MCU Chronological Viewing Part Five: Captain America Winter Soldier, Agents of SHIELD, and Guardians of the Galaxy

Okay folks, we are entering an intense chunk of the checklist here. If this is your first time checking in, start here with the original post. Then check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four. Then come back. I was excited for this section because (before Ragnarok) Guardians was my favorite Marvel film, and I obviously still love it so I was excited to watch it again. And it is also safe to say I am officially addicted to Agents of SHIELD so I was super psyched to see how the end of season one wrapped up. But holy moly, some shit goes down in this section of the viewing. So let’s get to it.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Basics: Released in 2014 by Marvel Studios and Disney, our favorites return in this Cap sequel. The movie stars Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Sebastian Stan. We also have appearances by Hayley Atwell, and the introduction of Anthony Mackie (yum). As of this posting, Winter Soldier is available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

Important Plot Points: So much happens in this one, it’s hard to start. But let’s get to it. At the beginning of the movie, Cap meets Sam, a war vet who helps other vets deal with coming back to civilian life. During their brief meeting, Cap gets a message from Nat that they have a mission, which is to save a bunch of SHIELD hostages whose ship has been boarded by pirates. During the mission, Cap catches Nat downloading files onto a flash drive and questions her about it. Nat only says she is following orders from Fury. Back at headquarters, Cap questions Fury. Fury shows him Project Insight, three huge helicarriers that have the technology to tap into satellites around the globe and eliminate potential threats. Cap is not on board with this level of aggression, but Fury insists that after the events in New York, it is necessary. Cap has a couple of personal moments, first visiting an exhibit at a museum dedicated to him and his crew. He sees a dedication to Bucky, and watches a video interview of Peggy commending him. He goes to visit the real Peggy, who is old and appears to have Alzheimer’s. Fury is unable to access the files Nat took, so he asks the Defense Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to delay Project Insight. After some negotiation, Pierce agrees. Fury is attacked in his car, first T-boned by “police” cars, and then shot at repeatedly during a lengthy chase. Fury sees the Winter Soldier, who is coming to finish him off, but Fury is able to escape, though he is injured. Cap has an innocuous meeting with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) in the hallway of his building, where she lets him know he left his radio on. Cap proceeds cautiously into the apartment to find Fury waiting for him. Fury lets Cap know through text that they are being watched/listened to and to trust no one. A gunman shoots Fury multiple times. Carter/Agent 13 comes in to help Fury. Cap chases after the Winter Soldier but he disappears. Cap takes the flash drive and heads to the hospital, where he, Nat, and Hill watch Fury die on the operating table. Nat questions Steve, but he tells her nothing. He hides the flash drive in a vending machine at the hospital. Cap goes to HQ where Pierce questions him. As Cap is leaving, he is attacked in the elevator. He manages to escape, and Pierce declares him a fugitive. Cap returns to the hospital only to find Nat has taken the flash drive. Cap wants to know about the Winter Soldier, Nat tells him is a proficient killer with over 200 deaths under his belt. They decide to use the flash drive to gain info about him. Nat and Cap use the flash drive to lead them to New Jersey, to the base where Cap was first trained as a soldier. They discover it’s actually the first SHIELD office, and find a room full of old computers. Nat plugs the flash drive in and the computers have the face/voice of Zola, the former Red Skull accomplice. Zola reveals that there have been HYDRA operatives working inside of SHIELD since SHIELD was founded. The location is hit by a missile, which Cap and Nat narrowly avoid. Meanwhile, Pierce has a meeting with the Winter Soldier, who still has yet to say a word. Cap and Nat hide out at Sam’s apartment, where he tells them about Falcon, huge metal wings that Sam wears and uses to fly. The three conspire to kidnap Agent Sitwell, and force him to give up intel. Sitwell reveals that Project Insight is going to be used to target people that could pose a threat to HYDRA, name-dropping Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Dr. Strange as some of the many who will be killed. The Winter Soldier jumps into the car transporting the foursome, pulls Sitwell out, and tosses him into traffic. The battle that follows ends when Cap pulls the Winter Soldier’s mask off and reveals that it is actually his longtime best friend, presumed dead after the first movie, Bucky. Bucky has no idea who Cap is. Cap, Nat, and Sam are taken into custody. Luckily, Hill is in disguise as one of their guards, and takes them to a secret facility, where she shows them Fury is still alive. HYDRA is planning to set the Project Insight helicarriers into motion within hours. While they are making repairs to Bucky’s metal arm, he starts having flashbacks of his old life.Pierce orders the agents to wipe his memory. Cap and Sam break into HQ, where Cap commandeers a PA system to tell all of SHIELD that they have been infiltrated by HYDRA, but that he knows they will do the right thing. There is a fight in the control room between SHIELD and HYDRA agents, and the helicarriers are released. Cap and Sam head for the carriers, each of them with a chip to insert into the computer systems of the helicarriers. If the chips are implanted in all three helicarriers, they will be disabled and unable to take down their targets. Nat has disguised herself as a council member and manages to disarm Pierce for a minute before he takes out the rest of the council. Fury shows up to put a stop to Project Insight with his and Pierce’s authorization. Sam and Cap manage to get the chips into the first two helicarriers. Cap heads for the third, only to meet Winter Soldier there. After Cap gets the chip in place, he says he is not going to fight Bucky. The two go down into the water with the helicarrier. Bucky pulls an unconscious Cap out of the water and leaves him on the banks alone. Cap recovers, and decides to go after Bucky. Sam signs up to go with him.

