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Helmut Zemo (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

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Helmut Zemo
Marvel Cinematic Universe character
First appearanceCaptain America: Civil War (2016)
Based on
Helmut Zemo
by
  • Roy Thomas
  • Tony Isabella
  • Sal Buscema
Adapted byChristopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
Portrayed by
  • Daniel Brühl
Information
Full nameHelmut Zemo
AliasBaron Zemo
TitleBaron
Occupation
  • Special Agent
  • Terrorist
AffiliationEKO Scorpian
NationalitySokovian

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Helmut Zemo, also known by his title as Baron Zemo, is a fictional character portrayed by Daniel Brühl who appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film and television franchise, based on the character of the same name in Marvel Comics.[1] In the franchise, Zemo is the main antagonist of the film Captain America: Civil War (2016)[2] and later reprises his role in the 2021 miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, in which is character is an antihero.[3]

Concept and characterization[edit]

Daniel Brühl portrays Helmut Zemo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Comics character of Helmut Zemo first appeared in Captain America #168 (December 1973) and was created by Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella and Sal Buscema. Daniel Brühl was cast in an undisclosed antagonist role for Captain America: Civil War in November 2014.[4] In April 2016, Brühl was confirmed to be portraying the villain Baron Helmut Zemo in the film.[5][6] Commenting on his role in Captain America: Civil War, Brühl said that the version appearing in the film is "loosely connected" to the character from the comics, and that that was a reason he liked Marvel, as "some of the characters and things they're dealing with always reference to current events so my character is from a different area than you would think."[7]

The actor also revealed that the purple mask would not appear in the movie.[7] On the character's motive, MCU director Anthony Russo called him "an everyman. His approach was: I've seen these guys fight enough to know I can't win. But what I can do is figure out ways to undermine them. He's emotionally driven and he finds a weak spot."[8] Brühl entered negotiations to join the cast of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in May 2019.[9] His attachment to the show was officially announced in July of that same year.[10] Marvel Studios chief executive Kevin Feige described the character as "very much a product of the [Marvel] Cinematic Universe and all that has occurred within that universe up to this point".[11] Brühl, who was cast due to his German accent, did not feel the role was a stereotype, saying, "It's not a guy who's mean and sinister, but he's actually very clever—a very smart guy who does everything out of a very understandable reason and motivation."[12] Brühl also stated that Zemo may re-appear in future MCU films,[13] with Moore adding that, while Zemo has a purpose in this film, it was more to set up a future film.[14]

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier introduces Zemo's traditional purple mask from the comics,[15] which Brühl was enthusiastic about wearing;[16] he felt like a "baron" wearing the updated costume, which points towards the "aristocratic" Baron Zemo version of the character from the comics.[17] Brühl was thrilled to return to the role and enjoyed the increased sense of humor for the character,[18] adding the series felt both known and fresh to him compared to Civil War.[16] Show director Kari Skogland was excited to explore Zemo's complexity following the dark place that Civil War left him in,[19] with the series showing that he has lost everything and is paying for his crimes.[20]:6 The series explores Zemo's origin story, and, according to show writer Malcolm Spellman, shows how the character views himself as a hero.[21]

A short clip of Zemo dancing at a party in the episode "Power Broker" in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier went viral. In an interview with Men's Health, Brühl revealed that the moment was improvised and that he was "100 percent sure that they would cut it out of the show".[22] On April 8, 2021, Marvel Studios uploaded a 30-second extended version of Zemo's dance to Twitter, along with a one-hour loop of the extended scene on YouTube.[23]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Background[edit]

Helmut Zemo was originally an agent of the Sokovian intelligence agency, EKO Scorpian. He was also a wealthy, respected baron in his homeland, and lived luxuriously with his wife, son and father. His son was a fan of Iron Man, and was excited during the Battle of Sokovia. Zemo's whole family was killed during the battle, with his wife sending him voice messages before her death. Zemo blamed the Avengers for his loss, and sought to destroy all super-soldiers and dismantle the Avengers as a result.

Dividing the Avengers[edit]

In 2016, Zemo is intent on defeating the Avengers in revenge for the destruction of his homeland Sokovia and death of his family in the Battle of Sokovia.[lower-alpha 1] To do this, he decides to turn the team against each other, and goes first to the home of the Hydra handler of Bucky Barnes, the erstwhile Winter Soldier, and steals the book that allows him to activate Barnes's brainwashing. He kills the handler by leaving him to drown, and later activates Barnes's programming by disguising as a psychiatrist to get close to him. While Barnes, under Zemo's mind control, wreaks havoc around the Avenger's base, Zemo escapes unharmed. Later, when Barnes is back to his normal self, he reveals that it was Zemo impersonating him who bombed the United Nations meeting in Vienna that T'Chaka was killed in to cause more fractures amongst the Avengers. Steve Rogers gathers a team opposed to the rules put forth by the Sokovia Accords and tracks down Zemo without proper authorization.

Rogers and his team are distracted when Tony Stark and the rest of the Avengers, with the government's permission, come to stop them from breaking the laws. A fight takes place, ending with disastrous results and Rogers' and Barnes' escape. Meanwhile, Zemo kills the other supersoldiers in his hideout. Rogers and Barnes arrive, and Stark soon follows after convincing Sam Wilson to give him their location. Zemo, protected, reveals that Barnes, when still under Hydra's mind control, killed Stark's parents, and Stark turns on Rogers and Barnes. Zemo escapes, although he is stopped by King T'Challa, son of T'Chaka. He apologizes to T'Challa for the death of his father, and deletes his wife's last voice message before attempting suicide, satisfied that he has finally avenged his family. However, T'Challa stops him, and he is sent to prison in Berlin, Germany.

