Once you’re done reading my awesome review, you should go read Silverwolf’s also awesome review. Huh, 2 reviews of this movie in one weekend…almost like a comics focused website has a lot of people who went to see this movie…
If I have one observation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s that their second of each character’s individual series tends to be pretty weak overall. Thor: The Dark World was ultimately a disappointment and Iron Man 2 is probably the weakest movie Marvel has done so far. This is odd, to me at least, because as a rule the second movie in a series is usually the strongest; The Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, The Empire Strikes Back, you get the idea. I am pleased to report that while not quite perfect, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has managed to break the Marvel Second Movie curse and is a pretty major improvement over The First Avenger.
The plot is concerned with Steve Rogers who, having grown a little more comfortable in modern day, has begun doing missions for SHIELD alongside Black Widow. However he’s begun to notice that SHIELD is acting like…well like a spy agency. They’re working behind the scenes with secret agendas and are building a fleet of helicarriers designed to preemptively take out targets who might be a threat to American interests, all of which makes him uncomfortable. Beyond that, I can’t really say as the s**t hits the fan pretty quickly and there’s a fantastic second act twist that rewrites a lot of what we thought we knew about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If all of that sounds less like the patriotic war movie of the first film and more like a conspiracy thriller in the vein of a Jason Bourne movie, well that’s accurate and that might be the first way it succeeds. The main gimmick of the movie is to take a fairly straightforward spy thriller and drop Captain America right in the middle of it. It’s an interesting result, watching a character who’s major issue is that he’s just too nice and respectable wander around trying to figure out what’s happening. It works though, in no small part to also throwing Black Widow into the mix. He and Widow have great chemistry, the rookie/experienced spy vibe works really well and they manage to keep the plot moving forward at a good clip, especially once they get Anthony Mackie in as the Falcon.
Of course all of this has to be well cast and written in order for it to work and that’s where a lot of the good work comes in. Of course Johansson and Evans are good in their roles, we knew that from their previous appearances, but the new characters are just as good. Anthony Mackie is instantly awesome as the Falcon, a believable presence in the action scenes, great in the quiet scenes and his wing suit is probably one of the coolest new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the Iron Man suit. And Robert Redford is fantastic for a…variety of reasons I can’t tell you. Still, it’s Robert Redford, he’s been acting since before the majority of the cast was frakking born, he can do what he wants.
What really struck me about this one, aside from the absolutely superb screenplay, is how great the action scenes are. They get an appropriate use out of the Falcon, even if the redesign on his wings makes him look like something out of a Metal Gear Solid game (so does the Winter Soldier, now that I think about it…) and Widow remains as good at martial arts flip outs as ever. But what surprised me about it is how well they managed to use Captain America as a single person. Most of the time he’s good as part of a group dynamic or in combination with other characters, but here they find a lot of use for him, both in hand to hand and with the shield. And it’s good to see a movie finally make use out of his super strength even if they are kind of inconsistent with how strong he really is.
I’m starting to feel like I’m overselling it, it’s not quite perfect. If there’s one character who gets the short end of the stick, it’s the titular character…the other titular character, not Captain America. Oh he’s cool alright and the action scenes he’s in are good, but the nature of his character and skill set means he shows up for an action scene and then disappears. As a result of this and the already full-to-the-brim plot, he doesn’t really get enough screentime or characterization to make the twist involving his identity (which everyone seems to know already, but I won’t spoil) mean anything. Still, he’s got a lot of potential and I doubt this is the last we’ll be seeing of him.
I was kind of meh on the first Captain America movie, and have been increasingly nervous about the trajectory of the second wave of Marvel movies. But The Winter Soldier met and exceeded all of my expectations; A rousing action film, an exciting thriller, a great superhero film and if weren’t for The Grand Budapest Hotel, it’d probably be the best film of 2014 so far. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but do not miss Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and they couldn’t include Hawkeye since he’d overshadow all the other characters with how awesome he is.
– good action scenes, especially choreography and geography
– solid script and character work
– good acting across the board
– alters the Marvel Cinematic Universe in profound ways
– Winter Soldier does not get enough screen time or characterization
– 3rd act moves a little too fast
– no Hawkeye