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The Problem with the Falcon and Winter Soldier




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When Mike Judge was making Idocracy he had a scene where a hysterical audience watched a bare ass on a film  screen for 2 minutes while it occasionally passed gas. In the movie, this film goes on to win the Academy Award for best picture in this future dystopia. Judge was trying to demonstrate the deterioration of storytelling and dumbing down of cinema in a future society of significantly lower IQ’s and a population without care for character development, storytelling, or plot. Just enjoy the giant, farting ass.
 
To film the scene of the hysterical future filmgoers, he used an auditorium full of college students. Once assembled and seated, the crew projected the giant farting ass on screen while Judge began walking to the front of the audience to explain what the audience needed to do – laugh hysterically while they captured enough footage of the audience to cut together for the scene in Idiocracy. But before Judge could get in front of them, the audience was already hysterically laughing at the giant farting ass on screen. Without direction, they went wild for the entire time needed to film the scene.
 
Mike Judge at one point turned to his friend and producer and asked, “Why am I bothering to make Idiocracy?”
 
I feel like Mike Judge for most of the Marvel shows and films. If you turn your brain off and don’t think, just watch the costumes and pretty flashing lights, you’ll be okay. But if you spend a moment pondering the logic or storytelling, you realize that it’s basically just a giant ass on screen, jiggling and occasionally farting.
 
These are superhero movies, stories about people with additional gifts and the additional problems that brings. Well, it’s supposed to be. Instead, what we seem to have is film after film of punching and explosions and fights between people who are evenly matched in skill and training and an ability to not take damage no matter what hits them. Until someone punches hard enough, or explodes loud enough, to end the story and the movie.
 
But don’t think about the fights or flights too much. Seriously, I don’t care how invulnerable your skull is, your brain is not and it just slammed into the side of your head at 300 miles an hour. Concussion anyone?
 
Physics and simple anatomy aside, the movies and shows are popcorn fare, not meant to make us think or feel, but merely to be a giant farting ass on a screen that we can cheer for 2 hours.
 
It’s not that they’re bad, the costuming, staging, lighting and cinematography is slick and polished, but bordering on cookie cutter at this point. You can take scenes from any marvel film or tv show and seamlessly edit them together and, without the sound, you probably wouldn’t notice they are wildly different stories.
 
The acting is good to great, with top talent turning in solid performances.
 
Anthony Mackie is an insanely talented actor who has never failed to turn in a performance where you never forget he’s an unpowered human in a superpowered world and serves as a moral and spiritual anchor. There was no question from any audience member when Captain America turned the shield over to him, except for the fact that…he’s not a super solder, so how would that work?
 
Sebastian Stan owns the role of the conflicted Winter Soldier and he can go from menacing to vulnerable in a beat. It’s a wonderful performance to watch, on par with James McAvoy’s character in Split.
 
Baron Zemo, played by Daniel Bruhl will always be on my go to list because he did such an awesome turn as the Alienist – one of my favorite novels adapted for tv by TNT. He blew the part of Zemo away with subtlety, charm and wit.
 
There’s a host of supporting actors that do marvelous work and, quite frankly, lack for screen time including Adepero Oduye as Sarah Wilson. I would have loved a half an episode around her character and what it’s like to have a famous super powered brother. While she’s not trying to kill half the population of her town from spoiled food.
My only character criticism is with Sharon Carter. Stop trying to make her work. She’s not going to work. She’s a generic character with barely name recognition and has no unique characteristics or motivations. She’s a plot device to get the main characters something or somewhere. She’s Nick Fury without the charisma or skills.
 
The dialogue is engaging, witty at times, but, for the most part, follows the three rules of storytelling – further the characterization, further the plot, or further the characters involvement in the plot.
 
But it’s some of the overarching story issues that cause the mental break if you dwell too long on it. Like, for instance, the Wakandans.
 
Now, I know a bunch of people are going to get their panties in a bunch because I’m saying anything negative about them and they’re held out to be something above reproach, but that could be because people enjoy farting asses on screen and tend not to think things through.
 
If I told a story about a nation of individuals who were isolationist to the point of creating force fields and illusions to keep people out, allowed no immigration or race mixing, and who steadfastly refused to assist their desperate starving neighbors because…they’re selfish assholes…I would have Latveria, ruled over by Dr. Doom. See, there’s a reason why Marvel is retconning the hell out of Dr. Doom.
 
But that’s not the only city that follows that pattern. Marvel has a history of creating isolated, racially pure, selfish magical nations that do not help or assist neighbors despite having abundant resources and advanced technology. Even the Inhumans fit that bill living in Attilan on the freaking moon.
 
So picking on Wakanda is not fair, as Marvel is loaded with countries that are, literally, the antithesis of the United States. But that was the point the writers were trying to make when they created them. They were discussing the dangers of isolation, of non-involvement, and those nations were portrayed as negative if not downright evil.
 
Dr. Dooms Latveria is similar – highly technologically enhanced, ruled by a monarch, and an economy greater than the United States.
 
