CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER // Over the weekend, you are going to hear the words ‘70s espionage thriller tossed around quite a bit, to which I’ve already seen in about four reviews that I’ve read, and in all honesty, they are not wrong. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” feels less like a Marvel superhero movie and more like a crime drama. In a sequel to both “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Marvel’s The Avengers”, Chris Evans returns as Steve Rodgers, the alter ego to Captain America. Following the events in New York City, Rodgers is stationed in Washington D.C. working for S.H.I.E.L.D. still under Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) command. With the return of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, this might as well be a S.H.I.E.L.D. sequel as well, with most of the story basing itself off this elite undercover group. With new faces like Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Alexander Pierce and Anthony Mackie as former “pilot” Sam Wilson whom later becomes Captain America’s sidekick Falcon, “The Winter Soldier” is anything but a retread.
As always, a superhero film is only as good as its villain and The Winter Soldier is the perfect antagonist to Captain America in more ways than I’m willing to share in this review. Despite Marvel’s marketing attempts to give away all of its secrets in the trailer, I will not contribute to this downfall of cinematic twists. With a metal arm and numerous high profile assassinations under his belt, The Winter Soldier’s next targets include Nick Fury and Captain America himself. With several high impact fight sequences between the two, among many other fight sequences in general, this becomes the most action packed Marvel film yet. Straying away from the norm as far as previous Marvel installments are concerned, I often found myself forgetting what film was I watching, completely immersed in the story and constantly caught off guard with which depth these characters are taken to, from fighting their own to discovering a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. layer back at Rodger’s training grounds. All of this combined with a formidable challenger in The Winter Soldier and nothing in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is earned without a fight and a tough one at that.
Chris Evans continues his successful exploration of the Captain America character with an energy that is entertaining to watch. With Captain American ranking fairly low on my list of favorite superheroes, Evans charisma and charm rub off enough good will to keep this version of the character from completely losing me. One of the weakest characters of The Avengers with only a shield to protect him from on coming bullets and faced with a villain complete with a metal arm, Captain America is often seen hiding behind his shield and caught without his shield, is often extremely vulnerable. But with that comes the high tension that anything can happen. The reason Superman is often not enjoyable for me is that he is too invincible when faced with a threat. Bullets bounce off him. His only weakness is a rare element. There is no beating him. Captain America, on the other hand, can be beaten quite easily. Yes, he has super soldier serum strength and with that he has super speed and resilience, but he’s still skin and bone hiding behind an impressive shield that he wields like a boomerang. And to make this otherwise weakest link so enjoyable to watch is just another impressive feat carried out by producer Kevin Feige and directors The Russo Brothers.
Marketing for these superhero films is changing at an alarming rate, including the trailer for the upcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, I am taken aback by how much the studios are willing to give away, taking away from the overall experience. As movie fans in general, it’s not uncommon for people to express their disdain for trailers giving away the twists or endings of movies, but most recently, the studios have given heed to reckless abandon when promoting their upcoming films. As far as “Captain America” was concerned, and without spoiling anything myself, there are certain circumstances that I question, like the villain wearing a mask for most of the film while the marketing made it pretty clear who the villain was without the mask. Also, with certain deaths occurring throughout the film, the marketing was willing to give away certain visuals that made it pretty clear where those deaths who take place. And as with most set pieces, like the Helicarriers, their involvement is exploited to allow for the grandness to exist in the trailer for the film instead of remaining a surprise. Why studios feel that these Marvel movies need that extra push when really they have built in audiences numbering in the millions, I will never know but if marketing doesn’t begin to change with these films, this lover of trailers may have to start steering clear.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is impressive on almost every level. With solid performances throughout, one of the best screenplays to come out of the massive franchise yet, and an eye for what makes the perfect action film, this sequel in particular is accessible to everyone, whether they’ve seen all eight previous Marvel films or whether they are just stepping into this one, the thriller quality of the film makes it a slam dunk in the sequel department, arguably the best second sequel to come out of this franchise (“Iron Man 2” and “Thor 2: The Dark World” left much to be desired). Anthony and Joe Russo continue the Joss Whedon storytelling mode that keeps all the plates spinning in the air, all while blending in a sophisticated humor that pays off jokes scenes later in the film. Of all the stories in this universe, Captain America poises itself as the one that will easily overcome any casting changes with Chris Evans’ departure on the forefront, with the Captain America lore running in full force, pleasing those who extensively familiar and those who are casual perusers. What will end up being an April box office record breaker and one of the best action films of the year, and now on the list of my top three favorite Marvel films (following “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3”), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” continues the impossibly impressive streak of Marvel. Also, with two after credits sequences (to which you should be amply privy to by now), the first brings cause for early excitement for Captain America’s return in next summer’s “The Avengers: Age Of Ultron”.
[Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo] [PG-13] [136 min] [4 April 2014]