Film Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The problem I’ve always had with Captain America is the same as my problem with Superman, they are both such goody two-shoes. Because of that, it makes them more challenging to embrace since they never really exist in any gray space, they seem more like caricatures rather than complete characters. Add to that the fact that Captain America: The First Avenger was probably the least interesting of the films from Marvel Universe Phase I, and you could say the character did not get off to the best start. Even though his stock rose in The Avengers, Captain America hasn’t really gotten a chance to shine yet… That has finally changed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Set after the events of The Avengers and the disaster that befell New York, S.H.I.E.L.D. has been tasked with ensuring America’s safety at any cost. But when a threat from within their ranks risks destroying S.H.I.E.L.D., it is up to Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to save the day. While the title might give away some of the material for hardcore comic fans, there are still a quite a few surprises left that will have major effects on the Marvel Universe going forward. I’m not going to go into the details of The Winter Soldier, and if you don’t know about him already I would recommend not looking him up since it probably will spoil some of the more compelling character development, but for those unfamiliar with him, know that Marvel has made a big commitment to the character in terms of future movies, so prepare to see a lot more of him going forward.
There is no doubt in Captain America’s dedication to justice, but despite being the “Super Soldier,” he has felt out of place as a super hero. He isn’t invisible or super strong like the Hulk. He can’t fly around like Iron Man and Thor. The fact he was grounded really resonated in The Avengers, as the other characters fought all over the city during that visual spectacle. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we can really see why he is perceived to be such a tough character. Finally Marvel gets to show off the benefits he received from that super solider serum and how he is able to utilize that in handling his fight in the movie. While Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth have gotten praises for their work as super heroes, Chris Evans has kind of floated below the radar. I still would argue he still doesn’t have the same level of pathos as them, given the limitations of the role, but it feels like he is starting to create a compelling version of the character and seems to have gotten pretty well situated in the role.
One of the breakout stars of The Avengers movie was definitely Black Widow. She has elevated herself to the level of deserving her own solo movie, after stealing quite a few action scenes from that movie, as well as having one of the more compelling back stories. Until that occurs, though, Johansson has done a great job hijacking the movies from other characters, and she has once again stolen some of the spotlight, here. Much like Captain America, she is a grounded character, so it is a bit hard to understand why she is seen as a super hero—she doesn’t even have super soldier serum to fall back on. What she does have is intelligence and persistence, and Marvel has done a good job of continuing to slowly reveal a backstory that has proven to be more interesting than a fair number of Marvel’s A-list heroes.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier follows a similar formula to Iron Man 3: It is part small-character picture, part massive action film. Similarly, it also is heavily focused on the mystery behind the antagonist threats. This is a significant improvement over Captain America: The First Avenger, which was so ordinary, and the threat was so tame that it made the film one of the most predictable in recent memory. Regardless of how much of an improvement there is in terms of story, like most big-budget Marvel action movies, there is an element of keeping the story a bit safe and predictable in terms of characters and character development, and again that sacrifice is made here in the name of action. Much like all the of Marvel Universe films that have preceded it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is loaded with CGI. It can be overwhelming at times, but given the scale and length of the action sequences in this movie, there isn’t any other way to do it. If this is a problem for you, then consider this your warning. That being said, this will definitely be amongst the biggest action you will see this year in terms of scale.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier definitely isn’t the best film in the Marvel Universe, but it is a step forward from the previous one that was one of the worst. The action is pretty fun, the new characters are pretty awesome (Anthony Mackie in particular is pretty great as Falcon), and the story is more compelling than a lot of recent Marvel films. Most importantly, if you were pretty blah on the first Captain America film, like me, than this one might finally introduce you to the reasons why he is worthwhile as character.
Oh, and, as always, stay through the credits for the Marvel Easter eggs for their upcoming movies. If one wasn’t enough this time they actually have two.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SlILk2WMTI&w=560&h=315]