Civil War: Steve Rogers, Just a Kid From Brooklyn

It’s been over a month since Civil War came out, where did the time go? I have deeply enjoyed writing multiple posts about different aspects and characters that stood out to me in this movie.

I pointed out Why the Sokovia Accords Were a Waste of Paper.

I talked about the neat potential for future interaction with Spiderman and Steve.

I greatly enjoyed rehashing that fantastic airport battle that was Avengers vs. Avengers.

I discussed Natasha Romanoff’s close relationship with Steve and the importance of that friendship to the plot.

I touched on why it was so important for Vision to be the one to fail and injure War Machine.

And finally, I told The Tragic Tale of Tony Stark.

But while I talked about so many different angles and characters in this movie, I seem to have forgotten the star player, namely: Steve Rogers, Captain America.

First off, I haven’t forgotten him. I could never forget Steve Rogers, he has been, is, and will always be my favorite superhero. Steve has been in the back part of my mind as a reference point, an anchor when writing all of these other posts. I wanted to end my Civil War discussion on the man himself.

But when I got here, I hit a wall. This is literally the 7th post about Steve Rogers that I have written. Nothing seemed to stick, and nothing felt right. It seemed as though everything I wrote failed to say what was in my heart. You might say that my posts lacked conviction.

I finally decided that I am simply going to touch on the significant moments of this incredible man’s story that have led us to where he currently is. The story of Steve Rogers is one of finding heroism in an ordinary human, and discovering that what at first glance looks ordinary, actually turns out to be the extraordinary.

Captain America: The First Avenger. While Steve started out physically weak, the strength of his heart won him the privilege of becoming superhuman. It was fantastic!  Suddenly, every battle that Steve had fought before and could never win now became like a walk in the park. Steve takes down one bully after another while winning the admiration of the world, his comrades, and Peggy Carter. Playing the hero came to him as naturally as breathing.

And then the rubber hit the road, and Steve lost Bucky during a mission. And we aren’t talking a “fatally wounded, last words” kind of scene. We are talking about seeing your best friend fall screaming to his death. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that Steve had muscles, because despite his best efforts, his heart had just been ripped out.

Steve had to learn a hard lesson through Bucky’s “death”. First, he had to learn to allow people the dignity of their choice, as Peggy so eloquently put it. He had to accept the fact that his choices were going to spur others into action, and sometimes those choices were going to lead to unchangeable consequences. Steve also had to accept the fact that he wouldn’t be able to save everyone. He may be superhuman, but he was still human, and he had his limitations.

Finally, Steve had to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up his life, his hope for a future with Peggy, everything, to save the world. He had to face death, and in truth, it terrified him.

The moments before he crashes into the ice are heartbreaking. Steve doesn’t want to be alone as he dies, he reaches out to Peggy across the radio for a last bit of comfort and connection. The bond between these two characters is unique and incredible. This moment becomes all the more devastating when you see later on just how lost and alone Steve feels without Peggy. This moment was death to more than just his life, for years, it will be a death to his sense of belonging. When he wakes up, he will be a man out of place in history, and he can never go back.

The Avengers. Steve wakes up to a world gone mad where he is more alone than most of us can comprehend. His life has to feel like a nightmare that he cannot wake up from. Nothing is familiar, he has no friends left, and, the world he gave up everything to save is about to be destroyed again. The love of his life is in her 90’s at a nursing home. He feels obsolete and out of the loop. He traded out Howard Stark for Tony Stark (I prefer Tony, but just imagine how weird that situation would be). The world has gotten even stranger. 

Steve, a man out of time

Steve has to choose whether or not he is going to engage in this modern world and accept the new family offered to him. While he is naturally ready to step forward and be a hero, he still has some emotional barriers to get over. Steve makes the choice to stand and fight, leading the Avengers into battle. He takes up his shield again and steps firmly into the role of Captain America.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Identity crisis. Steve is trying to embrace the modern world, but at the same time stay true to his values. He is finding it impossible within the gray walls and ambiguous morals of SHIELD. Everyone around him is telling him it’s time to get with the program and dial down his strong moral compass. The message Steve is getting is, “The world is more complicated now, and your perspective is old fashioned and obsolete.” Steve wonders if he is just being a fool, or if he will be able to fit in anywhere. He is achingly lonely and doesn’t know who to be.