Helping Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes[edit]

Eight years later in 2024, Barnes suggests to Sam Wilson that they find him, as they need help tracking down Karli Morgenthau and discovering how the Flag Smashers came into contact with the super soldier serum. Barnes, without telling Wilson, orchestres a prison riot to let Zemo escape. Zemo locates the duo to Madripoor, where they meet Selby and her men in order to look over to the Power Broker. Hours later, Wilfred Nagel is shot by Zemo, who puts on a purple mask and helps the duo and Sharon Carter. In Latvia, Zemo flees from John Walker's killing of a Flag Smasher but is arrested by Barnes in Sokovia and handed over to the Dora Milaje for killing King T'Chaka in 2016.

Differences from the comic books[edit]

While Helmut Zemo is from Sokovia in the MCU, his comic book counterpart was from Germany, with his father Heinrich Zemo being a prominent Nazi scientist.[24] Zemo's purple mask, his signature object in the Marvel Comics, is seen only briefly, in the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, "Power Broker", where Zemo donned the mask.[25]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Speaking to the inclusion of Zemo in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone felt Brühl had "single-handedly carried the season's middle chapters" despite what overall felt like a minor role in the series.[26] Chancellor Agard of Entertainment Weekly found that the introduction of Zemo in "Power Broker" helped to complicate the Wilson/Barnes dynamic while avoiding hitting the same beats as the previous episode, and he enjoyed Zemo's assessment of Trouble Man. He had a "cold and unsatisfied" feeling with the scene involving Zemo shooting scientist Wilfred Nagel, even though he felt the exposition was necessary.[27]

Alex Nedd of Mashable praised the character's improvement from Civil War, saying "In just one episode, Zemo went from the least memorable part of Civil War to a shockingly likable character who fits the profile of the Avengers' greatest unsung enemy to a T. Some of his characteristics, like his natural politeness and seething hatred for supers, are recognizable, but almost everything else we learn about Zemo here is new." The review also called Zemo "cultured, funny, a little bit woke, and generous with his vast royal resources."[28]

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Work Result Ref(s)
2016 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Villain Daniel Brühl Captain America: Civil War Nominated [29][30]

See also[edit]

  • Characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Notes[edit]

  1. Per the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).

References[edit]

  1. Barnhardt, Adam (July 31, 2020). "Captain America: Civil War Concept Art Gives Baron Zemo A Massive Sword". Movies. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. Bezanidis, Michael (2020-08-01). "'Captain America: Civil War': Zemo Gets A Mask In New Concept Art". Heroic Hollywood. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. "With The Alienist, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and The King's Man, Daniel Brühl Has a Very Busy 2020". Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  4. Fleming, Mike Jr. (2014-11-14). "Daniel Bruhl To Play Villain In 'Captain America: Civil War'". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. Jones, Alice (2015-03-22). "Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'". Archived from the original on 2015-03-22. Retrieved 2021-04-21 – via The Independant. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Lang, Brent (2015-04-13). "'Captain America: Civil War' First to Use New Imax/Arri 2D Camera (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2015-04-14. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Guerrasio, Jason. "The actor playing Baron Zemo in the next 'Captain America' movie says he won't be wearing the villain's infamous purple mask". Business Insider. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  8. Nugent, John (May 9, 2016). "12 secrets from Captain America: Civil War". Empire. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. Fleming Jr, Mike (2019-05-20). "Kari Skogland To Direct 6-Part 'The Falcon And The Winter Soldier' Miniseries With Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Bruhl & Emily Van Camp". Deadline. Archived from the original on 2019-05-21. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. Ramos, Dino-Ray (2019-07-21). "Anthony Mackie And Sebastian Stan Take Hall H For 'The Falcon And The Winter Soldier'; Daniel Bruhl Returns As Baron Zemo – Comic-Con". Deadline. Archived from the original on 2019-07-21. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named SpideyEW
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  22. Romano, Evan (2021-04-08). "Daniel Brühl Came Up With Zemo's Dancing Himself, Thank You Very Much". Men's Health. Archived from the original on 2021-04-08. Retrieved 2021-05-01. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  23. Coggan, Devan (2021-04-08). "Please enjoy this extended cut of Zemo dancing in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'". EW.com. Archived from the original on 2021-04-08. Retrieved 2021-05-01. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  24. Erdmann, Kevin (2021-04-03). "What Zemo Is The Baron Of". ScreenRant. Archived from the original on 2021-04-03. Retrieved 2021-05-01. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  25. Pearson, Ben (2019-07-23). "'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier': Daniel Brühl Shares Images of His Return as Baron Zemo". /Film. Archived from the original on 2019-07-23. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  26. Sepinwall, Alan (2021-04-16). "'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Recap: American Skin". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  27. Agard, Chancellor (2021-04-02). "'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' recap: A trip to Madripoor". EW.com. Archived from the original on 2021-04-07. Retrieved 2021-04-21. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  28. Nedd, Alexis (2021-04-02). "Baron Zemo is another great perspective change for MCU villains". Mashable. Archived from the original on 2021-04-02. Retrieved 2021-04-22. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  29. Vulpo, Mike (May 24, 2016). "Teen Choice Awards 2016 Nominations Announced: See the "First Wave" of Potential Winners". E!. Archived from the original on May 26, 2016. Retrieved May 25, 2016. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  30. "Teen Choice Awards 2016—Captain America: Civil War Leads Second Wave of Nominations". E! Online. June 9, 2016.

External links[edit]


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