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[Debate] – Captain America: The First Avenger Vs Wonder Woman

 

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Posted June 11, 2017 by

 
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This shouldn’t have been inevitable, but it is. Wonder Woman has just been released, and we spent the majority of the film involuntarily comparing it to Captain America: The First Avenger. This was not the intent – we don’t usually size up DC films against Marvel; that would seem like a redundant exercise. However, with Wonder Woman, we have ourselves a splendid film, rife with flaws, but breath-taking in its own way. This character has been itching to make it to the big screen for so many years, she deserves plenty of plaudits.

But, given that the majority of this origin story is set during the First World War, elements of the film harked back to CA: TFA, giving it a familiar yet unique feeling. So, what is it that they have in common? What worked and what didn’t? Some of the comparisons are simple and there’s no need to go into lengthy discussions on them, but others may be subtle and we have our own views on them. Notably, the comparisons are based solely on the two films, and don’t look into the comic book subtext – we would be here all century if we dug into those. Needless to say, spoilers for both films abound.

     

War

Captain America

The story of Captain America is intrinsically tied with World War II. The German Nazis are clearly the bad guys, and Cap punching out Hitler is an iconic piece of comic book history. The film has him punch out Hitler, but only in propaganda promos – he has other battles to fight.

Given the war-torn era of the film, the visuals capture the bleakness of the period in history, while staying away from the gritty realism of it.

Wonder Woman

The film-makers decided to transport Diana’s story to the First World War – apparently in an effort to cement the idea of her immortality. But the feel of the war is very similar – Diana is also fighting the Germans and their enhanced tech.

In Wonder Woman however, director Jenkins places us smack-dab in the middle of all the suffering. There is plenty of gory, disturbing imagery of soldiers and civilians dead, dying or maimed. As superhero films go, this isn’t quite as sanitised or easy to watch.

Flashbacks

Captain America

The film begins and ends in contemporary times with the discovery and awakening of Steve Rogers. The bulk of the tale is told in flashback.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman similarly begins in modern times with a photo leading Diana to reminisce about her past. At the end of the film, we return to the photo and understand it’s significance.

Innocence

Captain America

Steve’s poor health means he’s a bit child-like when it comes to the world. He’s been molly-coddled all his life, and has had next to no meaningful relationships of the romantic kind.

Wonder Woman

Diana lives with the Amazons on Themyscira, an island hidden from all mankind. She is the sole child on the island, and given her secret history, her mother, Queen Hippolyta, spends all her time shielding her from her destiny as a demigoddess. These women are the only people Diana knows.

Moral Compass

Captain America

Steve’s desperation to join the war effort is evident from his endless attempts to join the army and continued failures to do so due to his numerous ailments. He believes he must fight because soldiers are dying and he should be helping save them.

Wonder Woman

Diana strongly believes that Ares, God of War, has caused turmoil in the world and, with her trusty ‘God Killer’ sword by her side, only she can stop him. Despite her mother’s pleas, Diana feels she must join the war because she cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost.

Mentor

Captain America

The only person Steve Rogers has ever really known well is Bucky. He has shielded him, saved him from fights, and is the quintessential hero of their times.

Wonder Woman

Diana is closest to her aunt, the island’s greatest warrior, General Antiope. Antiope would secretly train Diana for war when she was young, and eventually convinced her mother to let Diana become the warrior she was destined to be.

Love Interest

Captain America

Captain America’s closest ally, aside from Bucky, is Peggy Carter, a high-ranking intelligence officer who believes in Steve, even when he’s skinny, and aids him in battles.

Peggy’s arc is tied with Steve’s – they’re part of the same team, hence they fight the same battles.

What was unique about Peggy and Steve’s relationship in the film was the fact that Peggy was a great inspiration for him. She egged him on to be the best version of himself and aided him to make the right (albeit illegal) decision to rescue the 107th.

More importantly, Peggy was by his side as he mourned Bucky’s death – this was an important role reversal back in 2011, as she was allowed to be the emotional support that allowed him to respect the fact that Bucky died fighting a fight that he believed in; and fighting for someone he believed in.

