Ever since its announcement Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been widely anticipated and has had huge expectations placed upon it. Expectations so huge, in fact, that it would be rare if not impossible for it to meet those expectations. That makes it all the more surprising that it not only met them, it exceeded them.
It was a sequel that was better than the original and it was a solo superhero film that was also a team film. It was incredibly entertaining in its own right and managed to move forward and change the entire dynamic of a franchise. Four franchises actually, five if you count the Avengers.
The amount of change and name dropping was so overwhelming that I have decided to forgo a detailed analysis of the film and do what I do best, speculate wildly over things I really have no idea about.
First and foremost: SPOILERS. I intend to talk casually and without reservation about the events of the film, so if you haven’t seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and you care about such things, stop reading now. Seriously, stop. You have been warned.
Okay, we’ve all seen the films right? And we are all somewhat familiar with the Marvel Universe right? (If not, this will be really disappointing and boring for you. So, yeah, sorry about that) let’s get started.
We start with S.H.E.I.L.D. It’s gone. Torn down and undone by the Captain himself. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First is that S.H.E.I.L.D. has been the glue that has held the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for the uninitiated) ever since that mid-credits cameo by Nick Fury in Iron Man. And S.H.E.I.L.D. has in one way or another been a part of every film even going so far as bringing the Avengers together. Second there is this little show called Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. Without S.H.E.I.L.D. what are they to be agents of?
First bit of wild speculation: In the comic books it is Tony Stark that bankrolls the Avengers. So maybe that’s what the big “A” on Stark Tower is all about at the end of The Avengers. Stark Tower will become the Avengers Mansion and headquarters; thus allowing them to be self-sufficient and not beholden to a government agency. This works really well if you consider Robert Downey Jr. is not going to be around all that much longer and this allows him to be a part of things while not actually being a part of things. And we all saw Maria Hill taking a lie detector test to work for Stark Industries. So, all that’s pretty straightforward and not very mind-blowing.
The implications Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. is much more interesting. The most important being if there is no S.H.E.I.L.D. there can be no agents. We already know there is corruption going on, so is it Hydra? We’ve already seen Sitwell leave and exposed as a Hydra agent, so how many more? And is Zola the Clairvoyant?
Second bit of wild speculation: I think Zola (or at least his algorithm) will be revealed as the Clairvoyant. That’s not such a bold statement. But get this: In the comics Nick Fury left S.H.E.I.L.D. to form his Secret Warriors. And we know at the end of CA:WS he was leaving to go to Europe to do something clandestine, so why not have Colson’s crew become the Secret Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.? They have their own plane and Fury already said he loves the bar on it, why not? They still travel the world fighting crime and exposing secrets but now as a small tight group left to their own devices and bankrolled by Tony Stark (see above). This probably isn’t going to happen but I love this idea.
Then there’s the name drop of Steven Strange. Lots of happy twitters of glee in the theater when that happened. This means that Dr. Strange is already on the radar in the MCU. We already know that it was already going to be part of phase III but now we know that Strange is already a known commodity in the MCU. And I am hoping (praying?) that he will show up in Guardians or Age of Ultron so we don’t have to get an origin story; because origin stories suck (at least in the films).
Okay, yeah, Iron Man and Captain America were done pretty well, but exceptions to the rule, and can you really dispute that it always gets better in the second film when the character is established and can just get on with telling a story without having to explain itself every five minutes?
Third bit of wild speculation: We are going to have to see an origin story for Dr. Strange but when his character is established in the previous film it can be told in flashback rather than being the main focus of the film. This is more hope than speculation.
Now we get to the Infinity Gems. In the mid-credits of Thor: The Dark World we were teased with the idea that the Tesseract and the Aether were both infinity gems (stones). We are led to believe that Loki’s staff is one as well. That’s three out of six.
Real quick: Infinity Gems are cosmic jewels that each have a specific and infinite power. Space, Reality, Mind, Soul, Time and Power. We know that the Tesseract is Space and the Aether is Reality (maybe). So the jewel in Loki’s staff would be Mind I’m guessing based on the way he was able to use it to control people in The Avengers.
Fourth bit of wild speculation: In the comic books the Infinity Gems are used by Thanos in the form of a gauntlet to become ridiculously powerful. Thanos was teased in the mid-credits of The Avengers and we know that he is the Big Bad in Guardians of the Galaxy. This is going to be the start of the gauntlet story culminating in Avengers 3. Basically CA:WS grounded us in order for Guardians to make it cosmic.
Then there’s Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, pretty cool seeing them huh? Also Loki’s staff helps to clear up how they are going to deal with those two considering they are mutants and all; which gets into the character rights deal. And this causes problems.
Let’s do a brief rundown of the Marvel characters ownership kerfuffle.
Up until the 21st century Marvel film adaptations were…well…questionable. Okay, horrible. So they sold off some of the bigger properties to FOX (X-Men & Fantastic Four) and SONY (Spider-Man) to make some cash. And to be fair these studios have done some pretty good films with them. And some terrible ones (I’m looking at you Fantastic Four). Then Marvel created its own studio to make its own films and that turned out to be a really good idea. But now they can’t use any heroes or villains or concepts from the franchises they sold off.