Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Not every Marvel film has been a gem, or even a hit. And this is a good thing. They know they can take a chance and if it turns into a stinker, they’ll survive. So they take chances. And the chances they take are usually in the direction of geeky coolness, which is good for us geeks. The biggest risk in my estimation will be later this summer when they release Guardians of the Galaxy in all its cosmic splendor. Will the regular non-geeky people, who Marvel needs for a film to be a hit, extend their suspension of disbelief from costumed vigilantes to deep space weirdness? It seems like a big jump, even though the previews have been intriguing.
With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel is channeling political action films like the Bourne films or even things like Three Days of the Condor. They bring in Robert Redford, as slick bad guy, Alexander Pierce, to cement the connection. S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been a troubling organization in the Marvel universe. In fact if it were real, I’m sure it would be the object of numerous protests and condemnations. Good Lord, the N.S.A. is bad enough. There is a lot about this set up that could be used to comment on our real world. But as I’ve said before, Marvel mines reality only to find material. They aren’t really interested in making profound comments, political or otherwise. The issues revolving around the existence of an all-powerful secret police organization are mentioned but not explored. The good guys are running it, or at least will win the struggle for its leadership, so there’s no need to worry about all that power being abused.
After the events in the The Avengers, Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, is still adjusting to life in the 21st century. And he’s finally starting to make more of an effort to bring himself up to date with his new reality, keeping a list of cultural touchstones to check out. He got tired of not getting all the jokes, I suppose.
He’s also been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. because he can’t think of anything else to do with his time. For most missions he’s been partnered with Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, played by Scarlet Johansson. She’s been trying to help him adjust by encouraging him to date.
Rogers makes friends with Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackie, who he meets while going on his morning run. Sam is a paratrooper and has some unorthodox ideas about how Steve can learn about post WWII history. When he was in the service, he was involved in a test program for a winged jet pack. The code name for the program was Falcon.
Ominous things begin to happen in the upper echelons of S.H.I.E.L.D. They are about to launch three new heavily armed helicarriers that will be linked to a high-tech satellite. Director Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, becomes suspicious about the program and goes to Secretary Pierce to delay it while he investigates.
Pierce agrees but then Nick Fury is attacked by an almost mythical assassin called the Winter Soldier, a figure who has a connection with Cap. Fury is seemingly killed (you guys know nobody ever really dies in the Marvel universe, right?) and Cap has to go on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. and uncover what turns out to be a massive conspiracy, all without knowing who to trust.
This film has a darker tone than the first one and it is an important transitional point in the history of the Marvel universe, at least on film. For this reason, I am a little ambivalent about it. I can point to no major faults, other than the fights scenes were over-edited and in some cases hard to follow and the climax of the film is a little too comic booky, which jars with the rest of it. I walked out of the theater feeling not exhilarated but actually a little down. The film is somewhat depressing. My reaction may just be because of the disconnect between what was on the screen and what I was expecting.
But the performances are excellent. Chris Evans continues to play Cap as a straight arrow trying to cope in a compromised age. Samuel L. Jackson is always the coolest person in the room and Cobie Smulders as agent Maria Hill is suitably badass. Redford isn’t really stretching here but he’s fine. I’m not sure I like what they’re doing with Black Widow. They are humanizing her a bit and showing her cool professional façade cracking at the edges. Johansson portrays it well but I think I liked it better when she was more of an enigma. I didn’t like her hair in this either.
But no matter what my feelings about it are, I respect Marvel for making a film with a little bit darker tone than what the movie going public is used to. In a way it’s appropriate that this came out at this time of year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not really a summer movie.

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1 Response to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”


  1. 1 Tom April 7, 2014 at 12:34 am

    I’d just like to point out that in the Marvel Universe the world NEEDS SHIELD!

    They don’t have to worry about the occasional terrorist or organized crime, they have to worry about freaking INVASION OF MANHATTAN BY ATLANTIS!

    Hydra, as portrayed in the original stories, was a non-state actor with a freaking STRATEGIC MILITARY INFRASTRUCTURE! When Tony Stark recruited Col. Nick Fury from the CIA to run SHIELD (so Stark didn’t have to I presume) he showed a slide presentation (in great Kirby artwork) of the threat of Hydra that included TANKS and AIRCRAFT CARRIERS and MISSILES!

    The FBI, CIA, DIA, and NSA are kinda out of their league against Doom’s robot armies or the Red Skull’s 4th Sleeper or the Kree or the Skrulls or Galactus. Worries about the scope of an “all powerful police organization” are the least of the world’s worries in the Marvel Universe.


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