The Snake-Captain Connection: Profound Similarities Between Metal Gear and The Winter Soldier

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Spoilers to both The Metal Gear Series and The Winter Soldier Movie.

This should probably be my last Winter Soldier-related article but what can I say? When a movie is good, it’s going to stick with you.

But while watching the film, it could be helped to notice several things sticking out as…familiar.

What do you mean Taylor? This story was completely original! You can LEAVE AMERICA if you don’t like it!

No, no…it’s not that I didn’t like it, this latest Marvel movie is the best in the series by far. But I have suspicions that another super soldier has already been through a similar predicament.

Now, in this day and age, I can accept that nothing is really original. Every story you’ve ever read, watched, played through or listened to (…Audio tape anyone?) has already been done in some way or another which, of course, includes Metal Gear itself. Heck, every interesting modern day science fiction story we like probably originally came from The Twilight Zone.

Which is genius by the way, you should check it out on Netflix.

But the point here is to see specifically how Captain America and the Metal Gear franchise tie together. Let’s look at the following.

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In The Winter Solider, Captain America, a super soldier specifically engineered to combat all the world’s (or just the military’s) evil becomes involved in a plot where it becomes increasingly difficult to tell what he’s actually fighting for. His own director and something of a friend, Nick Fury, is shown to be a liar throughout the movie and his superiors are even worse.

As the movie goes on, you find out that the evil Nazi organization HYDRA had been growing inside of SHIELD (The good guys) since WWII so as to take over the world when it was ready. Why? To rule humanity, which has been declared unsafe to run itself. HYDRA is going to do it all supposedly for the people’s own safety.

Captain America and Black Widow are the run from their former allies and meet up with the Falcon, a less formidable but still capable and trustworthy ally who helps do what he can to bring down a faceless enemy to restore order and liberty to the world.

Yeah, I saw the movie. How is this anything like ANYTHING seen in Metal Gear? You Idiot. Psh.

Well if you’re familiar with the Metal Gear Story, you can probably already seen similarities. The story Winter Soldier seemed to take from the most was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

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In Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake, a super soldier specifically engineered to combat all the world’s (or just the military’s) evil becomes involved in a plot where it becomes increasingly difficult to tell what he’s actually fighting for. His own director and something of a friend, Colonel Campbell, is shown to be a liar throughout the movie and his superiors are even worse.

As the games go on, you find out that the secretive organization The Patriots had been growing inside of the government (The good guys) since WWII so as to take over the world when it was ready. Why? To rule humanity, which has been declared unsafe to run itself. The Patriots are going to do it all supposedly for the people’s own safety.

Solid Snake and Otacon are the run from their former allies by Metal Gear Solid 2 and meet up with the Raiden, a less formidable but still capable and trustworthy ally who helps do what he can to bring down a faceless enemy to restore order and liberty to the world.

But Big Boss? Big Boss don't care.

But Big Boss? Big Boss don’t care.

Mixing and matching, just about everything that’s in The Winter Soldier has already been seen in at least one of the Metal Gear games.

Metal Gear Solid, it’s sequel and then the prequel all heavily deal with a soldier/spy that’s the absolute best at what they do. Solid Snake, the face of the series, is genetically modified like Cap himself while we play as Raiden and Naked Snake in the sequels respectively.

But each of the games has the protagonists on a top secret mission that becomes so twisted and convoluted that it eventually is found out the character’s original mission was a complete lie; that his superiors have had more devious intentions all along. Their disillusionment always leads to their departure from what they’ve known all their life as it’s hit them hard that nothing in this world is as black and white as they’d always seen it.

"Do you know who you serve?" is a question both Metal Gear and Captain America are asking.

“Do you know who you serve?” is a question both Metal Gear and Captain America are asking.

This is highly similar to Captain America in the film, whose frustration grows with the shades of grey he’s forced to deal with throughout the film. His superiors always pretend to have the best intentions in mind while in reality, their mission from the start was to gather intelligence and/or gain the upper hand from their enemy; while Cap/Snake believe the mission is to simply “Save the hostage/Stop the bad guy!”

