Is Red Guardian a super soldier?
AlexeiRed Guardian. Alexei is known most famously as Red Room's answer to Captain America. He's a Super-Soldier spy who has lived a lifetime of triumph during the Cold War. marvel.comRed Guardian (Alexei) | Characters
Is Black Widow a super soldier?
Her fighting skills are augmented by a variant of the Super-Soldier serum, which she was given as part of the Black Widow program. Although this treatment doesn't give her superhuman strength like Captain America, Natasha operates at peak human condition. marvel.comBlack Widow (Natasha Romanova) In Comics Powers, Villains, History
One of the highlights of the Black Widow movie is David Harbour’s Red Guardian, a.k.a. Alexei Shostakov, the former deep-cover Russian spy who was also at one point that country’s answer to Captain America. While the main arc of his character is based around his relationship with his adopted family of fellow former and/or current Russian agents Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a running joke in the film involves Alexei recalling his glory days, and particularly his self-proclaimed rivalry with Captain America.
But the thing is, Alexei is probably making it all up… Or is he? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
The first time we hear about these alleged adventures is when we meet up with the former Red Guardian, who has been imprisoned in the Russian Gulag for years. He’s arm-wrestling fellow inmates one at a time, and beguiling them with stories of fighting Cap. “There he is -- Captain America,” he says. “Finally, the Red Guardian’s time has come! I grab hold of his shield. Face to face, it’s a test of strength!”
Sounds exciting! And yet, when one of the inmates asks Alexei what year this confrontation took place, he replies, “I don’t know. 1984.” Which, as he is then reminded, would mean Captain America was still on ice at the time, frozen in suspended animation. So how could they have fought each other?
As we all learned in history class, Steve Rogers was born in 1918 in good old Brooklyn, USA. After years of dreaming of joining the army so he could fight in World War II, he underwent Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier experiment as part of Project Rebirth and adopted the Captain America mantle. Rogers became a hero and ultimately went into the ice in 1945 while preventing a bombing attack on the United States initiated by the Red Skull. That’s when Cap entered suspended animation and remained frozen for approximately 66 years before being discovered and thawed by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in 2011 or 2012.
So that would mean that Red Guardian’s story about fighting Cap in 1984 doesn’t make a ton of sense, right? But maybe Alexei just got the dates wrong and actually he was talking about something that happened back in the ’40s…? Well, putting aside the fact that the prologue of Black Widow pretty much establishes that Alexei was a younger man in the 1990s than he is in the more or less modern time period that most of the film is set during 2016 -- which would seem to indicate that he ages normally like the rest of us -- there’s also the fact that the U.S. and Russia were allies during World War II. So why would they be fighting? Also, the Guardian mentions “having the nuclear codes” during his fight with Cap, which again, doesn’t line up with a 1940s match-up.
It is possible, of course, that Red Guardian actually fought a different version of Cap, as we now know that the U.S. government continued to experiment on its own soldiers, including many African-American men, at least into the 1950s. These experiments resulted in Isaiah Bradley, who we met in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, becoming a super soldier in his own right. Marvel has left it unclear at this point whether or not Bradley actually donned a Captain American uniform as he did in the comics, but it’s not out of the question that he or some other American soldier did in 1984.
But then again, at one point in Black Widow Alexei asks Natasha if Cap ever talked about him to her. He even says that he feels like they’re more “contemporaries” than enemies -- so, you know, guys from the same era. And since Steve Rogers’ identity is publicly known, presumably Alexei would be aware that his “contemporary” is like 100 years old. Doesn’t really add up…
Of course, what’s really going on with Red Guardian is that this is all a funny little throughline for David Harbour’s character, and it also contrasts the whole concept of the shiny, upstanding, perfect Captain America -- symbol of the good old U.S. of A. -- with the fallen relic of the past that was the Soviet Union, which of course Red Guardian symbolized.
