Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Fortunately for Marvel, this old saying worked for Captain America as new directors Anthony and Joe Russo took their small screen skills and brought a big theater punch, revitalizing Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
As someone who really didn't enjoy any aspect of the first film, I went into the sequel with low expectations. In return what I got was two hours of an actual super hero film!
95-years-old and living in modern day Washington, Rogers is still adjusting to modern times. Jokes about using an iPod another other advanced technology are brought up as he’s trying to catch up with the world. When a new villain appears and looks to take down S.H.I.E.L.D, Captain America, The Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) spring into action. Soon thereafter, they find out things aren’t so kosher as Hydra is still secretly in power and planning a global attack. From attempts on Fury’s life and what seems to be an unstoppable fleet of ships about to take to the air and eliminate all foes, it’s up to Rogers to once again overcome all odds.
The highest compliment I feel that I can give Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that it actually felt like a great action film and it had enough pizzazz to make me believe I was watching a super hero.
The Russo’s made it a point to have Captain America seriously kick ***. The fight scenes and choreography of those scenes was the best I’ve seen in any Marvel film. The opening sequence on the ship as our hero battles armed guards ultimately leading to a showdown with Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) is more intense than anything in The First Avenger. And what about the use of the shield? All throughout the film, Evans flings the shield and creates havoc in such a fantastic boomerang way. That was such a missing element to his character in the first film and in The Avengers. Very happy to see Captain America utilize such an iconic part of his identity.
One of the few areas of concern prior to the film was how the new characters of Sam Wilson A.K.A Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) were going to be introduced. Mackie, who was a perfect casting choice, was given a non-traditional suit, and introduced as an army “pilot.” In reality he dons metal wings and become Roger’s sidekick. While his role isn’t large, it’s effective. Falcon is likable and I think we will see a lot more of him going forward. His relationship with Rogers is fun yet he shows ample respect to the WWII past. Mackie is having a blast with the role and really is the Ying to Rogers’ Yang. As far as Bucky Barnes’ transformation goes, it was simply okay. Yes, he’s a thawed out machine with a metal arm that is Captain America’s toughest match, and catching the shield in mid-air is really freaking cool, but I just wasn’t wowed with the character. The positive is that they really developed the past relationship between Bucky and Steve and even had a few flashbacks that amplified the fight scenes between the two.
The added political elements led by Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce added a sub-story that fueled the film. Redford fit like a glove into the universe and became a believable hierarchy nemesis. With Hyrdra corrupting the government, secrecy and espionage really do come to the forefront giving so many layers to this film.
Johansson’s Black Widow is given ample time and she doesn’t disappoint. Her loyalty is to the agency, yet her relationship with Rogers is often fun and playful. The two have chemistry and bring out the comedic element in the film through dry humor a handful of times. Jackson’s Fury also feels more important in this film then previous, even if his role hasn’t really changed. He really is pulling strings left and right and becomes more personable. Jackson tones down his “signature” yelling and delivers a strong performance.
Above all else, Chris Evans really shines. Perhaps it was because of all the added elements to his character, the notion that we actually cared about his story and desire to fight. Steve Rogers evolved in this film and you can see his growth dramatically from the first film to The Avengers to now. Evans, who looks like he is chiseled from granite, proves he is much more than just brawn and really added serious depth to the character. Evans made Captain America fun! You really end up rooting for him and sit up during the combat scenes. With so many superhero films trying to incorporate and borrow elements from others, Captain America: The Winter Soldier really stood on its own. Yes, they referenced Hulk and Tony Stark and we do get special (awesome) cameos in the post-credits scene, but this is Evans’ film.
If the film falters anywhere it’s towards the end of the third act, I wasn’t a huge fan of the way it all ended. It was a bit too cheesy and clean, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective. Captain America: The Winter Soldier served its greater purpose and that’s elevating the main character to a level in which he deserves to be at. Marvel really got it right and bounced back from the debacle that was Iron Man 3. The Russo’s have left me and many more fans clamoring for a Hulk standalone film, and given the success here, let Anthony and Joe make that one happen to!