In The Winter Soldier, even the scene where Captain America is sent to save the hostages on the ship is reminiscent of the opening level of Metal Gear Solid 2. After all the work the two agents put into their mission, they disappointedly find out that they had been set up all along. In this instance though, Captain America finds out that the higher ups lied to him about why he was there while Snake has been out of the spy game. In this portion of the game, he is framed for sinking the tanker itself. Raiden, the second protagonist of the game, finds out from hostages later on that his mission isn’t what he was told it was.

Also, it's the first time we were exposed to his womanly curves.

Also, it’s the first time we were exposed to his womanly curves.

Of course, after any hostages with special knowledge hesitantly tell what they know, they’re killed, but that’s neither here nor there.

See how this stuff ties together?

In the film, it’s still people ultimately that are taking over humanity while in Metal Gear, it’s found out that originally the secret overlords were people but they eventually put their ideals into a massive computer program. Disease, war, and anything else horrible you can think of are set into place by this A.I. so as to keep the world spinning soundly. The world is actually being run by a computer so it’s no wonder terrible things happen to so many people with no thought of any repercussion past seeing humanity continue.

Both universes touch on the real life dilemma of that higher ups making the world so safe that it becomes a giant prison where nobody knows they’re a prisoner.

And while those are the major points, check out some smaller details below.

The Winter Soldier/Grey Fox

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Both Metal Gear Solid and the newest Captain America movie feature ghosts of the protagonists pasts come back to haunt them. For Captain America, he comes to face to face with a man the he doesn’t recognize until his mask is removed- his former friend on the battlefield he’d thought was dead. Nope, he’s just been secretly kept alive after extensive brainwashing and given a mechanical arm.

Solid Snake’s version? Grey Fox, of course, who was also one of Snake’s comrades Snake thought was dead. He shows up as a neutral agent that kills Snakes enemies but also fights Snake with creepy masochistic glee. Snake doesn’t recognize him until later on in the game either. Ultimately, both Grey Fox and the Winter Soldier turn into allies again.

Helicarriers/Arsenal Gear

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In The Winter Soldier, the SHIELD base (now being run entirely by HYDRA) releases what you previously thought was the baddest vehicle on the planet, the helicarrier, from it’s massive underwater base. From this base, HYDRA could run the planet.

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In Metal Gear Solid 2, Arsenal Gear (recently revealed and being run entirely by The Patriots) has multiple Metal Gear RAYS, the weapon you previously thought to be the baddest weapon on the planet, and Arsenal Gear is an underwater base. From this underwater base, The Patriots could run the planet.

Falcon/ Raiden

Both The Winter Soldier and Metal Gear Solid 2 feature a character that’s capable enough in their own right but nowhere near the level of the protagonist, Captain America and Snake. At some point they are needed though and both Falcon and Raiden see the disillusioned heroes at their lowest.

Knife Fights/Fight Music

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This is a bit on the smaller side of things but I found the fight between Cap and Winter Soldier to be similar to Raiden and Vamp in Metal Gear Solid 4, with the constant back and forth flicking of knives, albeit on a slightly more practical scale with Cap with a similar score at times.

Here’s a clip from MGS4 if you’re not familiar. Listen to the music around 00:16 from a game released in June 2008.

Now listen to this track off The Winter Soldier score-

I’m not claiming they’re carbon copies, so much as they are very similar in their distinct industrial beats.

There’s also this dude, just throwing it out there, there is a dude with a portable mini-gun in both Winter Soldier and Metal Gear Solid as well as the fact that Captain America eventually becomes the frigging’ president in the Ultimate universe continuity while a clone of Snake became president in Metal Gear Solid for the fact that Snake is something akin to the ideal American as well.

Since The Winter Soldier just came out and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is due to be released in the next year or so, this seemed topical. There couldn’t be anymore similarities, could there?

Oh, wait…

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The Winter Soldier

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Not unless waking up in a hospital with a prosthetic left arm counts as seen through a first person POV.

I know we didn’t get them all. Post the similarities you found below.

Check out the Winter Soldier review and spoilerific podcast here.

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13 Responses to “The Snake-Captain Connection: Profound Similarities Between Metal Gear and The Winter Soldier”

  1. Caca12 Says:

    The Zola AI manipulating world events immediately brought to mind the patriots AI creating the war economy in MGS 4.

