SPOILERS ahead for Marvel’s “Captain America – The Winter Soldier“.
With the release of “Captain America – The Winter Soldier“, Marvel has made some changes to its universe. As I have stated in my review, the movie is pretty good, but still has major problems. The main issue is the titular Winter Soldier. With this post, I will explain, why his characterisation is flawed and why he is a missed opportunity for a great villain, like the Joker.
In the course of the movie, we learn that the mysterious Winter Soldier, a legendary mercenary who has never been officially confirmed, is none other than Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers’ presumed dead ally and best friend from WWII. You already see a lot of potential here: Both characters are from the same area (NY), the same time (1940) and due to experiments, equal strength and abilities. They could be two sides of the same coin.
But, as it turned out, Barnes wasn’t a complex anti-hero/ antagonist but rather a puppet for the true villain. He is a brainwashed soldier with amnesia, which is the copout solution for the studio to make him a possible hero in future installments. And also it’s the worst possible character trade for him.
There would have been much more potential to make the Winter Soldier a compelling antagonist: By simply having him have chosen the kind of live he leads. After his apparent death in the first Captain America movie he could have been found by Russians and resurrected and improved. He could have started out as a special weapon for the Russians, acting out certain assignments against the US, and then later could have gone his own way. That even wouldn’t even be out of character, as it has turned out that SHIELD (and half the government) of the US had been infiltrated by HYDRA! So the Russian espionage agency could have found out about that, and Barnes would have decided to destroy HYDRA by assassinating certain political figures.
During the events of “The Winter Soldier” he would have crossed paths with his old buddy Steve Rogers, but upon seeing him working for SHIELD, he assumed that Captain America was also working for HYDRA (which he kinda unknowingly did for a while, if you think about it). Their final confrontation ould have been a rather ideological one (as they used different means to achieve their goals). This battle would be about trust and friendship, and working out their differences.
Instead we got a copout villain. Does this make it a bad movie? No, but it sure denies it any chance to be a great movie.