Captain America 2: Romancing the Winter Soldier
It was announced this week that filming for Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier begins in March, set to be directed by television veterans Anthony and Joe Russo of Community fame. Chris Evans is reprising his role as Captain America, with Sebastian Stan returning as The Winter Soldier, Steve’s childhood friend Bucky now brainwashed and reprogrammed as a master assassin and covert operative. Anthony Mackie has been cast as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Cap ally Sam Wilson/Falcon, with Samuel L. Jackson and a few other Avengers alum likely to return in the service of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The movie is being called a direct through-line from this summer’s The Avengers to the as of yet untitled sequel set for 2015, tying Steve Roger’s journey in the modern world to the larger MCU Phase Two story. It’s supposed to show how Steve is dealing with his role as both an Avenger and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., while still coming to terms with everyone he’s lost in the fallout of World War II and the 70-year coma that S.H.I.E.L.D. revived him from. This is all very exciting to me, being that I’m a character drama junkie, and I want to see what comes of Steve’s emotional development as he finds his footing in the slowly growing pantheon of Marvel movie heroes.
But then we got the news I was really hoping we could do without this time around: Cap has a new love interest in the next movie, and it’s likely to be Agent 13/Sharon Carter.
Don’t get me wrong: Sharon Carter is a fine enough character on her own. The niece of Cap’s WWII comrade and love interest Peggy Carter, Sharon was so inspired by her aunt’s stories of action and adventure at Cap’s side that she joined S.H.I.E.L.D. as a capable agent. She and Steve have had an on-again/off-again relationship over the years, with each of them busy doing heroic things and such, but they’ve always come back together. I just have issues with their relationship, and I really, really don’t want to see Marvel shoehorn a love story into an otherwise dense, complicated story such as The Winter Soldier. And here’s why:
Steve really doesn’t need to be dating right now.
For real. He’s only been out of his coma for, what, maybe a few months at this point? A year at most? He’s traumatized and isolated, as shown in the Avengers deleted scenes, still trying to come to terms with the modern world he’s been plunged into after everyone he’s ever known is gone or lost to time.
Before Steve goes trotting off with a girl, I would really like to see him sort himself out. Make some new friends! Read a good book! Punch some HYDRA goons! Develop that life-spanning bromance with Tony Stark! Just, you know, work on him as a character for a little bit. Rushing into a romance is both unnecessary and kind of awkward, given his state right now. It really does him a disservice as a character and makes him look like he needs to be propped up, which he doesn’t. (That A on his forehead doesn’t stand for France, or something like that.)
Steve and Sharon’s relationship is creepy.
There. I said it.
Sharon is supposed to be the spitting-image of her aunt Peggy, and, I’m sorry, that is so gross. The idea of Steve dating everything in the Carter gene pool may have had the Entitled Creeper seal of approval in the 1960s, but I’d like to think society has evolved since then. I’d also like to think that the writers could think of something better than that, because the whole situation sells both characters short. Sharon comes off as needy and weird, carrying a torch for her aunt’s hot boyfriend (or not-boyfriend, in this case), while Steve just looks like a creepy d-bag who will climb on top of anything that looks like Hayley Atwell. After all the time spent making Chris Evans’ Captain America come off as endearing, compassionate and believable, it really makes him out to be an ass and totally undermines anything he felt for Peggy in the first film. Also, you know, kind of robs Sharon of the chance to do anything but hang off of Steve in the MCU.
That doesn’t mean there’s no room for Sharon in Steve’s life. I would love to see Sharon and Steve have a platonic friendship, around their respective relationships with Peggy. Like, wouldn’t it be nice for her to be able to fill him in on Peggy’s life and how much she inspired her to join S.H.I.E.L.D., and he could tell her all about his adventures with her aunt, and they could share a beer and be bros? Wouldn’t that be a sweet scene? And nobody has to look like an asshat! It’s a win/win!
Anybody remember Bucky?
And for me, if anybody is going to be the tragic love interest in this movie, it needs to be Bucky.
Before you start sharpening your trolling spears and accusing me of letting my uterus and love of slash fanfiction cloud my professional judgment, hear me out. Bucky is Steve’s best and oldest friend, having come up together as kids. Before Steve had Tony Stark or Sam Wilson or Carol Danvers to be best-bros with, he had Bucky, and nobody else but Bucky. Bucky defended him from bullies when Steve was still a small and ailing kid, and before their roles were reversed in World War II, I think I can get away with saying somebody like Steve could’ve been a little enamored with somebody like Bucky. (Note: I mean that in a Kirk-Spock, Ours is the greatest of all the bromances in the whole of time and space and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Idea folder kind of way. But if you wanted to link me to some Steve/Bucky fanart to sway me, I’d be okay with that.)
Then Bucky died, because Steve was unable to save him, and Steve was completely crushed. As it stands in Avengers, although it wasn’t dealt with directly, I don’t think Steve’s really processed that loss. I mean, come on: Who was really Steve talking about when he was railing on Tony about not being a hero? “I know men who are worth ten of you”? He just hasn’t had time to get over losing his best friend. In a very real kind of way, Bucky is the great love of Steve’s short life (after all he’s only in his mid-20s, despite his numerous adventures and tendency to get frozen in ice), and now Bucky’s gone.
That’s the relationship I want to see in this movie: I want to see how Steve deals with his best friend coming back from the dead as a weapon against him. I want to see Steve struggle to save Bucky from himself, knowing he might have to kill him. I want to see how Bucky’s relationship with Natasha Romanov/Black Widow is addressed, especially since the MCU paints her as having a significant attachment to Clint Barton/Hawkeye right out of the gate. I want to see how Bucky becomes The Winter Soldier in this universe, how this has affected him, and how he comes back from that.
Basically, I want Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier to be about friendships and relationships, and how people deal with the bad hands they’re dealt. Yeah, action, adventure and explosions are great, too, obviously, but there’s no need to shove a love story into it where there shouldn’t be. Give me the story about who these people are to each other now, and if you still want to throw a romance in there later, fine. But give me the damn story first.