    • Taylor Says:

      Yes, thanks. It occurred to me while watching the movie but I couldn’t retain it all. Good catch.

  2. ***Mild Spoilers***

    You forgot to mention that the climactic battle of the film was strikingly similar to the climactic battle of Metal Gear Solid 4, even down to the task that both Snake and Cap have to perform regarding the enemy’s technology. There is even a subsequent scene in a cemetery afterward. Hell, even the beginning when Cap jumped out of the plane felt like the opening to MGS3.

    The major beats and set-pieces are so similar and in-line with the MGS series that I’m tempted to think that The Winter Soldier’s script started out as a big screen adaptation of MGS before the writers reworked it to fit Captain America.

    Having said that, I thought the movie was very good, and probably my favorite Marvel yet.

    • Taylor Says:

      Yeah, I would say the same as far as Marvel movies go. It had enough going for it as a movie I couldn’t dislike it based on the likeness. It’d be interesting to know where they got the ideas for the script though I think. Possibly a Grant Morrison/Matrix scenario…?

  3. I really enjoyed the movie and think it might be the best Marvel movie yet. The instant I saw Zola I thought MGS4 and the Patriots. The movie kept reminding me of MGS4 and the final battle between Captain America and the Winter Soldier was so similar to MGS4 that I think there can’t be a coincidence.

    This is a really good write-up that includes stuff I didn’t catch while I was watching the movie

    • Taylor Says:

      Yeah, I keep thinking of more things the more I think about it and the comments above pointed out things I’d forgotten. The list goes on!

  4. I seriously expected for the Captain to die and to have some yell “Captain? Captain!?! CAAAAPTAIIIIIIIIN!!!!”

  5. Gabriel Says:

    I see that some people are making these paralels and I’m just not getting it. I love MGS, I play them all and I know all the minor details, but I think all of these paralels quoted are too vague, are all tropes. The “military doesnt know what he is fighting” is old as all hell, so is the “former ally now brainwashed villain” and the “colonel is lying”. Those are all tropes in military fiction that are really well done both in The Winter Soldier and in Sons of Liberty in a way they feel really fresh and new. In SoL its because the whole history is batsh** crazy plotwise and tonally and in Winter Soldier because it is shocking considering the Marvel cinematic universe.

    • fatalfuryguy Says:

      Doesn’t explain the similarities with the music he has in the article, some of the settings for fight scenes and even falcon jumping into the helicopter toward the end is reminiscent of raiden doing the exact same thing in his game mgs rising revengance.
      Not that it was a bad movie, but it’s obvious where they stole their ideas from. Thor 2 did the same with stealing from multiple movies for their story only the directing didn’t do as good a job as cap 2.

  6. Windsor Says:

    His primary ally’s a short red-headed girl with a great butt. That’s all MGS1.

  7. Bigjakemorris@gmail.com Says:

    I just googled this because the boat scene in the winter soldier. Halo jump and all reminded me of mgs2. Couldn’t help but comnect the two.

  8. @gabriel: as far as those motives do exist as stand alone cliches/ traditional plot elements, their specific combination and numbers make it something else and we can realy talk of the same *type* of story (as folkloristic terms predict). But the frame is bigger and … more compilicated. for exampel: the foundation of shild an fox are nearly identical. Paramedic plays a similar role as agent Carter (not the romantic level though). But the key characters throughout the franchises/series/movies aren’t allways the same. while Cap equals Naked Snake, his later self nomad is more close to Solid Snake who is only by his genes Big Boss, but a personality on his own. The role of Major Zero may change from Chester Phillips to Fury. In a wider view, it is interesting, that in both storys all the important people are conected with each other, as far as bloodrelatives who are their own prota- and antagonists. there for, it could be an ancient greek drama, that a “familiy affair” and argument between friends becomes the fate of the world =) that said, i do not wan’t to answer the question of the intention of all the authors who have worked on all the different installements and there may be a self driven effect in contemporary pop-culture, that it generates self- and cross-references throughout the reinvention of what taylor called: “Now, in this day and age, I can accept that nothing is really original. Every story you’ve ever read, watched, played through or listened to (…Audio tape anyone?) has already been done in some way or another …” – that i do emphasize as a scientist of this field.

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