Old Friends Make New Foes: An Analysis of Violence in a Scene from Captain America

*************** 2014 SPRING MOVIE SNEAKS FOR JANUARY 12, 2014. DO NOT USE PRIOR TO PUBLICATION.****** From the movie “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)
Ph: Zade Rosenthal
© 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Written by: Jenna Moloney

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, released in 2014, was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. It stars Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. The film was only made for entertainment, meant to make money off of any superhero-lovers. The movie is set in a contemporary America, where there is a deceiving company with evil intentions rising to power. The Winter Soldier, or the villain, is on the lookout for Captain America and is trying to stop him. In the “highway fight scene,” political interpersonal violence occurs. Captain America and the Winter Soldier are fighting in a well choreographed way that keeps the audience engaged. But the end of this scene reveals what complicates the remainder of the movie. While fighting, the Winter Soldier’s mask falls off and it is revealed that he is Captain’s old best friend. Immediately, the situation switches from political to personal, and the fight ends. The Winter Soldier is portrayed as a forgetful, heartless fighter, while Captain America is shown as a kind friend as he refuses to fight. This scene is an example of happy violence because nobody is killed, each move is choreographed, and it has no real connection to the overall plot of the movie until the actual fighting is over.

Superhero movies do a very good job at defining who is “bad” and who is “good.” In this film and especially during the highway fight scene, this remains true. The hero, Captain America, is clearly fighting the villain, the Winter Soldier. The audience is cheering the Captain on because it is made clear that he is trying to save the world, and the Soldier is trying to destroy it. The violence is heroic and portrays Captain America and Black Widow as strong and cool. Within the entire duration of the scene, there is no blood shown. (Black Widow is shot in the shoulder, but it is not shown until later on.) All people in the scene are attractive, and have little to no dirt on them despite the wreckage surrounding them. Because the audience has deemed Captain America’s use of violence as justified, death of the enemy is the desired outcome. However, nobody is killed in this scene and very little physical suffering is shown.

Well choreographed scenes of violence are sometimes called “aesthetic violence,” but this scene differs from those because it leads the audience to believe it wasn’t choreographed. For example, the samurai fight scene in Kill Bill is almost comical because of how obviously choreographed it was. The highway fight scene from Captain America has the ability to make an audience believe it really happened. After close examination, it is easy to point out the sections that make this fight scene visually appealing. The signature red white and blue shield being thrown around and even slicing through cars is always a key factor in the visual appeal of fight scenes in movies with Captain America as a major character. In this particular scene, the Captain does some jumps from what appears to be karate. He jumps in the air, spins around, and ends up kicking the Soldier up against a car. An element like this makes the scene more interesting than if the Captain were to simply push the enemy back against the car. Also, the knife section really stands out in the audiences’ minds. Instead of the enemy trying to stab the Captain and missing him, he actually stabs a car and drags a line all the way through it. Again, this is an element that makes a fight scene more exciting than simple punches and blows that miss the target on the first try. Here, the audience feels the adrenaline of the fight and follows the close calls as if they are fighting, themselves.

The violence in this scene does not enhance or contribute to the holistic plot of the film in any way. When the fight is over, it is revealed who the enemy is and the game changes for the duration of the movie. But the actual fight could be edited out and no changes would need to be made to the storyline. The violence is not realistic at all as it shows very little suffering, and makes each move look heroic and cool. This fight has no consequences that the heroes can’t use more violence to escape from, and there won’t be any psychological suffering shown. The only purpose of this scene, aside from entertainment, is to give the audience an adrenaline high before a big reveal.

If a person sits down to watch a superhero movie, violence must be an element they expect to see. The purpose of these films is to entertain – to provide a “good” side and a “bad” side that battle until eventually the superhero emerges victorious. The expectations are fulfilled. Some of the long term effects of not only Captain America but all superhero movies include arousal and desensitization. Most people are aroused by a rush of adrenaline when there is a scare that the protagonist might get hurt. Others just become excited when exposed to fights or violence in general. Because there is so much violence meant for entertainment that does not show real suffering, viewers may become desensitized to it. This means that if they were to see a similar fight on the street, they would not care because they don’t realize the real consequences that could result. Small children might be more apt to punch or kick someone after viewing this scene, because they do not see any suffering or punishments as a result of violence in the movie. One of the larger themes of the film is fighting to solve problems, so even though this particular scene doesn’t contribute to the overall plot, it does add to this theme. In conclusion, Captain America communicates to its audience that violence is a good way to solve problems and gain a reputation. If a person is on the “good side” of a fight, any violence they use toward the enemy is justified, no matter how cruel. Fighting is a good way to gain a status and establish power. If you’re a superhero, there are no consequences.

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