Steve forms two very vital friendships with Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson in this movie. They become his closest allies in his new life. As the movie goes on, and Hydra is revealed within SHIELD, Steve and the rest of the good guys come to the conclusion that he was right all along. Steve’s clear sense of right and wrong, tyranny vs. freedom is exactly what the world needs right now to stay intact. Steve is able to save the world again because he stayed true to who he is. Almost as a secondary identity crisis, Steve comes face to face with Bucky again. Suddenly, his past isn’t just sitting on display in the Smithsonian, his best friend is alive and working for the bad guys.

Steve saves the world first, then, he saves his friend. Captain America comes first, and then Steve Rogers. Interestingly enough, it’s not Captain America who breaks through Bucky’s foggy and icy mind, it is Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn.

with you to the end of the line

Avengers: Age of Ultron. This movie really could have also been titled, Pre-Civil War. Steve and Tony clash intensely over Ultron and then subsequently Vision. Tony wants to build a suit of armor around the world. Steve knows that this is impossible, and the attempt will cost more than it will gain. Still, when it’s down to the wire, Steve leads the Avengers to Sokovia to go clean up Tony’s mess, willingly stepping forward to share in the responsibility and aftermath of Tony’s mistakes.

Personally, this movie really show-cases a very dark and despairing place in Steve’s soul. His vision given by Wanda reveals the heavy loneliness inside of him. He feels forever trapped by war, unable to reach out for peace. The loose ends of his life from the past are just blowing around in the breeze, mocking him. At the end of the movie, Steve settles for the mantle of Captain America as his only role. He seems to have given up on the concept of having a life outside of the shield and believes that this is the only place he will ever “belong”.

Steve, giving up

As a fan, it scared me to death. It was almost like Steve was committing partial suicide, dying to the idea of a future outside of fighting and one day dying in the line of duty. Steve hasn’t given up on the world, but I think he gave up on himself.

Captain America:Civil War. I believe that for Steve, Civil War was the movie that tied together all of his previous plot threads, and then, it began some new ones.

Steve is leading the Avengers with the skill and confidence of a leader. He owns them as his family and takes care of them with almost a fatherly attitude. Steve is willing to acknowledge and take partial responsibility for the tragedy of the bombing in Nigeria, but he refuses to waste time on guilt or fear of failure. When the Sokovia Accords are dropped on the table, he knows where he stands, but you can see the sadness in his eyes. His world is changing drastically once more, and the new people that he has come to love are going to be divided. The new “normal” that he adjusted to is shifting.

A deep chapter of Steve’s life is closed with the death of Peggy Carter. The living reminder of the dream that could never be is now laid to rest. Steve’s devastation at Peggy’s funeral broke my heart. Despite Sam and Natasha being near, he feels so alone.

Sad Steve

At the perfect moment, Sharon Carter steps into the scene. It’s almost like she picks up right where Peggy left off. Steve looks up at her and a hint of a spark fills his eyes. She smiles understandingly at him, and then proceeds to give one last piece of Peggy wisdom. A piece of wisdom that helps bring some peace to his heart. Even from the grave, Peggy Carter is touching Steve’s life.

Sharon is very much a worthy follow-up to Peggy. She is brave, intelligent, honest, compassionate, and lovely. She has traces of Peggy all throughout her, but she is also a child of this new world that Steve has adopted. She represents the best things of both the past and future.

Civil War really showcases Steve Rogers at a place of identity crisis. He’s not struggling with what he believes, but rather, who and what is he supposed to be anymore? The role of Captain America has been taken from him, but he has not given it up willingly. Peggy is gone, but now there is Sharon. Sharon represents the hope of a future, a future that Steve has almost entirely shut himself off to. Bucky is back, but the whole world is on a witch hunt for him.

Steve goes through this movie sticking to what he knows best. Fight for what’s right, protect my friends, don’t give up freedom. These motions are incredibly familiar to him, but as we begin to see towards the end of the movie, this format that Steve used his entire adult life will not last forever.

Truthfully, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the whole Tony/Bucky/Steve clash at the end. It was so awesome and so horrible all it once. Tony was so, SO angry. And who can blame him? His mother, his favorite person in the world was murdered. He hated his dad, but also wanted his dad’s approval, and any chance of that was cut off when his dad was murdered. Bucky did it, and Steve knew about it and didn’t tell Tony. Tony feels so betrayed, and so angry. He’s pretty much bleeding out and mad as heck.

