith. Phillips tells her that he hopes that’s a comfort when they shut this division down. [Wing: Fuck. You. Phillips. What good men did she get killed exactly? Because every man but Steve Rogers was a POW, and you weren’t going the fuck after them in the first place.] But then this happens:
Yup. The Howling Commandos come marching back on base, led by Captain fucking America, bitches! Eat it, Phillips!
They have a few tanks and trucks, but it looks like the majority of them must have walked the whole way. Uh. Goddamn. Anyway, everyone comes out to marvel at this sight, [Wing: Heh.] including the bully asshole Hodge, if you remember him. He looks awed, and jealous, and possibly with a smidge of respect? [Wing: I really don’t normally find Bucky hot until Winter Soldier era, but his walking strut and open shirt with the dog tags are kind of doing it for me this viewing.]
Phillips walks out to meet them, and Steve tells him he’d like to surrender himself for disciplinary action. Phillips tells him that won’t be necessary. Yeah, haha, it’s not like they’re going to court martial Captain America! Well. Not this Captain America, at least.
Peggy tells Steve he’s late, and he holds up the busted transponder. He couldn’t call for his ride, see? [bat: That always bothered me. He carried that damaged transponder just to prove to Peggy he couldn’t call??] [Wing: See! That could be another flaw! Steve is petty!] [Dove: Or, as a holdover from being scrawny Steve, who is two seconds from being turned away from literally everything he wants to do, even when buff, he kept proof so that she doesn’t think he’s an idiot. #AnxietyWoes] [Raven: Or he was operating by the book. That transponder was government-issue, he needed to sign it back in for refurbishment on completion of his (admittedly covert) mission.] Then Bucky says, “Let’s hear it for Captain America!” And they all clapped. Geez. Did Bucky start that trope? Cue triumphant music and a dramatic pull out to a wide shot.
Fade to the senator in front of a podium, saying he’s proud to present this medal to his friend, Captain America. Cue . . . nothing. Steve doesn’t show, despite Brandt’s many attempts to cue him. A random dude comes out from behind the curtain to whisper in the senator’s ear, and we cut to Stan Lee in the crowd, commenting that he thought he’d be taller. I know we love Stan Lee and his cameos, etc. etc., but can I just say that they become kind of tiresome after awhile? (Except the “Tony Stank” one. I’ll take any chance to clown on Tony.) [Wing: Bite your tongue! About the Stan Lee cameos. Clown on Tony anytime. I love him, but he needs to be clowned on.] [Raven: Yeah, we stan Stan in this house. His harrowing late-in-life elder abuse not so much, of course.]
Cut to an exterior shot of London. We know it’s London because there are many blimps flying through the sky over Big Ben and a building flying the Union Jack. Somewhere underground, Steve is detailing spots on the map he saw marked when he was in Schmidt’s base. I guess those are probably important. There’s another map with all the weapons facilities they know about marked, but Steve tells Peggy and Phillips that Bucky said the parts are being shipped to another place not on their map.
Phillips says he’s assembling a team to go looking for the main Hydra base and Steve says that he’s actually assembling his own team, with all due respect. Also, Natalie Dormer is handing Phillips some paperwork and stuff. Hi, Natalie Dormer! I don’t actually know your character’s name right now, so I’m just going to call you Natalie Dormer. [bat: That’s the second cast member of Game of Thrones that’s showed up in this, if you’re keeping track.] [Wing: Natalie Dormer is always gorgeous but I’ve never thought her hotter than in Hunger Games with that haircut.] [JC: Agreed. That might be the first thing I noticed her in, as a matter of fact.] [bat:…did NONE of you watch her as Anne Bolyen??? C’mon, The Tudors was excellent!]
Cut to Steve in a bar, recruiting the Howling Commandos. At first they’re all, we just escaped and you want us to go back? But then they’re all onboard remarkably fast, because why not. Steve goes to the bar to run a tab for these hard-drinking ruffians, then turns a corner to where Bucky is sitting alone. Bucky says he told Steve they were all idiots, and Steve asks about him – is he willing to follow Captain America into the jaws of death? Bucky says hell no, he’s following the little guy from Brooklyn who was too dumb not to run away from a fight.
Well where the hell is that g – oh, right, that’s Steve!
Bucky asks him “But you’re keeping the outfit, right?” and they turn to look at a Captain America poster proclaiming his tour cancelled. Steve replies that it’s starting to grow on him. Couple things here – Bucky definitely gives Steve all the shit about the song and dance routine, we just don’t see it; and he’s definitely into using the costume in roleplay. [Wing: I’m pretty sure I’d laugh in Steve’s face if he tried wearing that costume to sexy times, no matter how hot he is.]
The drunken, singing Howling Commandos fall silent suddenly, and Steve and Bucky peer around the corner to see Peggy entering wearing a nice red dress. She passes by them to speak to Steve, telling him that Howard has some equipment for him to try out in the morning. [Wing: Dirty. Also, I can get behind Bucky/Steve/Peggy and Howard/Peggy/Steve.] Bucky keeps trying to get her attention, but she only has eyes for Steve, and also comments that she sees his team is busy preparing. Bucky asks what’s wrong, she doesn’t like music? She replies she does (while still making eyes at Steve), and in fact she might go dancing when this is over – she’s just waiting for the right partner.
