For the month of June, we asked all our writers to use a video in their piece.

I don’t love superhero movies.  I go and see them just like everybody else.  I enjoy the spectacle and am entertained for two hours, but that is the extent of it.  They rarely cause me to think deeply or introspectively.  I rarely have the desire to re-watch them.  There’s a reason they are called “popcorn movies” – they are flavorless and empty, but you can’t stop smashing them into your face.

Despite my general indifference towards the vast majority of superhero movies, I absolutely love Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I think it is a brilliant film for a number of reasons.

The first is a relatively superficial reason – it feels so much less “superhero-y” than other films in that genre.  It is more a political/spy thriller, albeit with super-powered characters and technology.

But the second reason relates to the two videos above – unlike other Superhero movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier actually raises two themes that the viewer can wrestle with and reflect on: Faith and Choice.

Central to the film is Steve Roger’s crisis of faith.  He is losing his faith in SHIELD, Nick Fury’s methods of protecting the world, and even himself.  He is cast adrift, unsure of his place in this new world, and unsure of whom to trust.

But one thing that does remain is his faith that people can be good.  And this is really what his speech in the first video is all about, his faith in the goodness of others – “I know I’m asking a lot. But the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”  Cap is willing to go it alone, but he has faith that others will stand up and act.

And they have faith in him.  All anyone in SHIELD had been hearing for days was that Captain America had turned traitor, betrayed them, gone rogue.  It would have been easy for them to dismiss Cap’s claims as outrageous – HYDRA had been defeated in World War 2.  Alexander Pierce was the head of SHIELD, how could he be evil!  But they put their faith in Cap, and that bleeds into the next theme – Choice.

Once they heard Cap’s words, they could have stood by and ignored them, tried to stay uninvolved.  But a large portion chose to take a side.  Chose to be active.

There is a shot in the middle of Cap’s speech where two security guards see the crew of the helicarrier walking towards them.  They could have chosen to step aside and let the crew pass.  Instead, they looked at each other, drew their weapons, and prepared for what was about to come.

And that is what I love about the second clip – it shows in a very real way people choosing sides.  It shows that the fight between good and evil (a theme so prevalent in superhero movies) isn’t just for those with superpowers – it is a fight the ordinary person also has to deal with.  In the end, even the ordinary person must choose which side they are on.

The computer tech is ordered to launch the helicarriers by Rumlow.  He gets the order and hesitates.  He looks around at others in the room for help, panicked, but everyone is motionless/speechless.  He is all alone.  And in that moment, he chooses.  He takes a few steadying breaths before he replies, “I’m not gonna launch those ships.  Captain’s orders.”  Once he says those words, he knows there is no going back.  But he no longer looks panicked; he looks calm.  He’s made his choice.

Honestly, that small scene right there is the core of the film.  A person making a choice to stand up for his beliefs, no matter the cost.  Choosing to act, instead of stand idly by and let events unfold.  And in that moment of choice and action, finding a peace and calmness because he has faith that what he is doing is the right thing.

Paul Menn
Paul ('10) lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Emma ('10), and cat, HandsomeMarcoCat. He loves board games, Babylon 5, and honey-curry chicken. Everything else is negotiable.

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