8 Years Later: The Winter Soldier Still Has A Huge Impact On The MCU

Entertainment News

More than eight years later, Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s impact on the MCU can still be felt – and it goes beyond the Russo Brothers movies.

Bucky Barnes in The Winter Soldier and Emilia Clarke in Secret Invasion
Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame may be the biggest Marvel movies, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still the one with the most impact on the MCU. More than eight years after its release, the events of The Winter Soldier continue to echo throughout the MCU – both visually and thematically. The Captain America: The First Avenger sequel was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, both of whom would become the main creative forces behind the MCU’s Phase 3, but The Winter Soldier’s legacy goes far beyond the Russo Brothers’ movies.

After The First Avenger told a familiar origin story that did not have the same impact as Iron Man, Marvel Studios knew it had to redefine Steve Rogers as a character. In addition, it was clear that the Captain America sequel had to bring something significantly different from the first movie, as not even The Avengers gave Captain America a chance to shine. The choice for Anthony and Joe Russo, whose background was mostly on TV, was unexpected, but it proved to be the right decision.

As a Captain America story set in the present day, The Winter Soldier had as many challenges as it had story opportunities. The Russo Brothers deconstructed Steve Rogers and went for a tone drastically different from that of The Avengers. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a serious, slightly realistic take on Captain America, with the movie taking inspiration from spy thrillers and crime dramas. Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, was the “muscle” antagonist for Captain America to fight – but the real villains were infiltrated across SHIELD. The Winter Soldier influenced the future MCU work of the Russo Brothers as well as of other MCU creators. The more serious tone, the spy thriller inspirations, and even the style of hand-to-hand combat started to become common in the MCU, and they can still be felt in recent movies like Black Widow and upcoming releases like Secret Invasion and Captain America: New World Order.

How Winter Soldier Influenced Marvel’s Phases 3 & 4

More than just being the sequel to Captain America, The Winter Soldier was a landmark for Marvel Phase 2 and set the bar high for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that followed it. The movie worked through the challenge of combining a fun superhero adventure like the Iron Man films with a more serious, high-stakes story like the ones from Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Still, The Winter Soldier proved it could be done. An obvious The Winter Soldier legacy for Marvel’s Phase 3 is that Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed the film, went on to make not only Captain America: Civil War but also Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. To this day, no director has helmed four MCU movies – let alone from two different “sub-franchises” within the wider universe. Consequently, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame – the three biggest movies of Marvel’s Phase 3 – felt like direct sequels to The Winder Soldier.

Captain America: Civil War would obviously continue the themes of its predecessor, but it is clear that the Russo Brothers wanted the third Captain America movie to feel like The Winter Soldier even though the scale was much bigger. That combination of epic-scale superhero fights with a darker, more serious tone was then brought into Infinity War and Endgame. While not as realistic as a spy thriller might be, Infinity War and Endgame felt more grounded that the first two Avengers movies, once again a reflection of The Winter Soldier.

The Winter Soldier’s impact on the MCU was not restricted to the Russo Brothers-directed films, as Marvel’s Phase 4 continued to be heavily inspired by the Captain America sequel. Black Widow was a spy thriller in the same molds as The Winter Soldier, and even the action sequences were very reminiscent of Black Widow’s best fights in The Winter Soldier. Likewise, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier felt like a sequel to The Winter Soldier almost as much as Civil War was – with the real battle happening on a more political level rather than against a supervillain.

Secret Invasion & New World Order Continue Winter Soldier’s MCU Legacy

Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s MCU legacy will now be felt in Marvel’s Phase 5. During Marvel Studios’ presentation at D23 2022, Captain America: New World Order was described as a “paranoid thriller” while Secret Invasion was described as a “spy thriller.” Both of those descriptions perfectly fit The Winter Soldier, which was the first film in the MCU that could actually be described as a thriller. The idea of not knowing who to trust and what is the right thing to fight for were the main themes in The Winter Soldier, and it seems like that will be central to the stories of Secret Invasion and Captain America: New World Order. Both Nick Fury and Sam Wilson, who will lead Secret Invasion and New World Order, respectively, were also in The Winter Soldier – which goes to show that those thematic similarities are not just a coincidence but rather an intentional creative choice. Last, Thunderbolts will work as a sequel to both Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and it is likely that the anti-hero team-up film will also borrow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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