TITLE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford
DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
STUDIOS: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
RUN TIME: 136 min
RELEASED: April 4, 2014
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a unique beast among the Marvel Studios library. It doesn’t star a loveable, wise cracking hero like the Iron Man films. It’s not a majestic ride like the Thor films. It doesn’t feature a world-decimating threat like The Avengers, either. Rather, The Winter Soldier is an interesting blend of espionage thriller, mystery, and superhero action flick. That’s the kind of story we’ve seen numerous times on comic book pages, but one we rarely (if ever) see on-screen. It’s a great little niche for the Captain America brand, and all in all, makes The Winter Soldier a unique chapter in the universe-encompassing saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is not what we thought it was. A devastating secret is revealed that makes fugitives out of Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Irons/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Along with their new ally Sam Wilson/Falcon, they must discover and defeat the parasite that has been rotting S.H.I.E.L.D. from the inside out for so many years. But to do so, Rogers will have to face an old friend. Someone from he past he thought was long dead. Enter the Winter Soldier.
The first thing that struck me about The Winter Soldier was the use of a costume based on the one that first appeared in the pages of Steve Rogers: Super Soldier. The less colorful look seems to nullify the character from some of the “hokey American boy scout hero” vibe, which some casual fans plague him with. It’s also a much more practical, soldier-like costume (not that superhero costumes have ever been considered with practicality). But in the end, the film also isn’t afraid to give us our hero in the red and blue suit. While the movie isn’t as colorful and flamboyant as some of its Marvel Cinematic siblings, it doesn’t hide from that side of the character, which speaks to the filmmakers’ respect and admiration for him.
What The Winter Soldier really illustrates, especially now that we’re in phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is just how different the various franchises are. For the most part, each one has its own designated ground to cover. Cap is the idealist who tackles ethical questions regarding freedom, and the price one pays for it. Thor is the mystic warrior of the group, who battles threats from other realms. Iron Man is the technological wonder, known for his trademark wit. And Hulk (from what we’ve seen of him at least), is our horror/monster movie character. Mind you, the lines between these various franchises can blur at times, as at the end of the day, they’re all superhero movies. But Marvel has done a beautiful job of making each character and their world very distinct. Thus, it becomes that much more epic when they all come together in an Avengers movie.
The movie’s titular character, played by Sebastian Stan, is awesome. He’s got a fantastic look, and all of his action sequences with Cap, Black Widow, and Nick Fury are awesome. The only major complaint I have about him deals with his connection to Steve Rogers during World War II. We saw this character in the first film, and we’re reminded of him early in this one. But the friendship and the closeness the two characters had isn’t emphasized enough to make the reveal of The Winter Soldier’s identity the weight it should have. Comic book fans may feel it because they’re already familiar with this relationship. But casual moviegoers, and even the more devoted Marvel movie fans may be left wanting more.
The partnership between Steve Rogers and Natasha Irons is interesting to watch. There’s definitely a certain sexual chemistry between them, which is interesting when you consider what we saw between Natasha and Clint Barton/Hawkeye in The Avengers. Whatever there is between them is doomed to fail because of their obvious philosophical differences. But Cap, the ultimate straight-laced good guy, and Natasha, who has such a checkered past, definitely make an intriguing duo. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Cap’s love interest in the comic book continuity, doesn’t have as prominent a role as I’d hoped. But hopefully they’re just setting the stage for something in the third film. Interestingly enough, The Winter Soldier has a great scene between Steve Rogers and an elderly Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), his love interest from the first film. Peggy’s relation to Sharon Carter is never explored in this film. But again, ground work.
All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to stand a step above most other Marvel movies. It’s a hell of an action movie. And while I wouldn’t say the film raises any pressing questions about freedom or the American way, there are some ethical issues on the table that give it enough extra depth to set it apart from other comic book movies.
Images from rottentomatoes.com.
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