I never liked Captain America growing up. Always found him boring and a bit of a square, basically, I felt that he was just a way for America to show off their patriotism, and to compete with Superman for being the moral compass of their comics. I mean, the guy’s wearing the American flag on his chest. However, my opinion on Captain America changed after I watched Captain America: The First Avenger.
Captain America’s first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe turned out to be the Marvel’s best Phase One movie but also turned out to be my favourite Marvel movie. It was just a great movie from to start to finish; filled with with great character moments, a lot of heart, and is the only marvel film to earn it’s love story.
The movies that were part of Marvel’s Phase One were tame and not overtly complex stories. They were just the introductions, because, then The Avengers happened, and Iron Man 3 kicked off Phase Two with a bang. Now, here comes Captain America: The Winter Soldier, to shake the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its very core, and to prove that superhero movies aren’t just a genre, but a form to which any genre can be applied.
The Winter Soldier, picks up sometime after the battle in New York, that took place at the end of The Avengers. The world knows about aliens, superheroes, and Norse Gods, and is unable to rest easy because of that knowledge. Cap is now working for SHIELD but he’s unhappy. He doesn’t like the way business is being conducted. So, when Nick Fury tells Cap about project insight – the world being monitored by three Hellicarriers, which eliminate threats before any threat can even emerge – he completely loses faith in the organization he is serving. Then, an unknown assassin tries to assassinate Fury, and Cap becomes SHEILD’s number one enemy. Cap and Black Widow go on the run and uncover an even bigger conspiracy at the heart of SHIELD. Those are some incredibly high stakes.
The Winter Soldier is the first Marvel movie that feels like there is actual stakes. There is always a sense, that our heroes could fail, or even die, at a moments notice. It’s a much darker movie, but don’t mistaken it for something along the lines of The Dark Knight, this movie is very much like Marvel’s other ones; containing sporadic moments of humour, and great character bonding. It’s really refreshing to see the good guys actually enjoy moments with each other instead of fighting each other. Screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, understand that audiences come to see these movies for the characters as much as they come for the action.
I remember watching Iron Man 3, and stating that it contained the best action sequences amongst any of the Marvel movies but, man, the action in The Winter Soldier tops it. The Russo Brothers are better known for directing episodes of Community and Happy Endings, but they handle the action in The Winter Soldier, as if, it was The Raid. They film the action using wide shots in scenes involving hand to hand combat. They should also be commended for their use of shaky cam. I usually don’t like shaky cam in fight scenes, but their editing is brilliant, in that, it’s all about guiding the viewers eye during cuts so the action doesn’t feel choppy.
All the action in, The Winter Soldier, is propelled by the plot. Action sequences are never used just break up exposition. All the action feels grounded, except, for the final action sequence because it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie, without a dumb, albeit not empty, final action sequence. That final showdown does indeed contain some moments of heart, but that is all entirely due to the strong character relationship, and conflict the film has built up to that point.
The relationships in, The Winter Soldier, is another highlight of the movie. Marvel has always nailed dynamics between it’s characters, whether, it’s Thor and Loki or Agent Carter and Cap. Here, a lot of the character dynamics serve to build character, and to also set up new relationships. Comic fans will sure to be excited about the introductions of Falcon, and Agent 13; their scenes may be few, but it does set the ground for some exciting interactions in later movies.
The real duo of, The Winter Soldier, is Cap, and Black Widow. The moments where Cap, and Black Widow are on the run from SHIELD, make for some terrific scenes. Watching these two characters bond, and come to understand one another is really good character development. Cap, who never really trusted Black Widow, sees a new side to her, which, was much needed if these characters are to work with each other in the future. Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson are sublime in the roles. After playing these characters for so long, they really are pitch perfect in every scene.
Even Sam Jackson’s, Nick Fury, is rounded out as a character. When Nick Fury appeared in other movies, it really was Sam Jackson being Sam Jackson, but this time around he is given a lot more to do. You find out some much needed backstory on the character, and his view of everything that has happened. You also get Nick Fury being a total badass. The scene where he is ambushed in the streets, and has to use his spy skills, and gadgets to get away, is one of the best action sequences you’ll probably see this year. Plus, it’s also a great character moment, with Sam Jackson, showing Nick Fury as a man who can think on feet, even, when he’s literally up against a corner.
That same scene also serves as a great introduction to the Winter Soldier. All those men could not take Nick Fury down, but this one assassin, with a metal arm, takes him down without any effort, whatsoever.
The Winter Soldier, as of now, is Marvel’s best onscreen villain. I know many of you are probably saying, what about Loki, but they made Loki feel more like an anti-hero than a villain. The Winter Soldier is the terminator of the Marvel universe, he never runs away from a fight, and he never backs down, ever. What makes him really dangerous is his connection to Cap. The Winter Soldier as it turns out, spoilers, is Bucky Barns, Cap’s best friend who supposedly died in The First Avenger. When Cap finds out his identity, it is a punch in the gut for the man. It’s his friend in body, but in mind, he may not be the Bucky he once knew. So, he has to choose, does he stop his friend at all cost or try to get through to him. It adds great emotional weight, to already tense sequences, between the two characters.
The world of, The Winter Soldier, is one filled with paranoia. The film is structured as if it were political thriller but it is more of a personal story for Cap. He has to come to terms that the government he once trusted may not be trustworthy anymore. He has to face a villain that he may be able to match physically but the emotional damage may be too great.
Marvel has gained massive confidence after the success of, The Avengers, and it shows in all of their Phase Two films. The scope has increased, and the world keeps drastically changing. Captain America has always been the man out of time but in,The Winter Solider, he is more of a moral man trying to live in a immoral world. Which is much more fascinating to watch, when TV and movies, these days, are filled with anti-heroes. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is undoubtedly Marvel studios’ best film to date; emotional, bold, and totally badass.
Score: 9.5 out of 10