Looking back on the MCU, Captain America hasn’t gathered as much love as many of the other, more charismatic, characters. It’s understandable, like Superman, he’s a character committed to always doing the right thing and while never unlikable, people respond much better to say Tony Stark’s wit or Star Lord’s sarcasm. Because of this, a lot of people have taken his films for granted as just part of the MCU (Except for ‘…Civil War’). Now, while his third outing is undoubtedly one of the best MCU offerings, there’s something I’d like to argue; his first is the strongest pre-Avengers films and ‘… Winter Soldier’ is actually the best of the three. Overall, his entire trilogy is magnificent but also insanely underappreciated.
…how many other trilogies have had three extremely different themes and excel in each one?
What makes his trilogy so great is that every film is distinctively different. Yes, they’re all superhero films, but they’re each so much more beyond that. The first is a WW2 origin story, following the dreams of a kid from Brooklyn wanting to serve his country to becoming its greatest hero. Next was a political thriller that broke all the rules set up within the MCU by making the good guys bad and showing a man out of time dealing with espionage. Lastly, we had Avengers 2.5, only with no “big bag” villain. Heroes fought one another thanks to the Sakovia Accords and the films never became black and white, it’s was a moral dilemma between a bunch of good people. People claim films like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ are the greatest trilogies and, while it’s hard to argue, how many other trilogies have had three extremely different themes and excel in each one?
Marvel undoubtedly realised that unlike Tony Stark, Steve Rogers wasn’t the best character to lead a film single handedly, so they made the smart decision to add others into his films to help engage audiences more. Peggy Carter is still one of the best female characters within the entire MCU and her and Steve’s chemistry was outstanding, even more so considering it followed Thor’s and Jane’s. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull was also a much better villain compared to most of the MCU’s offerings, which makes it suck he seemingly will never return to the role. Colonel Chester Phillips, The Howling Commandos, Howard Stark and many others may not have been used a lot, but by casting big names (seriously, go back and watch this film and you’ll be amazed how many famous faces pop up) and giving these secondary roles more attention, it helped shape the film into something much more than a one man show.
…by casting big names and giving these secondary roles more attention, it helped shape the film into something much more than a one man show.
With the next film being set almost seventy years later, the film couldn’t rely on bringing back fan favourites from the first. While it added a fantastic villain in the shape of Alexander Pierce and a new hero with Falcon, every other character was well established within other films. Expanding Black Widow role from supporting to almost a lead allowed Scarlett Joansson to give her best performance as Natasha (one that still hasn’t been topped). The political espionage suited Nick Fury’s character arc perfectly as he blurs the line between ethics, despite wholeheartedly being a good guy. And then there’s Bucky, Steve’s war time friend who returns as a villain. As the film progresses, the plot begins to ignore the lines between good and bad, and this is most evident with Bucky and how Steve wants to handle him. The film’s plot is absolutely stunning, and having all these established characters enter meant the film didn’t have to spend time introducing a host of new ones.
There’s a reason the Russo Brothers are directing the upcoming ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.
The Russo Brother’s were a very left field choice for ‘…The Winter Soldier’ (Their biggest credits before were comedies ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Community’), but they managed to create the smartest, most thought-provoking film for Marvel yet. Because of this, they were given the chance to return and direct ‘…Civil War’. They had an almost impossible task; balance the abundance of characters without taking away the fact it’s still a Captain America movie as well as introduce Black Panther AND Spider-Man thanks to Disney and Sony agreeing a deal. Basically, it was one of the toughest challenges a director had faced in the MCU yet. There’s a reason the Russo Brothers are directing the upcoming ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. If ‘….Winter Soldier’ proved they could handle pacing and plot, ‘…Civil War’ proved they can also handle spectacle and action. Hailed as the best MCU film by many upon it’s release, it had heart, comedy and genuine sadness, not melodrama. It gained the love and attention the previous two films deserved but missed out on.
It may not be the greatest trilogy, but it’s easily the most underappreciated, possibly of all time.
In the build up to ‘…Infinity War’, I’ve been re-watching all 18 MCU films again and my feelings towards the Captain America films have only gotten stronger. The first one does perhaps start a bit slow, but builds towards something brilliant and surpasses any doubts you first have. The second I’ve now seen seven times and each time I love it more and more. Nick Fury’s car chase is still one of my all time favourite MCU moments. The third is an absolute nerdgasm of a film but doesn’t rely on going “oh look who it is now!”. Perhaps as the films exist in a shared universe, people tend to forget that the ‘Captain America’ films are a trilogy. The story of Steve and Bucky’s relationship is the force that drives each film, despite the fact each one is entirely different. When people judge trilogies, the ones best remembered don’t have a weak link and don’t peak with its first part. The best ones are the films that evolve over the entire run time and that’s exactly what the ‘Captain America’ trilogy does. It may not be the greatest trilogy, but it’s easily the most underappreciated, possibly of all time. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch them back to back, you’ll see an evolution that’s absent from other superhero trilogies. Captain, we salute you and whatever happens to you with Thanos, I’ll always fly the flag for your trilogy.