Captain America: The Winter Soldier is often regarded as one of the best films in the MCU. The second solo Captain America film was a big departure from Captain America: The First Avenger and proved that these films could be more than just comic book movies.
The film benefitted from taking inspiration from Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed story arc in the comics. Using that suspenseful story as a base, The Winter Soldier managed to deliver a big scale adventure with a very personal story at its center. Of course, while the film owes a lot to Brubaker’s run, it also made a number of significant changes that resulted in a very different story. Here are some of the biggest changes the movie made and some of the things they kept the same.
10 Different: Black Widow
Without her own solo movie at the time, Black Widow was given a supporting role in this film. Though Steve Rogers was obviously the main character, this gave audiences the chance to learn a little bit more about Natasha and give the character a little more depth.
Black Widow is not featured in the comic book run and it is one of the ways in which the movie gets the upper hand. Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans have great chemistry together and she was the perfect person to go on this journey with him.
9 Same: Cap’s Allies
It is not just Black Widow who is there to help Cap along the way. The film also sees the return of Nick Fury and further explores Cap’s complicated relationship with him. The film also served as the introduction for characters like The Falcon and Sharon Carter.
The comic book version also included all of these characters as allies of Cap. Sharon Carter played the most prominent role, keeping an eye on Cap as she does in the movie, as well as joining him on the mission. Fury and Falcon, however, have much more substantial roles in the film compared to the comic.
8 Different: The Red Skull
Red Skull is likely Captain America’s most iconic villains, so it’s no surprise he is part of one of his biggest comic storylines. However, the way the story uses the character is certainly surprising. We see Red Skull keeping a low profile as he waits to take down Captain America only to be assassinated by The Winter Soldier early on in the story.
On the big screen, we first saw Red Skull as the main villain in Captain America: First Avenger but was missing in the MCU until his surprise cameo in Avengers: Infinity War. His lack of inclusion in The Winter Solider is probably a good idea as such a character would probably feel out of place in the more grounded story.
7 Same: Crossbones
Another infamous Captain America villain played a role in this comic book run. Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones is probably most known to comic book fans as the villain who killed Steve Roger during the Civil War storyline. Here, Crossbones is a side villain who Cap has to deal with throughout the story.
In the film, Rumlow is changed to be a corrupt S.H.I.E.L.D agent who is tasked with hunting Cap down when he goes rogue. While not seen in his comic book costume in this film, it serves as an origin story of sorts for him and he re-emerges as Crossbones in Captain America: Civil War.
6 Different: The Mastermind
One thing that makes Captain American: The Winter Soldier so great is the mystery aspect. The film is presented like a 70s-era conspiracy thriller and uses that to amazing effect. The comic book also keeps its readers in the dark about the bigger story. However, the two stories ultimately lead down different paths.
In the comics, The Winter Soldier is a pawn used by Aleksander Lukin, a Soviet general. It is later revealed Lukin himself is being manipulated by Red Skull. In the film, Alexander Pierce, the Secretary of Defense, is controlling the assassin in an attempt to restore Hydra to power. With Robert Redford playing Pierce, it made for a memorable MCU villain.
5 Same: Bucky’s Amnesia
Bucky Barnes was Steve Rogers’ sidekick during the war and was a generally forgotten character. The genius of Brubaker’s story is how he successfully reintroduces this character in an emotionally compelling way.
In both versions of the story, Bucky, thought to have been killed in action, is taken by the enemy and reprogrammed to be a remorseless killer. He is used to take out targets and then put back on ice until he’s needed again. But we see Bucky is trying to remember who he is and fighting against his reprogramming even as he is being forced to do terrible things.
4 Different: The Fall Of S.H.I.E.L.D
While Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic personal story about Steve and Bucky, it was also a movie that had a lasting impact on the MCU at large. Beneath Steve’s quest to save his friend is the revelation that Hydra, the organization Steve fought to end, has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.
This major twist actually had nothing to do with the comic book run. This helped to make the film that much more compelling as the mystery proves to be even large than many of us could have imagined. It remains a high-point in the MCU’s storytelling.
3 Same: Steve’s Conflict
As big as the Hydra twist is, the film succeeded most with how it dealt with the complicated central relationship. Steve and Bucky had already been established as the closest of friends. With Steve awoken into the present day, the world he knew is gone so the re-emergence of his old friend is that much more emotional.
The comic book doesn’t go as deep into Steve’s loneliness, but we do see the same struggle with how to handle what Bucky has become. He wrestles with whether or not he can kill his best friend if necessary. Ultimately, in both stories, Steve decides saving Bucky is more important.
2 Different: The Cosmic Cube
More than most of the other MCU movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is relatively grounded. Yes, brain-washed super soldiers from WWII are a bit farfetched, but things are kept relatively believable considering the genre. The comic book version, however, fully embraces the fantastic.
The Cosmic Cube plays a major role in the comic book run with The Winter Solider tasked with finding it and killing anyone who gets in his way. It is also used to play with Cap’s mind throughout the story. The cube, which is known as the Tesseract in the MCU, was just used in The Avengers, so it’s for the best they decided to leave it out of this story.
1 Same: Bucky’s Redemption
Bucky is one of the most tragic figures in the MCU. His heroics in the war were repaid with decades of torture and being forced to do unspeakable things. However, in both versions of the story, Bucky is able to find some redemption.
We have seen in this film, and especially Captain America: Civil War, that Bucky is filled with remorse for what he’s done. However, after being saved by Cap, each of the stories end with Bucky still damaged but beginning to remember his past life.