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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

April 11, 2014

Captain America movie poster

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is proof that Marvel is still in the meticulously planned market of mixing it up. After billions of dollars of grosses they aren’t afraid to push a film about a bunch of “A-holes “or release a movie where an American hero questions the government. Their commitment to remaining fresh (Sans Thor 2) has been thrilling to watch and their gambling has paid off massively.

The Winter Soldier is devoid of drive-in WWII nostalgia and in its place is a timely exploration of a post-911 world. Subtle is ain’t and the dialogue sometimes jack hammers the point but Cap 2 has enough smarts and likable characters to make it a stand out amongst Marvel standouts.

The movie opens with an out-of-place Steve Rogers getting used to his new reality. He has a notebook for things he should catch up on and spends his days running and visiting the bedridden Peggie Carter. He has developed a fun working relationship with Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), made friends with a fellow soldier (Anthony Mackie) and occasionally flirts with neighbors (Emily Van Camp). However, he is a 95-year-old man who is catching up with a completely different world. His morals don’t mesh with his employer S.H.E.I.L.D. and he constantly argues with his boss Nick Fury.

The reason all of this works is because of the excellent performances. Chris Evans (watch Sunshine already), Scarlett Johansson, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie are all given three-dimensional characters to work with and you buy into them as they are surrounded by super computers, serums and tight outfits. The friendships formed between Cap, Black Widow and Falcon are dealt with organically and add laughs and emotion to the proceedings. I dug how the polar opposite personalities of Widow and Cap form a nice counter balance of shady and earnest. Also, Cap finally finds a like-minded “soldier” in Mackie with whom he can punch faces with.

Eventually, things go boom, people are wrongfully condemned and a dude with long greasy hair puts a hurting on many things. The highlights of the film are the fist/foot/knee/elbow to face violence that takes place in between the CGI blobs. Cap can’t smash like Hulk or whack villains with a mythical hammer. He has to get up close and that is why he is my favorite character. His battles with George St. Pierre, Frank Grillo and Sebastian Stan are marvels of close quarter mayhem that make the character more relatable. He isn’t a genius or god. He is a good man who loves his country and uses his powers to hurt bad people.

The best part of Cap 2 is that our heroes actually have solid villains to battle with.  I’ve written ad nauseam about how superheroes need super villains. Batman had The Joker and Scarecrow in The Dark Knight. The Avengers battled Loki. The X-Men had Magneto. However, films like Iron Man 2, Hulk, Wolverine and Thor 2 had villains who never felt like a threat and thus never allowed the material to be elevated. To say who the bad guys are in Cap 2 is a bit of a spoiler. I will say that the violence they bring is threatening and the way in which they are dispatched is pretty great.

captain america elevator fight

The Winter Soldier throws the Marvel universe in flux and it will be fun to see where it takes our heroes. Marvel didn’t play it safe as they swung for the fences, ignored sequel rules and hired the Russo brothers to direct (I love their work on Community and Happy Endings) Marvel has succeeded once again and they’ve refreshed a comic book genre that could easily become over-saturated and stale. Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man!

 

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2014 10:07 am

    Marvel doesn’t seem like it has the chance to screw-up. It had many of those chances back in the past, but somehow glided right past them. Good review.

    • April 11, 2014 10:22 am

      I agree. I love that they take chances and keep moving forward. My only worry is that they become so managed the twists and turns become predictable.

      • John Leavengood permalink
        March 6, 2016 2:45 pm

        I remember being uncertain that I’d like it…I didn’t even see it in theaters. ME….”skipping” a Marvel theater experience. When I finally saw it on HBO I was wowed! Great movie and, of course, great review. I remember reading this review when it first posted and thinking “maybe I should have seen this in theaters.”

  2. April 11, 2014 7:24 pm

    Your point about superheroes needing capable supervillains is completely accurate! Nailed it! If the villain sucks….the film has a 80% chance of sucking as well. Thor 2 was decent but the villain was weak in comparison to the hero. Wolverine was boring as all hell…..

    • johnleavengood permalink
      April 11, 2014 7:27 pm

      So true about Wolverine and Thor 2. Those villains were so lame it made me want to go back to school, study supervillainy, somehow become rich and gifted with supernatural powers, and ravage the world so that these guys could have a worthy fight!

  3. April 12, 2014 3:26 pm

    Great review. I loved the film and thought the new thriller aspect of the film took Marvel into a new Genre even if in a relatively small way. Very much looking forward to the next one 😀

  4. April 13, 2014 1:47 pm

    Great stuff.

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