After she walks out, Bucky complains that he’s invisible now, it’s like he’s turning into Steve, this is a nightmare. Steve tells him to cheer up, maybe she’s got a friend!
Hahaha, yeah, no, I zero percent believe there’s not a single woman out there who would prefer Bucky over Steve. I mean, all I have to do to find one is look in the mirror. Although it’s not like I’d turn down being in the middle of a Steve-Bucky sandwich. (Um, apparently my persona for this recap is “the horny one.” It probably doesn’t help that I decided to recap this section after downing a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Drunk me is like 50% hornier than regular me.) [bat: See, in real life, Evans is a month and change younger then me. So, while I am literally the same age as him (as well as being a few months younger then Tom Hiddleston) it just feels… awkward. Because I don’t normally go for guys the same age as me. I would make an exception for Tom, though. He doesn’t even have to bring the Loki costume; Sir Thomas Sharpe is fine, or Adam is even better… I’ll stop now.] [JC: Why am I not surprised Adam is one of your go-tos? Hiddleston is about six months older than me, Evans is exactly two months older than me, and Sebastian Stan and I have the same birthday, but I’m a year older. I used to go for older guys, but these days most of my attractions fall within about five years of my own age either way. Also, I’ve just realized I might actually be the youngest of this recapping circle. Should my persona here actually be “bratty little sister”?] [Wing: Oooh, I think you are the youngest, though not by much! You can fill both the bratty little sister and the horny one roles. I’m pretty much horny on main all the time in recaps. Count me in as someone who prefers Bucky to Steve, though Steve’s body’s excellent; Steve’s design choices are too — pretty, maybe? Too clean cut. For example, I found Chris Evans unbelievably attractive in Knives Out. With Bucky, until the above mentioned reaction this round, I never found him hot until Winter Soldier and beyond, where he doesn’t look quite so young in the face.
Basically, you should always take away this: Team Nostalgic Bookshelf is Thirsty as Hell.] [Dove: *rasies hand* Not interested in anyone. Just for balance here. I just want to be best friends with Korg when he finally arrives on screen.] [JC: Knives Out was the first time I was hot for Chris Evans. That probably says things about me that I don’t want to examine too closely.] [Raven: *blinks* You do realise there’s actual porn on the Internet?] [JC: My imagination and scene-writing abilities are much higher quality than anything on PornHub.]
Cut to Howard Stark’s lab, where he’s extracting the blue glowy bit from the lighter-looking thing Steve picked up at Schmidt’s lair. He comments that it’s hard to understand what all the fuss is about, and then he touches a second pair of remote tweezer things to the ball of blue glow, and the window it’s behind suddenly explodes, sending Howard and his assistant flying backward.
Well, there’s your fuss. [Wing: So much Howard in Tony Stark. Shades of first building the Iron Man suit (back in Malibu, not in the desert).]
Cut to Steve walking into HQ and asking Natalie Dormer where Howard is. She says he’s in with Colonel Phillips, but he’s free to wait here. She begins flattering him over saving those 400 soldiers, saying their wives must be grateful, and the women of America owe him, and since they’re not here . . . she grabs him by the tie and starts kissing him. Steve is clearly not on board for this, but I guess is too much of a gentleman to shove her away. Peggy rounds the corner, doesn’t realize this is a non-consensual kiss on Steve’s part, and gets really snappy at him while they walk to Howard’s lab, not letting him explain that Natalie Dormer basically just sexually assaulted him. He does manage to get in a comment about Peggy and Howard “fondueing.” She sighs that he really doesn’t know a bloody thing about women, does he.
Cut to Howard explaining to him that fondue is just cheese and bread. Kinky. No. Messy? Howard goes on to say that the moment you think you know what’s going on in a woman’s head is the moment your goose is well and truly cooked. Gee, guys, did you ever think of, I dunno . . . asking a woman what she’s thinking? We’re really not that hard to figure out. For instance, right now I’m thinking, “Boooooo, Howard. Boooooo.”
Howard walks Steve around the lab, showing him some shield possibilities. Steve spots a round shield on a bottom shelf, and Howard tells him it’s just a prototype. It’s vibranium, completely vibration absorbent. I know we’re not there yet, but I’ve always wondered why it bounces off of shit if it absorbs all vibration. [bat: HOW DOES VIBRANIUM WORK?] Anyway. Steve wants to know why it isn’t standard issue, and Howard tells him vibranium is extremely rare and what he’s holding there is all that exists.
Ha. Ha hahahaha! Sure, Jan. Is that what the Wakandans told you? [Wing: Probably! Or they said nothing at all and he just assumed.] [Raven: Or Howard knows EXACTLY how much of it there is, but is manufacturing scarcity in order to a) raise the price and b) keep his supply monopoly. He’s an arms dealer, folks. He’s shrewd.]
