Kevin Feige is not resting on his laurels. Hot from the popular and critical success of WandaVision, Marvel Studios is looking to keep the cape-rush going on the Disney+ streaming service.
In this era of COVID caution, streaming services have become a refuge as entertainment vehicles while movie theaters lay dormant and will likely not pick up significant activity until mass vaccinations. The story of Wanda Maximoff and Vision is in the rearview, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) looks forward to the next duo in the spotlight.
On Friday, comic-book fans were treated to the first episode of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” titled “New World Order,” which ushered a breeze of fresh air on the eve of the first day of Spring. This new show under the direct stewardship of the architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige, feels different and comes across as vulnerable, and celebrates the human behind the superhero.
The apparatus and machine behind Kevin Feige at Marvel Studios pays great attention to detail and the stories they tell. While WandaVision was a nine-episode series of comic-book lore mixed with the human condition of accepting grief and coping with loss, the latest chapter of the MCU with The Falcon and Winter Soldier looks to be a buddy-cop action flick along the lines of “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2018).
The pilot episode positions the show as a character study of superheroes adapting to life and dealing with hard-hitting reality, especially outside the spotlight that fame casts or without being preoccupied with the villain-of-the-week trying to destroy the world and get ransom money. It also left me asking what does it mean to be the next “Captain America” and carry the torch of the star-spangled man. We know the shield was passed from Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” but the choice still presents Sam with a sense of burden that weighs on his conscience.
Throughout the episode, we see Sam feel the inner conflict of what it means to bear the legacy of Captain America. Sam struggles to find purpose as an Airman in the U.S. Air Force. We get the sense that Sam is trying to make up for the borrowed time when he was blipped out of existence during the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018). Watching his predicament leads me to questions such as: Does Sam know how to live and adjust to reality without Steve being in his corner, or is he falling into the ladder of what occurs to soldiers when they return home from war. Mackie naturally continues to play his character with such finesse and ease, although a sense of emptiness comes across when we see Falcon on screen.
The series offers a look at the Falcon and Winter Soldier in their private and vulnerable moments. There’s a continuing plot thread of seeing how Bucky still carries a sense of fear and guilt from his time as the Winter Soldier. The story also showcases a sense of troubled waters with the character because he’s trying to adjust to a modern world and making up for the lost time. The writing of the show mirrors Bucky’s raw emotional arc with Steve in Avengers (2012).
He struggles to branch out and pursue relationships; he doesn’t use his cellphone which leads to him inadvertently ignoring Sam. It seems like Bucky shut himself off from the world because he was attempting to atone for his sins when he was under Hydra’s control.
The tone of the series feels akin to their respective entertainment neighborhood next to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) and “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). With the luxury of a big-budget and a shorter six-episode season clocking in at about 45-55 mins long, Marvel Studios seeks to reignite the flame of comic-book craze and expand on the legacy of Captain America’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series at times feels like a cross between “Iron Man 1” (2008) for its heart and thematic storytelling mixed with visuals and action set pieces of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
It is refreshing to see the earnestness and morality that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) stood for also be embodied by both Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). It’s also clear to see both are still trying to regain their place in a world that seems bleak and devoid of hope. The series paints the fear of five years passing by and new threats emerging and coming out of the shadows without the age-old heroes to deal with them as the world slowly starts to fall back into chaos.
The show stresses that Sam and Bucky must understand that they are on their own and both will be pushed to the limit, while also remembering what Steve taught them. In popular culture, Steve Rogers represents innocence and patriotism, both of which are qualities that connect to Sam being a good man and Bucky being a soldier lost in time trying to atone for the sins of his dark past. Bucky understands his hands are still stained with the blood of his victims but also knows he has to move forward while cleansing the past.
It will be interesting to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward without the magnetic charisma of Captain America being the leader of the Avengers. In time, this series promises to be a captivating character study on what it means to bear the shield and how soldiers find direction without a leader and structure of command.