The Great MCU Rewatch: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy

With eight movies down, the Great Marvel Cinematic Universe Rewatch of 2018 continued on with the two strongest entries in Phase 2 of the series. I have made clear before (you can read previous entries in the series here, here and here) that I think Captain America is the absolute best, and I think his movies are the best. On the heels of Marvel’s worst movie in Thor: The Dark World, they came out swinging and gave us their best (at that point in time) in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Rather than your typical blockbuster, The Winter Soldier is more of an espionage thriller that happens to have superheroes. Aside from Robert Redford looking like rotting food, the movie is nearly perfect, and Captain America’s progression remains a high water mark for the MCU.

“Nick, are you serious with this NSA shit?”

A man out of time, Cap’s worldview is constantly challenged as he has to get his hands dirty with the realities of the 21st century. As he says in Avengers, “When I went under, the world was at war. I wake up, they say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.” In The First Avenger he is fighting the good fight. In Avengers, everything changes as he realizes that WWII was America’s last justified war and he finds that the United States is using Hydra (Nazi) technology to make weapons. Then comes The Winter Soldier, where he sees the horrors of the surveillance state first hand – and the knife twists in when it is revealed Hydra has embedded itself in the government and poisoned the institutions Cap held dear.

It’s a commentary on the real world, which isn’t new territory for Marvel. During the height of the Bush administration, Marvel Comics killed off Captain America in the Civil War storyline as a not-so-subtle way to point out how far off track the country had gotten. In the MCU, Cap is established as everything a good, decent person should be, juxtaposed with the state of affairs in America today to show how we need to do better. Without getting all political, I’ll just say Captain America is the best character in the entire MCU and if he’s not your favorite, I don’t have anything more to say to you.

No one cared who I was ’til I joined the team at Hot Topic

The rest of the movie rules hard. Black Widow is awesome, Falcon is infinitely cooler than War Machine, and Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow is a great move since he has the type of face you just want to smash your forehead into repeatedly. The elevator scene is legendarily badass, as well. And I gotta be real, the Winter Soldier is pretty cool. I did not give a crap about Bucky in The First Avenger, but this Bucky – the titular, eyeliner-laden villain – is an improvement.

Much love and appreciation to my boy Georges St-Pierre, the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. Unfortunately, I knew he wasn’t going to beat Captain America in their face-off during the opening sequence since GSP hadn’t finished a fight since 2009. I want to believe Cap’s performance impressed Georges so much that he was inspired to demolish Michael Bisping a few years later.

“Heheheh”

Greatness speaks for itself, so there’s no sense wasting more space talking about how good The Winter Soldier is. Re-watching it, the flick once again stood out as the cream of the crop of these olden days.

By this point, it was clear Mavel knew what they were doing and could be counted on to make some solid movies. A couple misses were under their belt, sure, but by and large it was clear that the MCU could be relied on for quality. Then Guardians of the Galaxy came out.

What the fuck. You got Vin Diesel as a talking tree, Bradley Cooper as a raccoon, the fat guy from Parks and Rec who is apparently not fat anymore, Zoe Saldana (cool) and former WWE Champion Batista (cool, and I refuse to call him Dave Bautista since he’s forever Batista). Surely this movie would blow chunks. I’m a nerd, but I’ve got my limits. People would ask me about the Guardians and I didn’t know anything about them. I assumed this would be Marvel’s Batman & Robin moment – a huge, smelly brown stain on the series forever.

My bad.

When I saw this in the trailer I was certain Marvel was doomed. Whoops.

As we sit here today, everybody knows what a wonderful surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy was. For me, the moment came when the team approaches Knowhere as David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” plays. I turned to my friend Drew and said simply, “This movie’s fuckin’ awesome!” I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having. Side note about that night – opening night of the movie was the same night NBA player Paul George snapped his leg in half at the Team USA scrimmage, and I remember my phone buzzing like crazy in the theater (it was on vibrate since you’re a prick if you don’t do that at a theater) as people texted to ask if I saw the injury. No, I was too busy being legitimately entertained by an anthropomorphic racoon and tree. Still, I’m glad this wonderful film is inextricably linked with George’s traumatic injury forever for me.

But yeah, what a fun movie. And not “fun” the way you justify liking a bad movie. Guardians of the Galaxy was damn good, funny, charming and entertaining. Batista was the highlight. Considering I almost blew out my shoulder fist pumping when he eliminated John Cena to win the 2005 Royal Rumble, I was very glad to see he made it to the big time. Groot and Rocket…man they rocked and I doubted so hard beforehand. I had the absolute lowest expectations. I was apologizing to my friends before the movie since I figured I was wasting everybody’s time by wanting to see this. I was so wrong. Also, Michael Rooker as Yandu was a spectacular casting choice.

The cast has terrific chemistry, and Rocket is the one

After this, it was clear that Marvel could never be doubted again. They were slinging heat, taking a property that should never have transitioned to film this well, and making one of their best movies out of it.

Either way, Guardians of the Galaxy was so good, I ended up buying the $100 “Ultimate Ticket” for the sequel, which I’ll discuss in a later entry.

After 10 movies, the rankings look like this:

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  2. Avengers
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger
  4. Iron Man
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Iron Man 3
  7. Thor
  8. The Incredible Hulk
  9. Iron Man 2
  10. Thor: The Dark World

Next time around – another Avengers movie, another unexpected hit and an absolute corker.

“I may be as pretty as an angel, but I sure as hell ain’t one.” Just want to end saying Yondu should have gotten his own movie.
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