Peggy walks in, and Steve asks what she thinks of the shield. She picks up a gun and fires four shots at him. The bullets hit the shield and fall to the ground at Steve’s feet. She says that yes, it seems to work just fine, then brushes on past him. Um, Peggy, that was a possibly homicidal overreaction, and I hate that you were written this way right here. How did we go from competent badass SHIELD Agent to jealous harpy willing to risk innocent casualties over a non-consensual kiss? Honestly, Natalie Dormer is the one you should be shooting at. (No, actually don’t shoot at anyone here. But still. Booooo, male screenwriters! Boooooo.) [Wing: Seriously. It’s one of those moments that is visually exciting (and it is) but terrible characterization and unbelievable on what we had before. This is One-Dimensional Badass Woman and not the Peggy Carter we’ve seen here. Plus you don’t have to have your women compete over a man, fucking screenwriters.]
Steve and Howard stare in shock after Peggy, and Steve slowly hands Howard a piece of paper, saying he’s got some ideas about his uniform.
Cut to a montage of Steve leading the Howling Commandos in his less-comic-accurate but more badass Captain America uniform, and his shield now painted red, white, and blue with the star in the middle. And a motorcycle. Steve has a motorcycle.
They systematically wipe Red Skull’s bases off the map; there’s shooting and explosions, and it’s all very exciting. Also, Steve at one point frisbees the shield into a tree to knock an enemy out, and the shield bounces and boomerangs back to him. So now is probably the actual appropriate place to question how this happens if the shield absorbs vibration. Shouldn’t it just fall down dead where it hits something? [bat: HOW DOES VIBRANIUM WORK? Yep, I’ve found what I’ll be yelling through out this series of recaps.] [Wing: I’d say it’s magic, but I know you’ll just yell asking about how magic works.]
I guess they have a film crew with them, because we see Peggy and Phillips watching a war reel, and they spot a picture of Peggy that Steve has inside his compass. Gee, I guess he loves you and not some random blond who assaulted him, Peggy. [bat: I love how he sees the camera filming his compass and gets all protective and hides it, aw.] [Wing: He shy.]
We get a badass (apparently this is my word of the night) shot of Bucky saving Steve’s life by sniping a guy, and I’m not sure why I always forget Bucky is a sniper. Huh. [Wing: The MCU often forgets he’s a sniper, I think. It’s very sexy of him, though.] [Raven: Sexy sniper? I’ve found my next Halloween costume!]
And then this is where I paused to type this, and I can’t stop laughing:
I will inevitably pause people while they look absolutely ridiculous. (Also, apologies for the poor quality. Disney+ has blocked screencapping, so I’m having to find awful substitutes for that now.) [Wing: Have they? Just using the screencap key? Have you tried a program? I’ve used Awesome Screenshot as a Chrome add-on and Fraps as an installed program.] [JC:
I promise to find a workaround by the time I come back in here with Thor. I found a workaround. It was as simple as switching browsers. Now hopefully Disney+ doesn’t get wise to it!]
More punching, explosions, shield-frisbeeing, and heroing ensues, until finally we check in on how Red Skull is handling this. The answer is, not well. He yells at Zola, and then a dude appears to apologize and tell him they fought to the last man. Red Skull replies that evidently they didn’t, and then shoots the man. Well, that’s a cool-headed, measured response.
Cut to Steve, Bucky, and some of the Commandos (and here I think I’ve made a mistake – it seems Beret Boi is actually British. In my defense, he and the French guy look a lot alike) on top of a mountain with a zipline leading down to some train tracks. They’ve got confirmation from the Hydra radio they’ve procured that Zola will be on the train that’s coming. Bucky looks down the zipline and asks Steve if he remembers when he made him ride the Cyclone at Coney Island, and Steve puked? Well, this wouldn’t be payback for that, would it? No, no, I’m sure it’s not.
Steve, Bucky, and another Howling Commando named Jones zipline down to the top of the speeding train. I’m not sure where Jones gets off to, but Steve and Bucky go in together, creeping through train cars until the doors slide shut on one, separating them. Then Hydra guys come out of the woodwork. The one in Steve’s car is all kitted out in armor and weapons with the blue glowy stuff from the Tesseract. Shooting and fighting ensue, until Bucky’s gun is empty and Steve opens the door between cars to toss him his gun and shove a crate at the last guy, whom Bucky then shoots, claiming he had him on the ropes. Steve replies that he knows Bucky did, and then Super Armored Man comes up behind them.
Steve shoves Bucky out of the way and brings the shield up to deflect the laser blast, which knocks him back and tears the train car open. Zola, watching on a security camera that has to be way too sophisticated for the 1940s, tells Super Armored Man to fire again. Bucky picks up the shield and fires at . . . well, I just realized the acronym would be SAM, so I guess I’ll just keep calling him Super Armored Man. Bucky looks damn good with that shield, by the way. [Wing: Yeah he does. I cheered my head off in that bit of Endgame (and haven’t watched the show yet, though I will), but I like Bucky with the shield, too.] Super Armored Man fires the laser blast again, knocking Bucky out the blasted-open side of the train. Bucky, no!
Steve throws the shield at Super Armored Man, knocking him out, or at least back, and runs to the blasted-open side of the train, where Bucky is still hanging on to a railing. Steve tries to climb out to him, reaching his hand out, but the railing breaks and Bucky falls into the chasm below.
And thus ended Sebastian Stan’s career in the MCU. *sadface*
[Wing: … … … … I’m just embracing spoilers throughout this recap. Sorry! (Not sorry.)] [Raven: Honestly? I’d be more than fine with that. Bucky’s a bagel-hole of meh for me. Just give Rocket his arm and we can all move on with our lives.]
