Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America The Winter Soldier Poster Chris Evans

Rating: 3.5 of 5 ★★★½☆ 

There were a lot of things in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that were a lot of fun. Not the least of which is Captain America himself. Even so, it wasn’t quite what I expected.

It was much more real world than prior Marvel movies, I think even more so than the Iron Man films. Because Tony Stark as a billionaire playboy doesn’t resemble much of real life even when he’s not in the suit. It almost didn’t even quite feel like a super hero movie. Which I liked. It took this very fantastic universe and grounded it in a political thriller. It was good in theory.

But the political thriller wasn’t… thrilling. I love good political intrigue but it hinges on subtext and context and subterfuge. In order to work it needs to be intrigue more than machinations. This was the latter with a lot of exposition. I found myself wishing it was a little more like a Marvel version of Spy Game.

The action was mostly ok. Chris Evans’ stunts were pretty spectacular and I loved the parkour and gymnastics elements they incorporated to make him seem something more than just really fast and really strong. But the camera moved too much to really track the action and enjoy it. I don’t know if it was because it was shot for 3D and I was watching it in 2D or if the directing really was just that shaky but it didn’t quite work. And there was this one moment – this one great stunt that was so solid and tracked so well that it was really impressive. It just emphasized how everything else was just not as good. I would have still given it 5 star for production but I didn’t love the score. Didn’t dislike it by any means but just didn’t love it.

Though, I was really surprised at how closely it edged toward an R rating. All of the killing reminded me of Face/Off but with less blood. And there were a few curse words I was surprised were so obvious as to being very close to being included. I think I would have preferred a lot less killing because even though they’re big, action, super hero movies they’re also sort of undeniably family films and I think they should respect that and not stand so close to the edge in their rating.

The characters, however, were all (mostly) what this film needed. Agent 13 felt shoehorned in with too much fuss over not a whole lot. I still don’t like Scarlett Johansson, though I have to admit she annoyed me least of all in this movie. She finally looks something like the character and less like she’s dressed up trying to play the part. But there’s still something abrasive about her. Maria Hill, in comparison, was pretty cool. And it’s interesting. Ever since The Avengers it’s seemed like Marvel was giving significant, strong moments to the women in their films. It’s been a really good development. But the movie that actually had her alongside him for most of the time – felt like she had the least impact on the story. When

slight spoiler »
the older woman on the council started taking guys down I thought, “See, this is what Marvel does. They let the women play key roles in the finale and have a surprising, vital function in the story.” And then she unmasks and I was like, “Oh, nevermind. It’s just Black Widow. I knew she was hiding somewhere in the mayhem.”
Even so, I liked their friendship.

Falcon was much cooler than I expected. He’s just this regular guy but with a lot of the same issues as Steve Rogers, from similar sources. I liked the camaraderie between them and how just grounded and solid he is.

And I liked the emotional struggle that Captain America himself faces. Variety describes him kind of perfectly: “Evans excels at showing us the melancholy soul beneath the gleaming smile.”

Though, I think he still didn’t have much internal conflict. He’s displaced but he’s reconciling himself to that. The most interesting question… well two questions. One near the beginning he’s in this fight and this guy asks him if he’s more than a shield and he replies, “Let’s find out.” I wanted that to be something of a theme through the movie – who are you? Are you more than a shield and serum? Is it your fight moves that make you formidable? Here is this world you live in now, who are you really? And what are you doing here? I felt like there was a thread of that, especially when Falcon asks him what makes him happy and he said he didn’t know -but it could have been much stronger and much more interesting.

The second question was when he was talking to Peggy about knowing the right thing to do. That was intended to be the core theme of the movie – even though it turned into a lot of rhetoric about freedom and security and chaos. It never quite delivered on the internal struggle of this man looking at the world around him and trying to figure out the right course. Not because he didn’t choose a course but because it didn’t require any real turmoil for him.

more spoilers - pay no attention here... »

Hydra having infiltrated SHIELD made it all too easy. The struggle he had, about the right course of action, is whitewashed when the organization he doesn’t trust turns out to have been his enemy all along. So obviously it must be destroyed. No muss, no fuss, no internal conflict.

ETA: To be fair, the arc they did give him is to progress from solider to leader – from a man who takes orders to the man who gives them. And you see that clearly in the way SHIELD responds to him at the end. I did like that part and it was a decent arc, I suppose. And sets up his character as a really strong force in upcoming movies./ETA

I get how it branched out the mythology for the universe but it was a disservice to his character.

The parts I did like were the loyalty and the trust others had in him – the way they followed him and were willing to sacrifice themselves to stand by him. And they did it not out of fear or patronizing or because of orders. They did it because he’s a man of integrity – a spectacular leader – the man who does wrestle with doing what’s right. He’s Captain America. They could have made a movie where that’s just a name but they made sure it meant something.

And I wanted more emotion with the Winter Soldier. Maybe it’s too much to ask from a guy movie that’s all action and political thriller. I didn’t want tears but I definitely wanted a little more Joss Whedon. For maybe even the first half it felt like it was a little slow, like it was dragging out a revelation we all already knew. But then there’s this moment and my sister literally gasps and turns to me, shocked and excited and I decided it was worth it. Because we didn’t all, apparently, already know. There were good moments in that. But I guess since it’s the title of the movie I expected it to be the focus and not just a mechanism.

One thing I have to give Marvel credit for, they’re not afraid to entirely decimate their own status quo. It’s brave. And it’s intriguing. And it means we never know what to expect from them which is kind of cool.

Overall, I mostly liked the action, I think I would have loved it if there was just a bit more Joss Whedon in it. A Joss Whedon-Marvel-Spy Game starring Captain America. That would have been awesome!


See how Captain America: The Winter Soldier ranks with the other Marvel movies.

April 4, 2014 | Review , , , , | this post contains affiliate links