So I think we’re all fans of what Disney and Marvel studios have done with movies nowadays, right? While I really hope the lesson movie studios would unlearn from the MCU is that everything has to be part of a cinematic universe, you can’t deny both their popularity and their contribution to the film industry. While many people want to talk about how the Dark Knight made comic book films legit, I would have to say that it was actually the Star-Spangled Avenger himself, Captain America.
As the MCU gears up to premiere their twenty first film with Captain Marvel, you can’t help but wonder what will happen with this new character. Carol Danvers (C. Marvel) film will take place in the 1990’s and shed some light on a long-gestating alien invasion which will more than likely have some kind of impact on the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, or at the very least, whatever phase four will be. While she will undoubtedly be the fan favorite for a while, I was thinking about how many people seem to love Captain America and his many adventures with the more human and less powerful members of the Avengers. Cap’s popularity is thanks in large part to the filmmakers, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. Along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Captain America’s latest adventures on the silver screen have been arguably the best films in the MCU’s library. Personally, I think that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best MCU film to date and it has a lot to do with who Cap is as both a person and a soldier.
I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but I am a veteran. I served in the Army from 2005 to 2009. And in the years since I got out, there has been a lot of talk about how hard it is for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life. And it is undoubtedly hard. I won’t go into stats and statistics because that’s not my thing, but what I can tell you is that I still keep in contact with some of the guys I served with and from what I can tell, some of us are doing great, and some of us are not exactly…living up to our potential. I include myself in the latter part of that statement. From the first day of basic training, no matter what your MOS is, you’re told that you are a killer. You’re told that God placed you on this Earth for the sole purpose of sending the enemy to Hell. I was a mechanic and I was told that I was supposed to kill people, this was fine to me and it never bothered me. I have never shot anyone and I wouldn’t say that I have seen combat, but I did carry a rifle and I did come close to pulling the trigger couple of times. Now the hard part about that is the fact that as you’re beginning the process of separating from the military, you’re now told that you are going to be viewed as a hero and many, many people are going to come up to you with a huge grin and a “thank you” at the ready. This happened a lot, and it was about as awkward as you would expect when total strangers say thanks and give you a salute that looks like shit. You often times don’t know how to feel about that. I know that I sure didn’t…
And then I saw Captain America, and I think I have a better Idea.
The big joke about Cap nowadays is that we never could have guessed that he would be probably the guy that we as fans root for the most. While he’s not the everyman like Spidey, and he’s not the billionaire playboy like many of us want to be, Captain America is the guy we should all strive to be. At the beginning of his story, Steve Rogers is frozen in the Arctic Circle and recovered over seventy years after the fact. A man born in 1918 wakes up in the year 2012 and is expected to get with the program. While I wasn’t asleep for seventy years, I feel I have a certain understanding of where Cap’s head is at here. Coming home from the military to a civilian world is shocking. It’s shocking because you find out very quickly that people don’t actually care that you’re a veteran. They tell you thanks and give stories about why they didn’t enlist. Or, if they particularly honest, you find out what they really think about you when you weren’t some kind of special forces, super-secret, black-ops man. But the Captain America films show that you can adapt and sometimes overcome your surroundings. When people meet Steve Rogers, they often make jokes about his supposed antiquated point of view. People often talk both to him and about him like he’s an old man and expect him to not understand where and when he is now. And many people get pissed off when he proves that just because he may have a 1920’s morality, he has no problem living in today’s world.
Cap is relatable to me because I have had many of the same struggles he has, minus the whole Hydra thing. And none of my friends have been dusted by Thanos, but I do feel a certain comradery with Cap the likes of which I don’t with any other MCU hero.
The Vulture is a close second. That dude would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for some punk kid in a hoodie.
There is a scene in the second Captain America movie where he’s talking to pre-Falcon Sam Wilson and Sam asks him, what do you want? And Cap, despite thinking he knows what he wants, he really doesn’t. He knows things aren’t the same and it’s now scary to him. People look at him differently or indifferently. He has a huge shadow hanging over him that he volunteered for and it’s almost as if he wishes he could take it back, but he can’t. The world has changed, and it’s going to leave him behind. But Captain America, or more importantly, Steve Rogers, doesn’t let the world pass him by, because he decides to invest in himself.
While I’m not suggesting you try to halt an alien invasion or oppose the Sokovia Accords, you should pay attention to Cap’s decision to be true to himself. He knows that his world has become a thing of the past, he knows that the world around him has seemingly place being cool above being good, but he doesn’t waiver in his morals and he doesn’t let the surrounding change force him to become a cranky old man about things. When he meets someone new, he welcoming, when he has a new job or objective, he meets it head-on straight and when things get low, Cap endures. Captain America’s story is one of loss and endurance. The world is going to get dark and you are often times going to want to give up. Plenty of veterans out there wake up every day, wondering how they’re going to make to the next one. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that in the years since I have gotten out, I have felt a sense of loneliness that I still can’t explain. A void that can’t be filled. It’s kind of like when you lose your keys or your glasses. You know you need them, but damned if you where they were last. Captain America goes through this same feeling of loss even if the focus is really about the badass fistfights and cgi. Cap’s struggle is one that I go through every day. You know you don’t belong, but this is the world now and you are going to make the most of it. While everyone is worried about Tony Stark dying out in space, I am wondering how the hell Cap is keeping it together after burying his best girl and seeing his barbershop quartet die.
I’ll be honest, once Marvel Studios stops making Captain America films, I think I might be done with Marvel for a while. While I am excited to see new characters take the center stage, it will be a sad day when Cap hangs up his shield. I’m still not ready for that day. But I won’t forget that the Captain America films have taught me that just because your world changes, that it’s okay to be your best self.