Steve takes a moment to lean his head against the side of the train in manly grief, and then we cut to Jones crashing through the top of the train car containing Zola and some other dude to point his weapon at them. Oh, so that’s where Jones got off to.
And now Phillips is interrogating Zola in a room that contains a gurney, a few blood drops on the floor, and for some reason a faucet set at the top of the wall and dripping water. Do you want mold? Because that’s how you get mold.
Phillips begins the interrogation by putting a steak dinner in front of Zola, but then eating it himself when Zola says he doesn’t eat meat. Interesting technique. Phillips says that every Hydra agent they’ve tried to take alive bit down on their cyanide capsule, but not Zola. Phillips’s brilliant theory is that Zola wants to live. Then he shows him a communique that they sent claiming that due to Zola’s cooperation, he’s being remanded to Switzerland. But not to worry – they sent it in code; Schmidt hasn’t broken that code yet, has he?
Zola tells him that Schmidt will know it’s a lie, but Phillips says Schmidt is going to kill him anyway, he’s a liability. And oh yeah, the last guy Zola cost us was Captain Rogers’s closest friend, so he wouldn’t count on getting the best of protection. Zola grandstands for a minute about the infallibility of Schmidt’s plans, then reveals that his target is everywhere.
Well, Zola did say that Schmidt wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the world.
Cut to a shot of . . . oh, this is Schmidt’s Valkyrie. Okay. It’s not Tessa Thompson. [Wing: Not yet and not soon enough, my beloved Valkyrie.] Instead, it’s a big plane that looks like a stealth jet only much bigger. And rounder. [bat: It’s basically the Nazi equivalent of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, or I always assumed.] Anyway, Red Skull gives a rousing speech about killing some fools or something. Raining fire down upon the enemy, world domination, blah blah blah. You’re evil, we get it. He states that if they cut off one head, two more will grow in its place, hail Hydra! His minions hail by throwing both arms up, so they’re totes different from Nazis, y’all. And, uh, oh. That’s a lot of minions.
And now we cut to Peggy entering the bar from earlier, except now it looks like something out of Fallout. The whole street is destroyed, the bar is barely standing. Peggy picks her way through the rubble to where Steve is drinking alone. He tells her that Erskine told him the serum wouldn’t just affect his muscles, it would affect his cells – creating a protective system of regeneration and healing. This means he can’t get drunk. Peggy tells him that his metabolism burns four times faster than the average person’s.
Okay, so, here’s where I have to ask. If Steve’s metabolism is that fast, and he’s expending all this effort with the punching and fighting and whatnot, shouldn’t he need to be eating something like, all the time? I mean, shouldn’t he need to take time out during a fight to slam down a Power Bar before continuing? You never see the guy eat. Also, to keep that muscle from being burned away with that metabolism, he should be working out all the time. Get those sick gainz, bro.
Anyway, the long and short of it is, Steve blames himself for Bucky’s death, Peggy tries to convince him it’s not his fault and Bucky chose to follow him of his own free will, and Steve vows that he won’t stop until all of Hydra is dead or captured. Considering their propensity for cyanide capsules, I’m pretty sure captured isn’t the realistic option.
Cut to a meeting in the war room. Schmidt’s last base is in the Alps, below ground. They have to stop him before he crosses the Atlantic, because he’ll wipe out the eastern seaboard in under an hour. Yeah, I guess fuck everywhere that’s not America, then. You’re telling me he’s coming here before hitting any more European targets? [bat: Of course! Gotta go for the biggest target, Steve’s homeland!]
Anyway, Morita asks what they’re supposed to do; knock on his front door? Steve asks why not; that’s exactly what they’re going to do. Oh, okay. And will you be disguised as Girl Scouts, or Avon ladies? [bat: Fuller Brush salesmen!]
Cut to a scene of Steve riding his sweet-ass motorcycle through the woods. A cadre of Hydra bikers come out of fucking nowhere to chase him, firing lasers that do nothing but bounce off his shield. You’d think they would think to aim at the bike itself, but nope. Steve deploys a tripwire at roughly neck-height, which most of the Hydra bikers duck under, but it catches a few in the back. Then he hits a button that makes huge flames shoot out the back of his motorcycle, and I have never been more turned on in my life. (I’m lying, but again, the wine has made me easy.)
Somehow the remaining two bikers are in front of him now, and he rides up between them and pulls a pin that makes them go boom. I guess it was a grenade of some sort. *shrug* Now he’s racing toward the front of the bunker, where there’s a tank waiting for him. He puts the shield on the front of the bike like a windshield, where it can deflect some of the shots being fired at him, pushes a button on his handlebars, and blows up the tank. He rides into the base where there’s more shooting and fighting and explosions, including his bike exploding against the bunker door after he jumps off of it. Oh. Bye, bike. *sadface, but less sad than the “Bucky’s dead” sadface*
Steve continues fighting until he’s surrounded by guys with flamethrower arms, [Wing: I want fighters with flamethrower arms.] and then a huge number of minions. Huh. I always seem to forget he gets captured here. He’s taken inside, where Red Skull can monologue at him, telling him that while arrogance isn’t a uniquely American trait, Steve does it better than anyone.
