The Falcon and the Winter Solider is one of, if not the best entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There, I said it. Many fans, as I have, have until now held 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier as the standard bearer for the franchise. That film in particular captured not only the marvel of the comics on which it was based. It progressed the characters of Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and Bucky Barnes in surprisingly poignant fashion. Now fast forward seven years. Just as Steve handed off the shield to Sam, so too does the film hand off the mantle of best MCU storytelling to TFATWS.
There’s one reason I found this series so compelling, first and foremost. By and large, it’s grounded in reality more so that any other entry of the MCU. Sure there are super-soldiers and not-yet-available in real life jet packs and mechanical arms. But beyond that, there are no wizards. No other realms. Nary an alien to be seen. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is, at its core, a story about people. Can a live-action comic story make you empathize, sympathize, and even truly care about its characters? This series proves the answer to that question is an unequivocal, resounding yes.
The Falcon and Winter Soldier – Best of the MCU
Tackling such social and political issues as racial disparity, inequality, and government overreach so heavily was a huge gamble for Disney and Marvel Studios. After viewing the series finale, there’s no question that this gamble was one worth taking, and one that more than paid off. Bucky and Walker’s post-traumatic stress just felt real. Their acting in The Falcon and the Winter Solider is a testament to the talent of both Sebastian Stan and Wyatt Russell. Likewise for Anthony Mackie. The internal struggle with which Sam wrestles over race, patriotism, and loyalty would be enough to break even the strongest of wills.
We cannot discount the performances of Erin Kellyman and Emily VanCamp, either. Each carried the burden of portraying a woman broken by the system meant to support them. Each did so to perfection. When The Falcon and The Winter Soldier came to an end, you couldn’t help but feel each character’s burden, pain, sorrow or relief. If Disney+ needed a successful follow-up to Wandavision, it couldn’t have asked for anything better.
TFATWS: an emotional master class
Fans certainly felt loss from the snap in Infinity War. Likewise with Tony Stark’s death and other tragedies in Endgame; we won’t deny them that. But whatever emotional gut punch those events caused pales in comparison to what the characters, and we as fans, experienced with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I can’t say any Marvel, or any other superhero feature, for that matter, has invoked the breadth of emotion as this series did for me. People don’t generally look to comic book productions for cinematic depth or integrity. With TFATWS, now perhaps they can.