Hello and welcome to BSX Reviews!
Fresh off the midnight screening, today we’ll be reviewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier! This will be a fairly spoiler-free review since (at the time of writing this review) the movie has been released publicly for less than 24 hours. This is the third time we’ve seen Chris Evans in the iconic role of Captain America and the 2nd time starring in a standalone “Captain America“ film. Let me preface by saying, I don’t like Captain America in the Marvel Studios films. I think he’s a stupid character, with rigid ideals, who’s overall gimmick of being a super soldier thrust into a foreign time period, very uninteresting. So this review is based on a consumer that genuinely dislikes this version of this character; that being said, I believe this is one of the best Marvel Studios movies to date!
Although I won’t go into extensive detail as to why I dislike Capt. ‘Murica, I will say that his first proper film Captain America: The First Avenger was boring, poorly paced/written, and did a very bad job of conveying why Cap’ was an impressive battle tested super soldier. The background of the character was established very well; a poor, small teen from Brooklyn, NY wants to help the Allied Forces fight the Nazis in the WWII era America. Ultimately he is rejected by the military he wishes to join, but due to his grit and resolve he is cherry picked by the military to become a test subject for the newly developed Super Soldier Serum. Blah, Blah, Blah… Much like Thor’s 2011 cinematic debut, Captain America: The First Avenger was a movie made to set the stage for The Avengers, Marvel Studio’s most successful film to date, and one of the highest grossing movies of all time. This along with Cap’s lack motivation and usefulness in the Avengers made me less than excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
CA:TWS shows us a Steve Rogers who is trying his best to catch up with a world that has left him behind, a world that isn’t as black and white as WWII era America. Working as an agent of shield, Cap is one of their top agents; almost single handedly completing missions with lightning efficiency and unrestricted force. During one of these missions he and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Fury come into information that puts everything they’ve worked for in jeopardy. The narrative backdrop is already more interesting from the word go, and the direction they take the story, based on the source material, is full of call backs and Easter Eggs. To any comic fan even vaguely familiar with the Captain America lore, you’ll know where this movie is heading, but will still find a few surprises along the way.
WHAT THIS MOVIE DID RIGHT:
Captain America, as he’s existed in the contemporary films up to this point, has never felt like a real person. After finding out he’s been frozen for almost 60 years we never see him having emotional difficulties of coping with losing everything and everyone he’s ever cared about. That’s what this movie did well, not necessarily to the extent they could have, but a big step in the right direction. We get to see Rogers deal with disillusionment of both his ideals and the trust he has for the organizations protecting America. In my opinion, he finally becomes the Captain America I’ve always wanted; one that questions what is right and wrong, and ultimately, who should be in charge of governing the freedom of the people.
First off, Cap’ looks like a complete badass in this movie. You get a visceral reaction from every landed punch, and kick. They have developed a fighting style for Cap’ that seems to be a mix of brawling, grappling, and gymnastic maneuvers. Within the first 15 minutes of the film, you’ve already seen exactly how precise and brutal Cap’ can be, and you just want more!!! Every action scene in the movie has a dynamic camera movie, and aside from a few “That would’ve killed that guy” suspensions of disbelief, you’re really drawn into every action segment. The way Cap uses his shield is believable, and inventive. This is a major reason this film stands out from the other Marvel films, because he uses what’s available to him, and uses it well. One more note about the hand-to-hand combat, it’s fast and intelligent! Aside from martial actions action flicks, I’ve never seen hits connect with such realism, very exciting stuff!
This is something we kind of take for granted in Marvel films like Iron Man; as an audience we’ve come to expect that in the Marvel Universe your going to see some pretty advanced para-technology. When you’ve watch Iron Man, Hulk, or Thor, you kind of forget it because it’s never something life saving. For example, Tony uses one of (if not the) most advanced exo-suit ever created, he can fly, shoot repulsor blasts, and survive the harsh conditions of space. So when he pulls out a small piece of tech to disable a computer, we don’t really pay attention to it because… it’s Tony Stark. We expect him to have a gadget to save his life. That’s where the Captain America films (TWS specifically) really have an opportunity to shine. Everyone in the film is a human, a vulnerable, fragile human. So a piece of tech that disables electronics may be a throwaway plot device in an Iron man film but may be a life saving utility here. It’s very refreshing to see para-tech using in interesting and surprising ways.
WHAT THIS MOVIE DID WRONG:
UGH, Falcon… He’s a normal soldier who leads a support group for soldiers with PTSD. This is a really big missed opportunity; PTSD is a very serious mental condition that often takes years of psychological counseling to overcome. Having Rogers confront this reality while questioning the world he lives in has the making of something powerful; instead it’s used as a throw away scene to flesh out Falcon’s character a bit more. His action scenes were lackluster and his personality was forgettable. Honestly, Falcon is really, really flaccid.
The Winter Soldier is ultimately an unnecessary character in this movie. He has to be the embodiment of the forces trying to defeat Cap’ since Rogers needs something to throw a shield at. He was a character with no resolution, or motivation, and will be present in the next film in the series.
END OF SPOILERS!!!
No Sense of Peril:
So let’s cover something, by the second act of a mainstream Hollywood movie, you’ll usually have a threat clearly established, and a goal that the hero is working to overcome. The Winter Soldier kind’of did this… kind of. I had to wait until two thirds of the way through the narrative to understand what exactly the overall threat was, because of this I was less invested in what happened since Cap’ never really felt in danger. Until the overall threat/plan is established, nothing permanent can happen to the characters in a movie, everything up to that point can be retconned and changed. TWS is billed a suspense thriller set in the Marvel universe, so it makes sense they wouldn’t lay their card on the table from the outset, but I think they waiting a bit too late in the film for the big reveal. Even then, the reveal wasn’t that amazing and was telegraphed from the outset. This is a major problem I have with Captain America as a character, any of the other Avengers could have dispatched the problem within minutes. This leads me into the final point…
It’s dumb and very ham-fisted. The enemy is who you think it is… you know, that one that he’s always fighting… it’s a little ridiculous. Still… I find myself amused by the idea that it could’ve been a successful reveal if they had been a little more confident in their execution. I know you have no idea what I’m talking about, but go watch the movie and re-read this section. It’ll make more sense.
I would recommend this movie to everyone, comic nerd or otherwise! It’s not (as some people were saying) as good as the Avengers; not by a long shot. It is however the best Captain America movie I think Marvel/Disney will make, and that’s saying something. When any property is tied this closely to the image of “America” it’s difficult for larger studios to take risks with the brand. Let’s say Marvel did actually try something out of the box, they would run the risk of alienating a large portion of flag waving Americans. With a movie this big budget on a license this well known, there’s almost NO chance that would happen. This movie walked as close to that line as they could get, and that’s something you don’t see that often. I know I’ll never get to see the version of Captain America I want in films, the one who fought the government registry in Civil War; the one who fights for true freedom. Still, this movie took a shallow franchise in an interesting direction, and the events of this movie will have waves across the related Marvel universe. I’m eager to see where else this franchise heads in the future.