Uh, I’m sorry? Steve, arrogant? Are . . . are we talking about the same person? [bat: Red Skull never met Tony. Just imagine…]
More Red Skull monologue, until he asks Steve what makes him so special. He replies nothing, he’s just a kid from Brooklyn, which results in Red Skull punching him. Oh. I guess he must be from the Bronx or something. Down on his knees now, Steve tells him that he can do this all day. Red Skull is about as impressed as Loud Jerk was, and tells him that he’s sure he can, but he’s on a schedule. Sorry, a shed-ule. He pulls out his Tesseract-charged pistol, but just then the Howling Commandos start zip lining into the lair. Much shooting commences. One of them tosses Steve his shield, and he runs out into one of the hallways after Red Skull, who I guess has also done a runner. I lost track; it’s very chaotic in that room.
The soldiers outside commence a full assault on the base, and there are a lot of explosions and people getting vaporized by the Hydra weapons, including the one Dugan’s got a hold of. So now it’s very chaotic everywhere and I’m not going to be able to keep track of any of it. Shooting and explosions, guys. Shooting and explosions.
Steve chases Red Skull (I switched to “Red Skull” because I thought it would be easier to type over and over than “Schmidt.” I was wrong.) down a hallway, throwing his shield to wedge open a sliding door he went through. But then one of the Flamethrower Brothers shows up out of nowhere, and I can’t even ogle the flames because this is basically a Nazi, goddammit. Steve appears to be pinned down by flames, but then Peggy shows up and shoots Flamethrower Boy, who kind of explodes a little.
I love you, Peggy.
Steve looks around the corner, proving yet again that cool guys do look at explosions thank you very much Andy Samberg, then runs over to tell Peggy she’s late. They have a swoony moment before Peggy reminds him he was about to do something, and he runs after Red Skull, retrieving the shield from the door its wedged in.
We see Red Skull climb up the ladder to the Valkyrie, followed by some minions, with some Allies behind them, shooting them before they can get up the ladder. Red Skull settles himself in the cockpit/bridge/control room/I don’t fucking know, and shoves the Tesseract battery thing (look, I’m sober now, I just have no idea how to refer to 75% of the things in this movie. You have no idea how much I’m dreading recapping Thor: The Dark World for this very reason.) [bat: I’ll help, I promise. You can be Thor trying to pilot the spaceship, I’ll be Loki with biting sarcasm…] [JC: Chances are good I will be violently pounding on all the buttons, metaphorically.] into the . . . other thing . . . goddammit. Help? It’s obviously powering the plane/ship, okay? I swear I’m an intelligent person.
Anyway, he powers the plane up and we see New York on one of the readouts, because of course it has to be New York. There’s no dramatic tension if he’s trying to bomb Florida Man. Steve runs into the hangar as Schmidt (well, it’s fewer letters, anyway) is taxiing through the hangar, and fights his way through minions to try to catch up to the plane. Look, you’re fast, but I don’t know if you’re “outrun a plane” fast, Steve.
Steve does not outrun the plane. Phillips (good lord, I forgot just how much screen time Tommy Lee Jones has in this movie) and Peggy race up in one of Schmidt’s ostentatious cars and Steve jumps in. They’re lagging behind, so Phillips punches a button only labeled with the letter K, and flames shoot out the back while the car gains a burst of speed. Did Schmidt have this car equipped with nitrous oxide? What . . . what for? Does he do a lot of drag racing? Is this a really weird Fast and Furious sequel? (And no, I don’t think it was Tesseract-powered. I didn’t see any blue glowy stuff anywhere.) [Wing: Oh my god, how much do I want a Fast and the Furious/MCU crossover now? SO MUCH.]
They catch up to the plane, and right before Steve leaps out of the car, Peggy pulls him in for a kiss. I mean, okay, but this doesn’t seem like a good time, you know? Phillips states that he’s not going to kiss Steve when he looks at him, and then he drives the car under the plane so that Steve can jump onto the landing gear right as Schmidt lifts off. Phillips slams on the brakes to keep from following him off the cliff coming out of the mountain, stopping with the front tires hanging off. Um, no thank you.
Steve is pulled up into the plane with the landing gear, where he sees huge bombs with the names of cities painted on their noses. We see Boston, Chicago, and then the camera settles on New York. Dun-dun-DUN!
Oh, look, here come some Hydra goons. Cue fighting. Steve throws a knife into one of them. I can’t talk about the Winter Soldier’s knife-throwing yet, though, can I? [Wing: YES. It is to swoon.] Boo. Somehow the hatch for the Chicago bomb opens, and I fully expected to see the goon next to it ride it down like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, but nope. The bomb falls out and the goon just flies out the hatch after it. Okay then. Hope it wasn’t armed yet.
Okay, wait, wait. These aren’t just bombs. They have a cockpit, because one of the goons jumps in the New York one and releases from the big plane with Steve and another goon riding on it. Okay, Steve is Slim Pickens now. Cool. I have no idea what any of this is. [bat: I would think of them as kamikaze bombers? Since they’re piloted and not remote operated.] Cool cool cool. Um, fighting and flying ensue until the goon Steve is fighting slips down the little plane/bomb and into the fucking rotor where he disintegrates into blood goo! What the fuck! Like, we won’t actually show you a dude’s ass, but this is okay?! WTF, Marvel.
