It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost three full years since I reviewed Captain America: The First Avenger and almost two full years since I reviewed the comic Captain America: Winter Soldier. Still, as I predicted years ago, the next Cap film would adapt this story, not least of which because of a (seemingly to some viewers) minor scene of a certain character meeting his “death” offscreen.
Now we’re within the tail-end of Marvel Studios’ “Phase Two,” as we build towards Avengers: Age of Ultron. But enough about the past: let’s take a look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier!
Winter Soldier quickly establishes a new status quo for Steve Rogers: he’s moved to Washington, DC where he spends time undergoing covert missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside fellow Avenger Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow). After some shady events during a seemingly routine hostage rescue, Cap quickly falls into a horrible conspiracy that leaves him as a fugitive. All the while, a shadowy figure, known simply as The Winter Soldier, has appeared…but what ties does this man have to our hero?
Before I compare the movie to the comic, I’m going to discuss it for its own merits. Winter Soldier has a strong plot, and definitely gives a great exploration of not only Captain America, but also Black Widow as well. Ultimately, I felt Scarlett Johannson gave one of the better performances of the movie, while Samuel L. Jackson gave his best rendition of Nick Fury yet, which was helped by the fact that the film gave Fury a much stronger role than any prior Marvel film.
As for the Winter Soldier himself…well….Sebastian Stan does as well as you can expect given the fact his role is mostly silent. He does get a few character moments, but I wish we’d seen at least a few more. I feel it was an especially missed opportunity for the reveal of his identity, since there wasn’t, in my mind, sufficient build up for the gravity of this reveal for anyone who either hadn’t seen The First Avenger or who didn’t know the character’s comic book back story. Still, the character was, at the very least, deadly and menacing, both of which are key for this sort of villain.
The Falcon, who in my heart is one of Marvel’s weaker characters, was decent in this movie: I feel Anthony Mackie did a good job with the role, and the character himself had an interesting role as an employee at the VA helping veterans cope with life after war. Robert Redford, of course, gives a good performance, though sadly not up to his usual par, but still one of the better roles we’ve seen for his sort of character in a superhero film.
Finally, there’s one character I really cannot help but gripe about: Agent 13. In the comics, Agent 13 (aka Sharon Carter, granddaughter of that Peggy Carter) is Cap’s love interest and represents his difficulties as a Man Out of Time. Obviously, Cap loved Peggy, but when he’s unfrozen she’s much older and has moved on with her life, so he settles for her descendant…but yeah, it’s never quite what he wants. Their interaction in the comics is really interesting and a lot of fun, and Agent 13 herself plays a big role in the comic version of this story.
Still, in this movie, she was utterly and totally unnecessary: while I love Sharon’s character, they just didn’t give her enough of a role or enough screen time to justify her role in this film. Emily VanCamp did fine with what she was given which, admittedly, wasn’t much. It seems to me that she probably had more scenes filmed than were shown, but I’ll discuss that more momentarily.
Winter Soldier’s plot loosely adapts the comic of the same name, which is something I didn’t have a problem with. Given the layers upon layers of history for the comic story, versus only three movie roles for Cap, it’s not surprising they had to make a lot of switches concerning the motivation of the villains and the origin of the titular assassin. The pacing for the film is rather good, and I didn’t feel there were any parts that dragged, unlike a certain Asgardian film released last Fall.
Still, throughout the whole movie I had this feeling that there was something…missing. I’m not sure exactly what, but there were a few quick cuts here and there that made it seem as if there were some key scenes cut from the theatrical release. Nevertheless, with a run time of over two hours, I think these cuts were probably for the best, since these moments would have added little to the overall story. Even so, I wish some of these transitions had been a little less abrupt.
Winter Soldier definitely explores some complex themes, which I thought was apropos. While The First Avenger essentially held a “my country right or wrong” standpoint, Winter Soldier shifts to show that one should be more wary of what occurs behind the scenes, whether or not these factors will defend freedom. I’m not going to speak to my own political views on the matter, but nevertheless I felt this dichotomy between movies was welcome, albeit not unexpected.
As with any superhero film, The Winter Soldier is full of lots of big, exciting action moments. There are lots of well-choreographed fights (especially one early on featuring a certain Leaper) and epic battles throughout the movie. Still, my all time favorite scene, in any Marvel movie thus far, had to be the return of a certain scientist; the scene is just downright eerie, and I liked this interpretation of the character, who in the comics is somewhat similar to this portrayal.
Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel film thus far. Even for any of the problems I had with it, I still came out of the theater feeling content that the film did such justice to Captain America. Furthermore, this film truly showed that Black Widow can hold her own and, in my eyes, justifies her getting a film, especially given some of the events of the third act. I also thought it was cool that they included a reference to Doctor Strange and cast Batroc ZE LEPEUR! in this movie. Whether or not you’ve seen any Marvel film thus far, this is definitely a movie worth watching.
-solid adaptation of the famed comic arc
-great action sequences
-exceptional character moments, especially from Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson)
-a few scene transitions felt rather abrupt, as if a scene was missing
-the reveal of The Winter Soldier’s identity lacked some of the power it could have possessed
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