Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.


I enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I didn’t expect that.

The movie opens with the misplaced-in-time Captain Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) running laps around the national mall in my current hometown of Washington, DC. After a brief and even cute encounter with fellow jogger Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie), he’s picked up by the Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) and dropped off on a hijacked S.H.I.E.L.D. ship where he proceeds to kick major bad guy butt from bow to stern (or was it stern to bow?). It was a rather fun and energetic opening that managed pulled me in almost right away, squashing a lot of the misgivings I had entering the movie.

One of the major reasons I didn’t enjoy Captain America: The First Avenger was because the action just wasn’t that exciting. None of the fight scenes stood out. The set pieces weren’t all that memorable. The whole Red Skull and Tesseract aspects felt far-fetched even for a Marvel movie. (On a whole I find anything relating to the Tesseract rather boring, but I’ve learned to just swallow it since The Avengers.) The movie also felt vaguely steam-punkish, a style I have a weird, unexamined aversion to. Yet I would have been fine with all of it if I’d just enjoyed the action. The only thing The Winter Soldier really has going for it is the action, and that was enough for me to have a good time.

Captain America’s fighting style has been markedly improved in this sequel. The studio brought in fight choreographer, James Young, whose credits include Raze, a movie about women who are kidnapped and forced to bare knuckle brawl  each other. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been wanting to since I heard about. I especially want to see it now that I know what Young is capable of. The fights in The Winter Soldier are clean and kinetic. You can see exactly what is happening: who is punching whom, how the hits are landing or missing, and just how powerful the blows are. That’s a credit to the cinematography and editing as well. Young also made Cappy’s shield more fun this time around, coming up with some slick ways to manipulate it (even if it is unbelievable that Cappy is able to bounce it off two guys’ head, then a wall and then catch it.)

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As for the storyline, it was only so-so: After retrieving an encrypted flash drive from the hijacked ship and handing it off to S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), some bad guys start to come after Fury himself. It’s up to Captain America and the Black Widow, with some help from new friend Sam Wilson aka  Falcon, to figure out what secrets the drive holds and who is trying to take down the organization. It might just be someone on the inside! Oh yeah and there is an assassin who runs by the name of Winter Soldier trying to kill them all. He’s got a metal-arm, a mask, and a strength and agility that rivals Cappy’s. Not exactly riveting stuff.

First off, I don’t care about the fate of S.H.I.E.L.D. The entire organization could be burned to the ground in any of these movies and it wouldn’t stir anything in me. Other than Nick Fury, who is not likable, they’re all nameless suits walking around doing shadowy things. In the first season of the TV show 24 when we learned that there was a double-agent in C.T.U., it was shocking. It mattered. S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t matter. As viewers, we align ourselves with the superheroes in these movies. S.H.I.E.L.D. is just a “them.” So why would we get invested in a story involving a conspiracy within the organization? It doesn’t help that they always seem so darn incompetent too. Everything they do backfires! And it’s not even like Captain America himself holds a special allegiance to the organization. He seems to be at odds with them most of time, preferring honesty and transparency over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s dubious goals and methods. Why he stays and helps them after being manipulated so much, I don’t know.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.Which brings me to another problem: we don’t really know that much about Steve Rogers as a person. So he wakes up in modern day America, roughly 60 years after his own when, and he begins working for a shadow U.S. organization. Is that all he does now? Run around as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s errand boy? Compare him to the other Avengers, and you find he falls short in the whole personality department. He doesn’t have any hobbies or personal life goals that we know of, which means as a whole he’s not a very captivating character. I think this movie tries to address that a bit by having a character directly ask Steve what he wants out of his present life. We’re not really given an answer because he doesn’t really know the answer. I get the sense that the third movie will spend an even greater time addressing that question.

In a way it makes sense that he wouldn’t have much of a personality. He’s a fish out of water, trying to find his place in the new world he lives in. I think if I woke up in the year 2075, I would hardly feel connected to that world. I’d be so lost. Maybe I’d still fight to defend the world (if it were in my nature to do such things), but life would never feel right until I found my new role in my new time. And maybe that’s why the Captain is fine spending his time saving the world: it stops him from dwelling on how discomfiting his current situation is.

I think it’s going to be crucial to humanize him in the tertiary movie. Show us a Captain America that’s not just fighting. The third Iron Man gave us that, with Tony Stark spending a major amount of time outside the Iron Man suit, showing us how he was dealing with the aftermath of the events in The Avengers. Here’s hoping the next Captain America follows that trend.

My Rating
It was OK


Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Arrested Development; You, Me and Dupree; Happy Endings; Community)
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay)(The Chronicles of Narnia series, Captain America: The First Avenger; Pain & Gain; Thor: The Dark World), Ed Brubaker (concept and story)(Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (comic book).

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Image Sources: Marvel’s Captain America The Winter Soldier – The Official Site

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