Anyway. Uh. Steve gets into the cockpit and pulls the eject lever for the pilot, then takes his place to fly back to the Valkyrie. Dodging laser blasts from Red Skull, he crashes back into the hangar of the plane and picks up his shield, which got tossed to the side at some point as he was chucking some goon out the Chicago hatch.
Captain Boy Scout merks people, guys, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.
Steve gets to the bridge (I don’t know if that’s the correct term in this situation, but I watch a lot of Star Trek, so that’s what I’m going with) to confront Red Skull, who suddenly has the aim of a Storm Trooper and shoots the windshield out of the plane. Fighting ensues. Steve slams Red Skull into some of the controls, which sends the plane into a nosedive. I’m sure it’s fine. They continue to fight, so it must be okay, right?
Red Skull gets to the controls to level the plane out, and draws his gun on Steve. Oh, no! He shoots as Steve ducks out of the way. Oh, and Red Skull is also making all sorts of grand pronouncements about how Steve could have the power of gods, but he chooses to wear a flag on his chest and think he fights a battle of nations. In the future Red Skull has seen, there are no flags. Yeah, okay my dude. Somehow during the next fighting that ensues, Steve manages to slam Schmidt (there is no rhyme or reason to how I’m choosing to refer to him, okay?) into the console containing the Tesseract, which makes it lift up out of its receptacle. Hey, apparently words have decided to visit my brain once again!
Blue glowy stuff shoots around the place, and the Tesseract, the blue cube itself, falls out of whatever containment it was in. Red Skull demands to know what Steve has done, and then grabs the cube in his bare hand like a fucking dumbass. More blue aura shit flies around, and the top of the plane becomes transparent, showing space. Like, deep space. [Wing: It’s beautiful. The space part of the MCU is pretty much always gorgeous.] What the – wait, there’s an infinity stone in the Tesseract, right? *googles* Right, okay, that’s the Space stone, which is the blue one. So why the fuck does the stone in Loki’s scepter, which is the Mind stone, also fucking look blue? I know, I know, I’m jumping ahead here, but . . . this has always confused the fuck out of me. [bat: Long story short, basically the casing that held the Mind Stone was blue, not the stone itself. Plus, in the comics, the Mind Stone was originally the blue stone. Yeah, I think it’s a goddamn cop out by the MCU but that’s basically their explanation.] [JC: But if the stone is yellow, and the casing is blue, shouldn’t it look . . . green? Never mind, Marvel just hates me, don’t they.] [Wing: We’re not going to get a lot of logic from the MCU. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes not.]
Okay, anyway, Tesseract = blue Space stone. Got it. Moving on.
Right, so Red Skull grabs the goddamn Tesseract bare-handed, and his hand begins to burn away, big fucking surprise. And then the rest of him burns away and . . . shoots into space. Right. Got it. Steve looks on like what the actual fuck is happening, and then with a final beam of blue light sent into the heavens, the plane goes back to normal. The Tesseract drops to the floor, where it burns its way through several levels before breaching the hull and falling to the ground below. Never to be seen again? (Spoilers: hahahahaha.) [Wing: BURIED AGAIN, SCHMIDT. BURIED AGAIN.]
The plane is now on autopilot, heading for New York with its payload. Steve gets on the comm to Peggy, and for some reason there’s not time to land or divert somewhere else; he’s going to have to put it in the water. I feel like I’m missing the reason for this. Is there a timer on the bombs? Why do we have to do this? I guess they’re armed now, but . . . look, I usually don’t have to analyze these movies. I generally just sit back and enjoy the fighting and the arm porn. Having to think about it is taxing my brain.
[bat: Basically, the Valkyrie is on autopilot that Steve can’t disable, plus the controls were damaged, plus if Steve abandoned ship it might, y’know, blow up lots of people, but there’s enough fuel to take it somewhere “uninhabited” and dump it in the drink. Which doesn’t answer how the bombs didn’t explode, but OKAY PLOT SAYS SO, MCU.] [JC: I guess I just assumed if he couldn’t take it off autopilot, he wouldn’t be able to put it into a nosedive, either. Someone doesn’t know how planes work, and it’s probably me.] [Wing: There’s also a theory that Steve’s a little bit suicidal from guilt at this point, too.]
Steve tells Peggy this is his choice, and then sends the plane into a nosedive. Then he tells her he’s going to need a raincheck on that dance. And, presumably, any fondueing. Through tears she tells him all right, a week next Saturday at the Stork Club. Eight o’clock on the dot, and don’t you dare be late. Steve replies that he still doesn’t know how to dance. Oh, Steve. It’s just a bunch of swaying if it’s a slow dance, and the basic box step for a waltz is easy. I learned it when I was eight. Anyway, Peggy tells him she’ll show him how. As if he heard me just now, Steve says they’ll have the band play something slow. He’ll try not to step on her –
and then the radio goes to static as Peggy calls his name. Dramatic reaction shot to Phillips, then Peggy crying, then dramatic camera pull out as sad, dramatic music plays. [Wing: The Peggy shots throughout this remind me of Armageddon.]
