Published on April 16th, 2014 | by Chris Scott0
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review
Summary: It is Marvel’s most important film to date, and for fans it is a must see.
I’ve never liked Captain America. I’ve always found Marvel’s patriotic, shield toting hero to be something of a bore. Sure, he has super-human speed and strength but when compared next to his Avenger comrades, he’s about as fun as a wet rag. Steve Rogers is just not a cool dude, and this is a problem considering he is the defacto leader of The Avengers.
So how do you make a wet rag interesting and fun? Marvel’s approach for the first Captain America film was to make it as pulpy as they possibly could, invoking an Indiana Jones vibe. But with Rogers now fully back in a world where the tone is decidedly different, the direction for its sequel needed to be much different. And Captain America: The Winter Soldier is different in nearly every way, and nearly all of them are good.
The Winter Soldier picks up some time after the events of The Avengers. Captain America (Chris Evans) has continued to work for Shield, going on covert missions of high importance for the organization. Steve begins to question his role though when he learns that Director Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) has been running double ops with alternate motives that maybe don’t align with Cap’s core beliefs. Before Cap has a chance to really dig down into the details, things go haywire, and Steve is branded an enemy of the state. Help comes from unlikely allies including Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen) and a military veteran with some unique abilities (Anthony Mackie), that see the trio getting down and dirty in the world of spies.
As the trio digs deeper into the conspiracy, they discover that Hydra, the big bad from The First Avenger, is back and more powerful than ever. Having infiltrated Shield, Hydra’s new plan, dealing with a global surveillance leading to genocide, is far more sinister than anything seen in a previous Marvel universe film to date. And the implications of Hydra having infiltrated Shield will resonate throughout the entire Marvel film universe for quite some time.
Making the events of Captain America’s solo film more important to the overall Marvel film universe instantly makes the film a must watch for those invested in the ongoing story that is playing out among the various franchises. But even so, pinning so much on Cap was a risky move. Disney mitigated this by making the supporting cast better than ever and making it known up front that they were big players in the movie. Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury is more important in this movie than he’s ever been in any previous Marvel film. Same with Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow, who pulls near equal billing with Evans himself.
Of course, being an action adventure film, none of this works if the action isn’t top notch. And it is, for the most part. The set pieces look great and are filled with exciting moments. They also each go on just a bit too long. Each scene feels the need to up the last, and sequences like the highway/street shootout end up feeling a bit bloated. The ending sequence in particular feels overly excessive. And while it never reaches Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon level of excess, its length and lack of flow drag what would otherwise be a perfectly paced film down.
Another issue is the lackluster emotional connection between Captain America and the nemesis of the movie, the Winter Soldier. The reveal of who The Winter Soldier is comes off weak, and the emotional strings the film attempts to pluck because of it feel unearned. There is more emotional depth in the singular scene Cap has with his lost love Peggy Carter than in any interaction between The Winter Soldier and Cap. I get why it should be a big deal, but the film just fails to actually justify it in the goings on of the movie itself. And it is a shame because it could have done a lot for Cap’s character.
While I feel Cap leaves the film just as boring as he entered it, the film does a great job of making things around him exciting. As an individual film it is thrilling and fun to watch, worth seeing regardless of its ties to the overall Marvel film universe. Those ties though make it Marvel’s most important film to date, and for fans it is a must see.