End Credits Scene: In the first scene, we see a HYDRA lab that, among other things, is experimenting with Loki’s scepter. We also see the twins, Wanda and Pietro, locked up in glass boxes. They will make an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the final credits scene, Bucky walks through the museum exhibit and sees himself and his friends in their former lives.

My Reaction: Damn. This movie is dark and complex. Despite some of the heaviness in previous movies, this one felt really real to me. This movie also has a lot of repercussions for the MCU as a whole, with a lot of links to AoS and the remaining movies yet to come. This idea of SHIELD and its secrets is a prevailing them in AoS, and we see the dangers of the secrets come out in the movie. There are some truly amazing fight scenes in this movie, and while the big battles always look awesome, what stood out to me was the hand-to-hand combat. It’s next level good. It’s hard to watch Cap have a major identity crisis like he does in this film, but I love that he always stays true to his good nature. There are never any doubts about Cap’s intentions, and I don’t know that you can say that about any of the other Avengers. Also, Chris Evans looks beautiful, and Anthony Mackie is hot. So there’s that. This one was a lot to take it, but it cleared up a lot of questions I had about the MCU in its current state. So definitely one worth watching.

My Rating: 8 out of 10, I don’t know that I would call it enjoyable, but it’s really well done, and important to the overall story.

Agents of SHIELD, Season 1 Episodes 16-22

The Basics: Same as before.

Important Plot Points: Right off the bat, it is important to note that episodes 16 and 17 are basically happening in conjunction with Captain America: Winter Soldier. You should watch the movie and those two episodes as close together as you can. The end of the season follows the fall of SHIELD as we learn who is HYDRA and who’s not. Coulson is really the only one we know for sure, right away, is not. We learn that May has been secretly reporting to Fury. In episode 17 we learn that Agent Garrett, who is Ward’s S.O. and Coulson’s long time friend is actually HYDRA. Then in episode 18, we learn that Ward is too. It’s all downhill from there. The team makes it to a safe house in the middle of nowhere where Agent Koenig (Patton Oswalt) greets them. While the rest of the team is out, Ward kills Koenig and takes Skye, thinking she is going with him willingly because she likes him. Really, Skye has figured out he is HYDRA and is setting him up. Garrett needs her to hack into SHIELD files so Ward plans to bring her to him. Coulson learns that he was in charge of the original TAHITI team and told Fury to shut it down because it wasn’t safe to put the GH325 in people’s blood. We learn about Grant’s totally messed up childhood, and how he was in juvie when Garrett came to him. Garrett promised him a purposeful life, broke Grant out of jail, and basically indoctrinated him into HYDRA. Ward is told to kill Fitz-Simmons, so he leads the two of them into an airtight pod and ejects the pod into the ocean. They, of course, find a way to get out of the pod, but Fitz suffers pretty severe oxygen loss during their escape, which is only made possible by Nick Fury. Fury tells Coulson that he is done and out of the picture, then tells Coulson that it us up to him to rebuild SHIELD.

My Reaction: Holy moly. Well. I was into SHIELD during the first part of the season already, but these final episodes got me completely hooked. I definitely saw Garrett being a traitor, but watching Ward turn on his teammates was actually heartbreaking. The only thing I wrote down while watching episode 18 was “WTF WARD?!?!?” It was so hard watching him send Fitz-Simmons to a likely death, to see him kill innocent people, to know he betrayed his team. But his actions became more understandable (though entirely inexcusable) watching him be saved by Garrett and learning more about his family and upbringing. It’s hard because I so want Ward to be the good guy I thought he was. I still have hope for him (and if you’ve listened to the podcast at all, you know I love a redemption story…looking at you, Theon). It was really interesting to watch these episodes back to back with CAWS because it was almost like another side to the movie. It was really cool to see the SHIELD point of view as the agency collapsed and everything went down in flames.The movie and these episodes in conjunction with one another really clarified a lot of details for me.