Cut to frozen landscape as the Valkyrie sinks into the snow and ice. Oh no, Steve’s dead. Thus ends Chris Evans’s MCU career. *sadface*
Guess I have to go watch America’s Ass elsewhere.
[Wing: What, and I say this with fondness, the ever loving fuck.] [JC: I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.]
White screen, then fade into British victory footage from the end of the war, then the Howling Commandos toasting to Steve. Howard on a ship, retrieving the Tesseract with a robotic arm. He tells the captain of the ship(?) to move on to the next grid, obviously looking for Steve. Elsewhere, Phillips hands Peggy Steve’s file, now marked inactive, and she gazes longingly at a photo of Scrawny!Steve. [Wing: The music here reminds me of the iconic Jurassic Park score.] Out on the streets of NYC, kids are playing Captain America, complete with a trashcan lid painted like the shield. Eighty years in the future, John Walker looks at his own trashcan speculatively.
And fade to black!
Steve’s alive! He wakes up to the sound of a Dodgers game on the radio. He sits up and looks around the room, trying to figure out what’s going on. Then a woman enters the room, and hello redhead from The Mentalist! She tells him he’s in a recovery room in New York City, and he looks at her, then at the radio, then back at her and asks where he is really. She doesn’t understand, and he informs her that the game on the radio is from May 1941, he knows cuz he was there.
Now. There’s a theory I like about how Steve actually knew something was up. It wasn’t the game on the radio. See, the redhead from The Mentalist’s clothes were wrong for the time, ever so slightly off, including her bra. Not that you can actually see her bra, per se, but you can see the outline, and it’s absolutely wrong for the 40s. Actually, let me just quote the whole thing, because it’s kind of brilliant (link to tumblr post here):
No, see, this scene is just amazing. The costume department deserves so many kudos for this, it’s unreal, especially given the fact that they pulled off Peggy pretty much flawlessly.
1) Her hair is completely wrong for the 40’s. No professional/working woman would have her hair loose like that. Since they’re trying to pass this off as a military hospital, Steve would know that she would at least have her hair carefully pulled back, if maybe not in the elaborate coiffures that would have been popular.
2) Her tie? Too wide, too long. That’s a man’s tie, not a woman’s. They did, however, get the knot correct as far as I can see – that looks like a Windsor.
3) That. Bra. There is so much clashing between that bra and what Steve would expect (remember, he worked with a bunch of women for a long time) that it has to be intentional. She’s wearing a foam cup, which would have been unheard of back then. It’s also an exceptionally old or ill-fitting bra – why else can you see the tops of the cups? No woman would have been caught dead with misbehaving lingerie like that back then, and the soft satin cups of 40’s lingerie made it nearly impossible anyway. Her breasts are also sitting at a much lower angle than would be acceptable in the 40’s.
Look at his eyes. He knows by the time he gets to her hair that something is very, very wrong.
But of course Steve would be too much of a gentleman to tell a woman that her boobs looked wrong for the time period, so he went with it being the game. There’s yet more theories that SHIELD did this on purpose to ease him into the future. At any rate, it’s clear the movie did it on purpose.
[Wing: God, I love fandom (and I include us in this); attention to detail, analysis, nostalgia — we’re pretty wonderful.] [Raven: Gotta say, that’s a pretty cool reading of the scene. Kudos! Although it does imbue Steve with the Awesome Power Of Woman Knowledge, when he’s a self-admitted klutz with the opposite sex. “Wait a minute… you’re wearing a FOAM CUP BRA! How anachronistic! Oh, and do you fondue?”]
The redhead from The Mentalist (look, I looked it up, and she didn’t get a character name here, okay?) pushes a button on what appears to be a personal panic button device, and two guards run in. Cut to what I can only describe as a soundstage, where the two guards come flying through the plywood wall of the “recovery room” set, followed by Steve. Our poor boy is so confused right now. He runs through some doors into the building proper while the redhead gets on her walkie and calls a code 13 to all agents.
Steve shoves agents and guards out of his way and runs out of the building and into the street. Literally into the street, where he continues running while looking at all the decidedly non-1940s cars and digital billboards. He stops, and black cars and yet more guards surround him. We hear a voice call out, “At ease, soldier,” and in struts Nick motherfuckin’ Fury. [Wing: IT’S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME.] He apologizes for the “little show” back there, but they thought it would be best to break it to him slowly. Break what? Oh, just the fact that he’s been “asleep” for nearly 70 years. No big deal.
Steve looks around some more, nearly hyperventilating by the look of it, and Fury asks if he’s going to be okay. Steve says yeah, it’s just that he had a date.
SERIOUSLY, THAT’S THE LAST GODDAMN LINE OF THE MOVIE?! Jesus Christ, Marvel. What the hell. [Dove: I see this last line and raise you 2012, which, out of all the sentences in the world, went with “No more pull-ups!”, because a child being continent is a great way to summarise the end of the known universe.] [Raven: I liked the last line. It undercut the big picture and made it more personal. The last line of 2012, however, is literally the worst four words ever put on paper.] Because yes, now we cut to an Uncle Sam Army recruitment poster as the credits start to play. And I have personal issues with the whole institution of the US military, so I’m not the person to throw this poster at. [Wing: At some point in our MCU recap adventure, I’ll pull in some criticism of US military imperialism in the MCU, particularly criticism from citizens of other countries. There is a lot to be said about how the US military funds Hollywood.]
