Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a pretty good Captain America movie. It’s not my favorite Captain America movie—as I’ve written before, I have a resolute fondness for The First Avenger—but, overall, it’s a fun time and Chris Evans punches a lot of people in it. But four years on, I still can’t get over the injustice it did to one certain character.
No, not the Hydra stuff or whatever. That’s actually really good. My problem is this: Captain America: The Winter Soldier does Batroc the Leaper dirty. And I will not stand for this grievous crime.
Introduced in Tales of Suspense #75 in 1966, Batroc the Leaper—French mercenary Georges Batroc, a master of savate, a French-developed style of kickboxing—has fought many Marvel heroes over the years, but he is primarily known as a Captain America foe. He’s known for that, and three other things: 1) he has hilarious facial hair; 2) he has an equally hilarious French accent, presented on the page through butchered spellings and pronunciations in his early appearances; and 3) perhaps the most important of all things: Batroc the Leaper leaps. It’s in the name, my friends.
The first setpiece of Captain America: The Winter Soldier forgets all of these things. French-Canadian actor/MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre plays the film’s version of the legendary Batroc the Leaper in the opening scenes, which sees Captain America, Black Widow, and a SHIELD strikeforce infiltrate the Lemurian Star to rescue some SHIELD hostages captured by Batroc and his men. The scene is—once again, like a lot of The Winter Soldier—very good. The action is excellent (both in that Black Widow gets to kick serious ass and there’s some great shield-bouncing stuff for Cap), it’s got a cool stealthy vibe, and it’s an awesome way to open a movie. My beef here, and always has been, specifically with Batroc.
Not having Batroc’s amazingly pointed, gigantic pencil moustache is understandable, given this is live action and not a comic book, and Marvel’s hair and makeup team at least make a reasonable, realistic attempt at similar facial hair for St-Pierre. And honestly, having Batroc speak just in French is a much smarter, less borderline-offensive choice than having him speak in heavily accented English with a lot of added mon dieus or hon-hon-hons and whatnot.
My problem is thus: the MCU Batroc the Leaper doesn’t ever leap.
He kicks, yes. He also occasionally punches, which, technically, isn’t allowed in traditional savate, but this is a life-and-death-brawl with an American supersoldier, so I’ll let that slide. But how, in god’s name, do you bring Batroc the Leaper to the big screen, and not once do you have him leap!? He does some flips, yes, even some nice big kicks. All these things are leap-adjacent. And his name isn’t Batroc the bloody leap-adjacent.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier does not respect Batroc the Leaper or his leaping. And thus, as a petty comics fan, I will not respect The Winter Solder in turn. Well, at least this specific part of it. The rest, like I said, is pretty good! Still no The First Avenger though, if you ask me.