Captain America: The Winter Soldier brings today’s headlines into a superhero movie while working perfectly as an espionage flick where secrecy and intrigue abound…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There is a certain formula that just makes a Marvel movie work. It’s the reason why the comic book company turned entertainment conglomerate churns out a couple of hit films every year, generally they are always well received and well reviewed, and since the relaunch of the Marvel Universe in theaters a few years ago it’s the reason they haven’t suffered massive setbacks like DC Comics did with horrendous blunders like Superman Returns or Green Lantern.
The latest effort — Captain America: The Winter Soldier — follows suit once again while managing to throw a few new angles at the once frozen genetically enhanced soldier, making this movie more espionage and intrigue than capes and super powers. It’s an effective device that strips away the tropes of the common superhero film, and one of the reasons every Marvel film feels the same yet different from movie to movie. Each one follows a formula while still retaining its own voice. A rare quality in filmmaking.
In this movie, Captain America is back at work as an agent of SHIELD working under director Nick Fury to bring down the bad guys while still adjusting to life in the 21st century. In The Avengers, Steve Rogers adaptation to a new world more than 50 years after he was frozen during World War II was touched on, but never given any kind of life to breathe. The follow up sequel gives a much richer and deeper background on Rogers’ attempts and settling into 2014, while still longing for the past. A few cameos and mentions to the first Captain America film give the new movie a nice bridge and connection point despite being 70 years apart.
What works so brilliantly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is how the filmmakers have once again brought real life to our front doorsteps in a movie. This movie isn’t going to serve as a wakeup necessarily, but it does pay homage to stories currently in the headlines like NSA spying and the feeling that big brother really is watching over all of us. Even in the government, one agency can’t trust another, thus the real crux of what goes down in this film when SHIELD is compromised and agent is pitted against agent.
While the title of the film and the seemingly 125 trailers that were released before the April 4 debut date already told everybody watching that The Winter Soldier aka Cap’s old friend Bucky Barnes was the main antagonist, he’s really just another cog in the machine of a much larger and more sinister plot that’s boiling underneath the surface. Sebastian Stan does a great job with the limited amount of acting he actually has to do in this film, mostly because he’s playing a ninja like assassin with no need for words who would rather speak with a gun and a knife.
It’s hard to talk about the plot of this movie without giving something away because everything hinges on secrets, but based purely on trailers and the information that’s already out there — Nick Fury is attacked and under fire by an unknown force that could possibly be coming from inside SHIELD. We saw a teaser of this during the last episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and it continues in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Finding the source of the virus is the real driving force behind this movie, and the deeper you go, the more layers there are to find.
While Robert Downey Jr. is routinely praised as the best casting choice in a comic book related movie since Heath Ledger gave a tour de force as The Joker, it must be stated for a character that is an over the top do gooder, Chris Evans pulls of Steve Rogers/Captain America like nobody’s business. He’s so believable in the role it’s almost ridiculous, and since he’s supposed to be the world’s greatest boy scout, there’s not a ton of range he has to show. That’s not a knock mind you, actually a compliment on how well he pulls it off. Scarlett Johansson is smoldering as agent Natasha Romanov aka The Black Widow, and there’s real heat in her scenes with Evans and that has to be a relationship worth exploring again in future movies.
The only disappointing part about the casting and character placement in Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes from Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. He’s so force fed to us in the movie that in a world where totally unbelievable things are supposed to happen, he’s a mechanism that goes beyond even that level of disbelief. His comedy relief lines while somewhat humorous are mostly obvious, and in reality Mackie could have easily been replaced by Jeremy Renner because Hawkeye was woefully underused in The Avengers. Also let’s not forget Renner’s Hawkeye was involved with Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov in the past, and given the new romantic undertones carried on with Evans in this movie, it would have been a delicious spark to lap up during the course of the two hour film.
The action scenes are grand in scale once again, but not over the top and the story line is more Jack Ryan than feeling like a real superhero movie. That’s not to say this isn’t a film for comic book lovers because ultimately the payoff still works and the set up for future movies just like Marvel intended plays out beautifully. The movie really finishes on a note similar to Back to the Future II where you know there will be a third part, and the story really isn’t done yet but still satisfying in a narrower scope.
If Thor is the mystical realm of the Marvel Universe, and Iron Man the technological wonder, then Captain America’s place is at the head of the table where the real leaders and decision makers of the world sit. The movie works great as a spy vs. spy story while still dabbling in costumed heroes and huge explosions. There’s not a Marvel movie you should miss, but compared to the other sequels like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier shines brightest because of a well plotted script, and the dynamic duo of Evans and Johansson stealing every scene they are in together.
No spoilers here folks although I will be doing a post Captain America easter egg edition article later for the people who do see the new movie, but the post credits scenes are once again a show stealer. Each Marvel movie is meant to set up a future story, and this one is the perfect precursor to ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and some characters you’ll be getting to know very well when that movie debuts next year.