Oh, and the post-credits scene? It’s not. It’s literally just the trailer for The Avengers. My recap of that is: noise and scenes flying at you too fast to parse! Loki! Thor’s arms! Stark snark! And I guess the tagline was “Some assembly required.” But since we’re recapping in movie universe chronological order and not movie release chronological order, that’s not even the movie we’re doing next, so . . . why am I still rambling?
Gee, it’s too bad we’ll never see Bucky again.
I like this one. It’s a good entry point into the Captain America story, although the other movies in Cap’s franchise are stronger and more engaging. Personally, I’m a little played out on WWII and war movies in general, although I love the characters here. I’m not a fan of war/military propaganda, and like I said at the beginning, I tend to zone out a bit during any “rah rah yay war” stuff. So it’s the characters that really make this work for me. Steve is likeable; Peggy is badass (except for the brief moment when the writers tripped and fell face-first into their own misogyny); and Bucky has my whole heart. Red Skull is . . . fine as a villain. I know he’s one of Cap’s Big Bads, but I’m mostly kind of meh about him. They don’t give Toby Jones much to do, but he’s a delight whenever he’s on screen. [Wing: The MCU is rarely solid when it comes to villains, and Red Skull is deeply underused whenever he’s in the story.]
While this is my lowest-rated Cap movie, I still enjoy it and would watch it over about half the rest of the MCU. Actually, I don’t know if those numbers are true. I haven’t ranked the entire MCU. I know my top 6 and my bottom 2 (both movies I’m recapping, oddly enough), but I haven’t a clue where everything else ranks. Someday I might try to rank them all for myself, but that day is not today. [Wing: We should absolutely rank them as we go through this and at least by the end.] [JC: God save us all.]
Wing will be recapping Captain Marvel after this, and I’ll be back to recap Thor a few recaps after that. (And in an effort not to annoy my fellow recappers (*cough*Wing*cough*), I will attempt to keep my simping for Loki to a minimum.) [Wing: I can’t believe I’m about to admit this, but: I find myself growing fonder of Loki as of Ragnarok, so everyone fan away. (Though of course you’re welcome to do that even when I hate the character!)]
And finally, since all these movies are rated PG-13, that means they could have included a single F-bomb if they’d wanted. So, where would you put the “fuck” in this movie? I think I would give mine to Bucky, when they’re marching back on base after the rescue – “Let’s hear it for Captain fucking America!” [Wing: That would have made it much less cheesy, and I would appreciate it.]
[bat: My… indoctrination? into the MCU is a very long story (not really? but kinda?) that I will get into during my first recap – which won’t be for another… three recaps – but I did see this in the theater upon its original release. It’s one of the marginally better “character introduction” films in the series. Having never read any of the Marvel comics, I knew nothing going in, so I think that helped? Nothing to “unlearn”, I guess. It’s weird to think how far down the road we are in this universe now and where it started. Anyway, I will certainly watch this if it’s on; who doesn’t love Peggy Carter, young Howard Stark, and Bucky?]
[Wing: Like I said, Captain America was never the part of Marvel that interested me, though I’m glad Ostrich’s brother talked me into watching this one because CA: Winter Soldier is one of my favourite movies of the MCU. This is a fine introduction to Captain America, despite the military propaganda that is inherent to both this sort of action movie and WWII movies in general. It’s interesting to look back on this one through the lens of having seen most of the next three phases along with the tv shows. It feels very separate from the rest of the stories, in part because of the setting, but also it was pro military in a way that, say, Iron Man wasn’t. Also, as we’ll see in my forthcoming Captain Marvel recap, this may be called the First Avenger, but I’d argue Captain Marvel actually fills that role when it comes to Nick Fury.]
[Dove: I kind of like the MCU overall, and usually the first movie of each character tends to be pretty good. However, I just don’t care about Cap. This is nobody’s fault, I’m just not really a superhero kind of person. Basically, I’m here for Guardians, Spider-Man, Ragnorok and the last two Avengers movies. Everything else is a big ball of “Um… superheros do stuff” to me. Sorry. Except Deadpool. I love Deadpool.]
[Raven: I like the MCU a great deal. Captain America is, for me, the weakest arc. I don’t give a tinker’s fig about Steve, or Bucky, and I think they dilute a lot of what’s cool in the later non-Cap films in which they appear (although I do enjoy the “out of his time” angle, and his cameo in Spider-Man Homecoming is perfect). Maybe it’s because I’m British? The whole jingoistic goody-gumdrop side of him leaves me cold. The best parts of this, for me, where the Socking Adolf stageshows and the great rescue of the Howling Commandos and Bucky “Boredom” Barnes. Overall, while there are worse singular films in this series, the Cap films are the worst as a subgenre by a country mile. Even if they did the impossible and made a shield look cool as an offensive weapon, I still think America’s Ass needs a damn good wipe.]
[JC: Raven is now my arch-nemesis due to his comments regarding my fake boyfriend Bucky. Stay tuned to our recaps to see how this (also fake!) drama plays out!]