Steve Rogers did travel through time in Avengers: Endgame when he was on a mission to return all the Infinity Stones to their rightful places in time/space. We have no idea what he did during that period or even how long he was gone for, so he actually could’ve fought Red Guardian in what would’ve been Alexei’s past but Steve’s present!
You know what? I really hope that’s the answer here, if only for Alexei’s sake.
For more on the film, check out our Black Widow post credits scene and ending explained, dig in on the history of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, or get an explanation of Taskmaster’s true identity in the film. You can also read our review of Black Widow here!
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11 July, 2021 - 12:15pm
One instance is the bedroom scene between Harbour's Alexei Shostakov character (also known as Red Guardian) and Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova that happens over an hour into the latest Marvel movie.
Shostakov was a father figure to both Belova and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) when they were kids and living in America with Shostakov and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) as Soviet spies. Reconnected decades later with Belova and Romanoff after they spring him from prison, Shostakov goes back into the fatherly role. But clearly, Belova has resentment toward Shostakov.
As Belova sits alone in Vostokoff's bedroom, Shostakov enters and tries to connect with her. Then she lets him have it. She tells him that though she idolized him as a child, she's now disgusted to learn that he only thought of her as a burden when they all acted like a real family back in America.
However, Shostakov finally gets through to her when he begins to sing the lyrics to the classic Don McLean song, "American Pie." It's the music Belova wants played when she, as a young child, and her family flee America at the start of the movie.
But Harbour told Insider that originally, the scene was different — and the movie didn't feature the McLean song at all.
"My character is fumbling trying to be a father and in the end he fails. She tells him to get out. In the script, he says something and leaves," Harbour recalled. "I felt, there's gotta be something a little more profound."
That's when Harbour came up with an idea.
"I said, 'Wouldn't it be interesting if back in America when [Belova] was little and was terrified having been taken from her family the Red Guardian would put her in the car and drive around and play 'American Pie'?" Harbour said. "So from then on she tells daddy to put in the tape."
Bringing it forward to the bedroom scene, Harbour felt that would be a better ending for the scene: Red Guardian finally connecting with Belova through that old song.
"He's a failure as a father, what can he do at the end of this scene? This narcissist who also has a big heart," Harbour said. "And so he brings up the song, basically as him saying, 'I tried.'"
The script was rewritten so "American Pie" would be what connects Belova and Shostakov, and ultimately, that bedroom scene is one of the most heartfelt moments of the movie.
"Black Widow" is currently in theaters and available on Disney+.
11 July, 2021 - 12:12pm
One of the new characters introduced from Natasha's past is Alexei Shostakov, also known as the Red Guardian. He has super strength and wears a red and white costume. He often acts as the comedic relief throughout Black Widow. While he means well towards those closest to him, the sentiment usually doesn't come out quite as he'd like it to. The Red Guardian is played by Stranger Things and Hellboy actor David Harbour.
In an interview with Collider, Harbour talked about Black Widow and his upcoming performance in Stranger Things season 4. When asked about the multi-picture deals that Marvel tends to have major actors sign, he explained how much they're currently working on. He said that there has been talk about him returning in the role of the Red Guardian in the future of the MCU, but nothing concrete has come up. There's likely more to the story, but see below to read Harbour's statement:
"There is some chatter around certain things. We were pretty focused on just this. They also have a lot of stuff in the pipe that, it seems like in this particular phase, there's a lot of different...there's Eternals, there's different elements to this universe that I think they're branching out at this point until they start to do this [converges hands]. I knew I wasn't involved in that branch. The discussions were, they didn't really give a sense of what was up next. It was more just really focused on this movie, and some speculation of possibilities."
Audiences are very likely to want to see more of Harbour as the Red Guardian. He does a wonderful job with the character and adds a lot of nuance to the role that could be capitalized on in future MCU projects. Even though Harbour says that there was only some speculation for his return, there's likely more to the story that he just isn't able to share quite yet. While a solo film would be particularly fun, it would be nice to see him included in the universe, in general. While Black Widow might signal the end of Johansson's time in the MCU, her film certainly introduced some new characters of interest who can now carry the torch.