Tony sees red. He doesn’t care at this point, he is acting out of raw anger and sadness. He is going for the kill. I think Steve’s interaction with Tony is pretty tell-tale of where he is at emotionally. He will fight tooth and nail to save Bucky, but when given the chance, he doesn’t kill Tony, he only takes out the arc reactor. Tony was anticipating a death blow, but instead, Steve just disarmed him. Steve walks away from the fight helping an injured Bucky, and leaves Tony alive behind him.

There are many reasons for this. For one, Steve doesn’t murder people. He kills when necessary, but he never acts out of vengeance. Two, Steve doesn’t blame Tony for how he feels. Steve knows that keeping the information surrounding the Starks’ death was a wrong choice. I don’t know if he knows what to do with it, or how to feel. But he never acts in anger towards Tony, even when they are exchanging punches. There is no condemnation in his actions.

But I think one major point of all of Steve’s actions is this- no man left behind. Steve is tired of being alone, he’s tired of losing people, and he knows for a fact that he isn’t going to give up on them. At the end of Civil War, Steve has laid down the shield for a while. He’s going to explore what it means to be Steve Rogers outside of Captain America. He’s going to stick by the people who matter to him, including Tony. All of Steve’s friends know that he will never give up on them.

I also think Steve may have decided to stop giving up on himself. When Tony called after him to say the shield belonged to Tony’s father, Steve glances down and drops it without regret. That shield has been his only identity for so long, and he needs to leave it behind for a while. Will he pick it up again in the future? Sure he will, he’s Captain America. But right now he just needs to be Steve Rogers. He needs to step away. He needs to heal.

I think both Steve and Tony are really hurting and broken up. Steve’s pain isn’t as visibly noticeable as Tony’s because he is a very different person. Sometimes characters like Steve are passed over and thought of as perfect and untouchable. They never make huge, dramatic mistakes, so the assumption is made that they never struggle. But let me tell you, he struggles. His heart breaks. He bleeds, every bit as much as Tony does. Steve has felt alone in a way very few of us can comprehend, with the exception of veterans who are the final, surviving members of their group. I can’t even imagine how terrible that must feel.

The image of the Captain America shield stuck on top of the arc reactor was a very striking one. It symbolized that Captain America won that particular battle. But even more so, I think it may be foreshadowing that Steve, being who he is, is going to help Tony heal and conquer the struggles in his heart. We all saw the beginnings of that healing in Tony’s face as he read Steve’s letter at the end.

In turn, Tony’s actions have pushed Steve to a new place. They forced him to evaluate what matters most to him. Tony’s choices moved Steve beyond where he was stuck in a rut and forced him to drop the shield. Without it, Steve is just a kid from Brooklyn again.

And for the first time in his life, that is all he is going to be. It’s uncharted territory, and Steve really has no idea where to go from here. But he’s ready now, and new chapter has begun and a whole new slew of plot threads have been opened.

Civil War really brought an end to both Iron Man and Captain America as we know them. They both “lost” themselves in a sense, but I don’t believe that was such a bad thing. They were brought face to face with their inner demons and survived. Now they are left picking up the pieces, and wondering “what next?”

I’m OK with this. We as people often have to break out of a way of life, an attitude, or a place of grief in order to move on. The battle is ugly, but the results are beautiful. We come forth stronger for it. I fully believe this will be the case for Steve Rogers.

Captain America will return, I have no doubt of that. But I think that when he does, there will be more of Steve Rogers behind the shield than there was before. Captain America only means something to us because of Steve Rogers. I knew that, and you knew that, but I don’t think Steve did. Maybe now he has the time to learn.

I love the character of Steve Rogers so much. He has touched me in so many ways, as well as millions of other people. His good heart encourages me, his perseverance is inspiring, and his compassion is beautiful. I am so grateful to have the pleasure of watching and enjoying this character on screen, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Steve Rogers/Captain America.

*****

What did you think of Civil War? Did you agree with my thoughts on Steve’s role in this movie? What are your theories about what happens next to the kid from Brooklyn? Would you have changed anything about this movie?

It has been a pleasure to share this amazing film with you all, I look forward to many more posts in the future.

 

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