Despite working together for a little more than two years, and sharing plenty of chemistry, the two characters aren’t able to explore the romantic side of their relationship (barring the rushed kiss during the climactic confrontation). All of which makes sense in the context of the film and the war.

Given Peggy’s popularity in the film, she was given her own short-lived TV show, which, despite fan support, was cancelled after just two seasons.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman essentially joins Steve Trevor’s team. Steve is a spy with British Intelligence and is rescued by Diana when his plane is attacked. He brings news of the war to her, giving her impetus to leave her home and fight. Steve is very much the brains to Diana’s brawn and he is a far more fleshed-out character than Peggy Carter.

Steve leads the mission, while Diana follows – he makes the plans, but she executes them with her strength.

Even during the final boss-fight, Diana is preoccupied with killing Ares, but Steve still has the mission of stopping the planes carrying the killer gas. He has his own storyline and arc running parallel to Diana’s – something Peggy didn’t get.

Diana doesn’t lean on Steve for emotional support – despite spending every given moment by her side, Steve doesn’t have the time to understand Diana’s mission; he doesn’t try and believe her either. The film’s script writes them as unlikely partners and doomed lovers, making the majority of their interactions about her naivete about men and relationships, and his about impressing her. Most of it plays out as cute and funny, but contrived as well.

Their relationship reminds one of Miranda and Ferdinand’s in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and more than once it seems like the writer may be paying homage to Prospero’s (pretend) concern about Ferdinand:

Thou think’st there is no more such shapes as he,
Having seen but him and Caliban: foolish wench!
To the most of men this is a Caliban
And they to him are angels.

Steve is not a ‘Caliban’, but he could have done with more of his Marvel counterpart’s respect for capable women. Their romance feels rushed, because in the comics they were together for a long time – but in the DCEU timeline, he’s already been dead a while.

Unlike Peggy, who is an inspiration for Captain America, Diana is not inspired by Steve. She has a greater mission, that is tied to his smaller mission, and she really only needs his help to navigate the unfamiliar territory.

Rag-Tag Team Of Heroes

Captain America

Once Captain America has rescued Bucky and the 107th infantry, he employs a rag tag group of individuals from among them to fight in a special team against Red Skull’s forces.

The Howling Commandos are a diverse bunch – including a Japanese-origin character from Fresno, a British gentleman and an African-American. They are integral to Steve’s successes in the war.

Wonder Woman

Steve Trevor and Diana fail to convince a war council to fight against Luddendorf and Dr. Poison. They plan to go up against the bad guys anyway, with the help of three war-worn individuals that Steve has known for a while.

Steve’s war buddies also lend to the diversity of the film – they include Middle Eastern Samir, Native American The Chief and Scottish Charlie.

Hero’s Sacrifice

Captain America

The film ends with Captain America defeating Red Skull in a fight on his super-plane. The plane is on a course to destroy New York and Captain America decides to crash the plane into the ocean so as to save the people and win the war. He is on comms to Peggy as he flies the plane to his certain death. She is powerless to stop him or save him, and in a way, she makes her own hero sacrifice by letting go of someone she loves, has respected and fought side by side with.

Wonder Woman

In Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor takes a plane filled with Dr. Poison’s killer gas weapons and blows it up, willingly sacrificing himself in the process. Diana, pinned down by Ares, sees Steve’s plane blow up and uses his death as fuel to strengthen her conviction that mankind has more love in them than hate. This conviction gives her the power to defeat Ares. But, like Peggy, she is powerless to stop or save Steve. Steve never asks Diana if this is what she wants or if there is another way (unlike Rogers, who pleads with Peggy to respect his choice the way she had asked him to respect Bucky’s).

Diana’s hero journey includes her sacrifice of Steve – someone she loves, respects and has fought next to – but it’s one that was never placed in her hands.

While these two films aren’t quite comparable, they definitely have some similarities. Did you spot anything we missed out? Let us know in the comments.

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Written by:

Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
@EnsignLestat58
Freelance Contributor

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Louis Skye
@LouisSkye77
bloggingatwarp10.blogspot.com
Freelance Contributor

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