‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ echos Big Brother themes

Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-man” showed the power of an individual in the age of the Internet. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” discusses the social inequality between the rich and poor. J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek Into Darkness” reminds us of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” in a post-9/11 world — that the shock of terrorism can easily became a catalyst for war.

If the recent slew of superhero blockbusters are anything to go by, superhero movies are a time capsule into the troubles of an era. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who also co-wrote “Thor: The Dark World”), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a frightening commentary on current events.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), better known as the super-soldier Captain America,  is adjusting to life in modern-day D.C. after he’s been preserved in a block of ice since 1945 and revived to fight aliens with the Avengers team (consisting of himself, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye). Now, a S.H.I.E.L.D. contractor, he serves his country by running along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and going on covert rescue operations — sometimes with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s spy-assassin Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).

As S.H.I.E.L.D. develops Project Oversight — which uses satellite monitoring technology to observe and kill civilians before they become a threat to national security, Captain America has misgivings on working with the government. Captain America’s reservations echo the feelings of ordinary Americans who read or listened to Edward Snowden’s Big Brother-esque revelations about the NSA for the past 10 months. According to a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll, the majority of Americans oppose the NSA’s collection of metadata.

“This isn’t freedom. This is fear,” Captain America says.

Markus and McFeely’s screenplay (based on Ed Brubaker’s story) illustrates the implications of the elimination of privacy, highlighting the dangers of the immense information stored online. One Orwellian nightmare: Big Brother is always watching you and can kill you anytime from anywhere.

German HYDRA scientist Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) does just that. He created a computer program that could predict a human’s future affiliations and behaviors based on his or her past; this is based on emails, texts, videos, social media and other records of communication. In turn, the program selects S.H.I.E.L.D.’s targets — threats to national security who are preemptively killed by drones.

And who threatens the status quo? Our esteemed forth estate, our whistle-blowers, our activists and superheroes…

Directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo (known for sitcoms “Community” and “Arrested Development”) deliver a scary superhero film — filled with extra-long action sequences and paranoia.

“Trust no one,” warns S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) after he’s ambushed by D.C. police in a long car chase and police shootout.

The scariest part of this film: it resembles our own world.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo based on Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay and Ed Brubaker’s story. The comics were created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. The story will continue in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

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4 thoughts on “‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ echos Big Brother themes

  1. The “Book” in the book “1984”, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” was true, actually. It has first been published in russian by JBE Goldstein in 1944, then translated in french in 1948, but never in english. This old french translation has been recently republished. I have spotted it on Amazon under the title “Theorie et pratique du collectivisme oligarchique”.
    I haven’t yet read it, just ordered.

  2. I found your blog when I googled “Captain America George Orwell” and I think that the existence of Captain America in the public psyche is itself Orwellian. Captain America is essentially an alternate universe retelling of World War 2 – and in America we have a generation of children more familiar with the Captain America version than the actual recorded history with all of its nuances. This is precisely the type of propaganda present in 1984 which lulls the masses into believing that their particular nation is infallible. As time passes, veterans pass away, and the memory of the Second World War fades from the public consciousness, the lines between historical fact and narrative interpretation blur, and it becomes possible to literally retell the history with steadily increasing liberties. As Orwell said: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

    -Z

  3. Pingback: ‘Snowpiercer’: Bong Joon-ho’s Pandora’s box | Pass the Popcorn

  4. Pingback: Another ‘Dirty War’ | Pass the Popcorn

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