Shang Chi and Iron Fists K’un-Lun is an isolated, racially pure, magical city ruled over by…a king that is elected through…trial by combat.
 
Genosha, an exclusively mutant country, run by Magneto, is probably the extreme example.
 
If this isn’t beginning to sound repetitive, then you’re not paying attention.
 
But here we are in the 21st century, where the united states has returned to segregation and a focus on race like the past century of racial advancement and attempts at healing didn’t exist, suddenly separation of races and pure racial identity is seen as a desirable, if not optimal situation. Trust me, as a mixed race individual I could tell stories of now not fitting in anywhere because I don’t have a single racial identity.
 
It’s fascinating to hear people talk about why they don’t like the united states, and then see the very things reflected in the art they enjoy.
 
Sigh..
 
T’CHALLA: Nakia thinks we should be doing more.
W’KABI: More, like what?
T’CHALLA: Foreign aid, refugee programs.
W’KABI: You let the refugees in… they bring their problems with them. And then Wakanda is like everywhere else. Now if you said you wanted me and my men… to go out there and clean up the world, then I’ll be all for it.
 
This is literally the policy that the United States has soundly rejected at this point, but people sure as hell cheered for it in the movie theaters.
 
Giant. Farting. Ass on screen.
 
Interestingly Falcon and the Winter Soldier also introduces us to a city-state that’s the exact opposite of these things, Madripoor, which is essentially a Libertarians dream world run wild. But it was created in the 1980’s for Wolverine and OF COURSE THEY TEASE US WITH ANOTHER X-MEN REFERENCE WITHOUT PAYOFF.
 
Fucking Marvel.
 
This ideological conflict creates subtle uncomfortable moments in the viewer…if the viewer is paying attention. For instance, one issue of viewer conflict occurs in the story of Falcon and Winter Soldier the viewer becomes confused, because The United States, by way of Captain America/US Agent, is deemed to be “Bad” because they have a superhero operating in a foreign country, looking for a rogue terrorist group, while Wakanda is deemed to be “good” while they have agents operating in a foreign country, looking for a rogue terrorist.
 
The writers had an opportunity to explore this dichotomy and ignored it. Instead they just went with “white guy from US bad” “African women from Wakanda good” but if you’re not familiar with the series or movies (I know that’s a stretch, but still who can keep track of all of this) it means you wake up from the farting ass on screen and start asking questions and are immediately confused. They’re both taking the same action, same indiscretion, violating the same rules….but we cheer for one because…skin color? They’re not the United States?
 
Another issue is the terrorist group. We need bad guys to fight against and Disney is playing it close to the vest with actual villains and characters from the Marvel pantheon, so we get “generic terrorist group #6” Flag Smashers with a mission that literally makes no sense. Particularly as it is in Direct conflict with Wakanda and they don’t even address that at all.
 
While Wakanda is isolationist, anti-immigration, anti-racial mixing and inwardly focused, the FlagSmashers want to end all nations, borders and flags…get it? What an awesome storyline that would make. But the Wakandans are just there to create a little conflict for Baron Zemo and his traveling band of misfits, and we don’t want to go into actual story. That would create confusion in the audience who just want to watch a naked ass pass gas.
 
And then there’s the fishing boat/business story line. Look, when the whole situation can be cleared up by just calling Pepper Potts and getting a quick grant from the Stark Foundation, it makes little to no sense why they are in a bank. Even DC was smart enough to acknowledge this in Justice League with Wayne Enterprises purchasing the bank that owned the mortgage on the Kent farm.
 
And I’m all for family stories. An entire story arc on the impact of how a sibling with superpowers might make the rest of the family feel – what trials and tribulations do they go through, what are their feelings, their thoughts, their reactions to having a family member who is with the Avengers.
 
But instead we get a half-baked “business is failing” story line and we don’t get a why. Although we do get a clue. She made those meals to go, put them in the truck, drove to the bank to talk about the loan and then delivered the meals. She’s failing because she delivers cold seafood in hot humid weather that probably kills people with botulism. That’s not a successful business strategy. That’s a reason NOT TO GET A BUSINESS LOAN. You suck. Close it and try something else before you actually kill people.
 
Did I enjoy Falcon and Winter Soldier? Elements of it
The story itself was fine for a superhero film Quite frankly I think Disney played it too safe. It would have been far more interesting to explore the same territory that Luke Cage did on the Netflix series. Keeping it domestic and in the United States, looking at an internal super soldier terrorist group within an urban setting and racial issues within the country.
The added plus of having Wakanda in trouble for trying to extradite Zemo without permission, a juxtaposition of their isolationist anti-immigration position versus the United States would also have been interesting and rewarding.
And having Carter work from afar and have her own issues with Sword while trying to intervene in the goings on of super powered terrorists would have been an interesting sub-plot with more reward with the final reveal at the end.
But we can’t have those things these days because everyone is sensitive and Disney is afraid of pissing some group or another off with a certain political identity and they’re just tired of having to deal with tantrumming fans who either didn’t get what they want or who think they’ve been directly insulted.
I’m sure I’ll hear from a few of those folks myself….