|Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel Jackson
I’ve really come to admire what Marvel and their Marvel Studios have been doing over the past few years. Not only do I admire them for the big picture plan they have with their movies and tying them all together, but I admire them putting thought into what they’re putting out. A bulk of the credit can go them for restoring the faith in the value of the comic book movie (the rest can go to that other guy, you may have heard of him…Chris Nolan). And while we heap praise on them, we must also be keenly aware that they had some involvement in the hole they had to crawl out of some years back. But the Marvel universe is a good one now, full of event films that have purpose and a desire to not ever be a Transformers movie. This may be a stretch, but they’re like Pixar in a way, keeping quality control in house and telling everyone else to sod off. But even with that in mind, I still had hesitation about Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Captain America, to me, always seemed a little too one dimensional. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but sometimes constructing a movie out of a character with not a lot of character can turn you into…well a Transformers movie. I liked Captain America: The First Avenger, but my previous thought wasn’t at all squashed. The movie played it safe, which for the sake of getting you where you need to be, playing it safe is the best way. Then came The Avengers and with it, a Steve Rogers that was more than just a guy who does some good. The Winter Solder, which takes place after the events that happened in the Avengers, is better than The First Avenger, by a wide margin. Some have said it’s one of the best Marvel films ever…that may be true…we’ll get to that momentarily. Make no mistake though; The Winter Soldier is a good movie….a really good movie.
Taking place after the events of New York (Avengers talk), Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), finds himself doing what he does best, kicking ass and saving lives. And while everything seems on the up and up, Rogers and more importantly, S.H.I.E.L.D find themselves under attack and not immune leaks in their pipeline. The blame for all of this falls onto Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) so Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsen) must work to clear their friend’s name as they have been branded traitors themselves for believing in Fury’s innocence. Along the way they encounter The Winter Soldier, a guy seemingly created in the mold of Captain America, only more powerful and evil. Where did the Winter Soldier come from? What does he want with Cap? But Cap isn’t without some extra help. That comes from Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) an Army vet who during his tours of duty, created a way to get out of sticky situations…he built wings to fly (aka also known as the Falcon).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, despite having Winter Soldier in the title, isn’t so much about The Winter Soldier. He’s a major cause of concern for Captain America, but the story is much bigger than just their conflict. So while a better title might have been more appropriate, the story and history between the two characters is non the less interesting. That bigger story, one of government cover-ups to Captain America questioning what S.H.I.E.L.D has become, to figuring out his place in the world, help make this movie better than not only the first film, but Iron Man 2 and 3 (mostly because of the 3rd act falling apart) and both Thor movies. And The Winter Soldier also avoids a huge pitfall that has become kind of synonymous with comic book movies..that being the total annihilation of a city/town. Well there is some, it wouldn't be a comic book movie without it. But despite its massive budget, The Winter Soldier does feels like a smaller movie, one with more hand to hand combat and practical effects. It’s a nice change of pace really and one I hope (and hear rumors about) that the new Avengers movie will walk next year.
My only real beef with the Winter Soldier sits with the story. Not so much with how the story is told or how the movie moves, but more with the twists it throws at you. A film can fall into two categories when it tries to shock you. One, the twist comes so far out of left field that it doesn’t make sense and ruins what might have been a solid story. Or you avoid that but create situations where you see the twist coming way before the reveal. The Winter Soldier falls into the latter category. This may be a non-issue with most people, but for the rest of us, when you're watching a movie, the last thing you want to do is play out what's going to happen in your head, then see that very thing happen, it takes you out of the movie just a bit.
As for that little bit about this being one of the better Marvel movies? Well, I won't disagree with that. While Captain America is still the guy who does some good every chance he gets, his simple character gets a little more complex. No, he won't ever be Tony Stark or Bruce Banner, but Winter Soldier gives him more life. And if you've never seen the first one, walking into this movie won't confuse you. It's has some nice exposition to give you a refresher course on what has happend up to this point. So go see it already, I'd be shocked if you walked away disappointed.