My Rating: 9 out of 10, I didn’t want to stop watching!

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Basics: Released just a few months after CAWS by Marvel Studios and Disney, Guardians start Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Dave Bautista, with the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. As of this posting, Guardians of the Galaxy is available to rent on Amazon for $3.99.

Important Plot Points: The movie opens with young Peter Quill on Earth saying goodbye to his mother, who dies of cancer. Quill is then abducted by aliens. We then jump 26 years in the future to a planet called Morag. Peter, aka Star Lord, steals a mysterious orb. He is supposed to deliver said orb to his mentor Yondu, but he decides instead to sell it and keep the profits for himself. On a Kree warship, Ronan is told that Peter has the orb; Ronan wants the orb so he can give it to Thanos in exchange for Thanos destroying the planet Xandar. Nebula volunteers to go get the orb, but her sister Gamora (both adopted daughters of Thanos) is sent instead. Peter goes to a broker on Xandar to sell the orb, but as soon as he questions the broker about why Ronan would want it, the broker backs out of the deal, saying he wants nothing to do with Ronan. Peter is kicked out of the shop and immediately jumped by Gamora. Rocket the Raccoon and Groot see that there is a bounty on Peter so they join the fight, trying to capture him. All four are arrested and sent to prison, where everyone wants to kill Gamora because of her ties to Thanos and Ronan. She insists that she was planning on betraying Ronan and Peter believes her. The foursome decide to work together to break out of prison and sell the orb to Gamora’s buyer, splitting the profits four ways. They are joined by Drax, a huge dude with a vendetta against Ronan, who killed his wife and child. Rocket gets them out of the prison with the orb, and they fly off to Knowhere. On Knowhere, Peter and Gamora go to meet with the buyer, Tivan the Collector, while the other three get drunk, gamble, and fight. The Collector reveals that the orb holds an Infinity Stone, which has the power to destroy planets. His assistant touches the stone, blowing up everything around her. Ronan arrives with his crew because Drax called him there so he could get his revenge. Yondu also shows up to collect Peter. During the battle, Drax is left for dead, Gamora floats off into space until Peter saves her, and Nebula gets the orb. Yondu pulls Gamora and Peter onto his ship, saving them both. Ronan informs Thanos he now has the stone and doesn’t need Thanos to destroy Xandar. Working with Yondu and his crew, Peter and the Guardians come up with a plan to defeat Ronan. After an epic battle, the Guardians are left on Ronan’s ship, which is hurtling to the ground. Groot wraps everyone in his tree branches, making a cocoon that allows them all to survive the fall, though it “kills” Groot. Once they recover from the crash, they realize Ronan is still alive. Rocket releases the stone, which was embedded in Ronan’s hammer, and Peter grabs it. It starts to affect him the same way it did Tivan’s assistant, but Gamora takes his hand, and Rocket and Drax also join in the chain, absorbing the power so it doesn’t kill Peter, and instead it kills Ronan. Yondu demands Peter hand over the stone, which he does. One of Yondu’s cronies remarks to Yondu that he is glad they never turned Peter over to his father like they were originally hired to do. Gamora is pissed Peter gave away the stone, but Peter tells her it was a fake. Instead, Peter delivers the stone to Nova Headquarters for safekeeping. Nova Prime tells Peter he is only half human, and that is father is something unknown, which is part of the reason he was able to hold the stone. Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Baby Groot head off in Peter’s ship for more adventures.

End Credits Scene: The first one is the best end credits scene of all time. We see little Baby Groot, just a twig planted in a pot, dancing to the Jackson 5. In the final credits scene, we see the Collector and his space dog among the wreckage of his collection, sitting with Howard the Duck.

My Reaction: I love this movie as much as everyone else loves this movie. I mean, what’s not to love? On top of all the action and adventure, it’s hilarious. The cast is badass, and these are some of the most entertaining characters I can think of. Clearly, it has the best soundtrack of any Marvel movie, and it has some of the best lines too. My favorite is when Gamora tells Peter she will not fall victim to his “pelvic sorcery”. Epic. The whole scene with the crew on the Milano formulating their plan is just comedic genius. I’ll never get sick of this movie. This is one I can, and will, watch over and over.

My Rating: 9.5 out of 10, pretty damn close to perfection.

Aaaaand my brain hurts. Good God that is a lot of stuff. I’m rapidly approaching the halfway point of my checklist, and I am really loving the journey so far. Stay tuned for the next leg!

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