“He’s fast… strong… and has a metal arm.”
The ninth entry in the Marvel canon; Captain America: The Winter Soldier could arguably be it’s best. Not only is the film a strong follow up to Whedon-tastic behemoth Avengers Assemble but it’s also a strong follow up to the severely underrated Captain America: The First Avenger. The film is also the biggest Marvel film to date except perhaps The Avengers, and I’m sure the ramifications from the events of this film will be felt across all of the Marvel related products, even more so than The Avengers. God help whoever is in charge of Agents of Shield; it’s going to be difficult to continue the flagship Marvel TV show after this. I won’t go into detail as to why, and the rest of this review will stay relatively spoiler free as well, but beware of minor spoilers which might give certain plot points and easter eggs away. Read on to see what I thought of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier!
The film opens with a meeting between Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and new hero Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who later becomes Falcon, running through DC. Mackie’s character isn’t inherently the most interesting, all he can do in the movie is fly and shoot. In the comics he could also telepathically communicate with birds but even with that he is a pretty boring character. He often is to Cap what War Machine is to Iron Man, he is similar to the main character except a bit crappier. Even in the characters own words he knows he is worse than Cap, saying at one point; ‘I do what he does – just slower.’ The saving grace of the character though is Anthony Mackie’s performance, making an at first boring character both funny and interesting. It would be cool if we ever get to explore Sam Wilson’s past, perhaps expand on the apparent PTSD he has from being a soldier. Along with the good performance Falcon also has a few cool scenes, especially towards the end and I would quite like to see the character return. Along with Anthony Mackie, Chris Evens turns in a great performance as the patriotic Captain America. Similar to Mackie as Falcon, Evans manages to make a character which could be boring in the hands of a lesser actor a great and compelling central character. He’s funny, sympathetic and more than anything: bad ass. After the slightly muted Cap we saw in The Avengers it’s cool to finally see him do awesome things like take down a jet in one throw of his shield, or survive a fall from 30 stories up. This is classic Cap, the Captain America we’ve seen in comics and now he finally is fully realised on the big screen.
Cap is extremely awesome in the film but the real highlights for me are Sebastian Stan as Bucky (or The Winter Soldier) and Robert Redford as S.H.E.I.L.D head Alexander Pierce. The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel villain the films have ever had and is even better than fan-girl favourite Loki, being both terrifying and sympathetic often at the same time. His best scene is a surprising and explosive bridge showdown between The Winter Soldier’s mercenaries and the film’s heroes, with some great fight scenes greatly utilizing practical effects. The only downside to The Winter Soldier character is that he perhaps isn’t in the movie as much as you would expect, especially seeing as the film is named after him. But despite this, the film does a great job of bringing one of my personal favourite comic book characters to the big screen and it leaves room for more films to explore his back story. And with Chris Evans talking about retiring from acting, and it being no spoiler that Sebastian Stan has a long Marvel contract, perhaps one day he will take the place of Captain America as he did in the comics. Robert Redford’s character on the other hand is more subtle, being more about politics than explosions. It’s great to see the Sundance Kid clearly enjoying himself, and along with actors like Michael Douglas in Ant Man it’s a good sign for the genre that great actors are choosing to be in these films. It’s with Redford’s character Alexander Pierce, along with S.H.I.E.L.D, that the film’s underlying message is communicated through. Captain America is the liberal, pro-freedom guy and Redford represents the dodgy Washington types who advocate spying on the population to keep them safe. And while at times the message is slightly on the nose, with Cap saying things like; “I thought the punishment usually came after the crime,’ and “This isn’t freedom, this is fear,” it is cool that this film has something to say, making it more than just a disposable blockbuster. And all of these relevant, post Snowden-esque underlying messages are tied back to the film in cool comic book way which I won’t spoil here. All I will say however is make sure you have seen the first Captain America before hand or a lot of these plot points might not make as much sense.
The action in Captain America is also suitably awesome. At first I was apprehensive as directors Anthony and Joe Russo have chosen a faster editing style than what I personally like, and it took me a while to get in to it. But it didn’t take too long, and by the time Nick Fury is getting chased around DC in his near-invincible car I was gripped to my seat. This whole action scene is brilliant and also very creative, doing some things we haven’t really seen in a superhero movie before. In fact, until the typically action packed but spectacular finale, you’d be hard pressed to call it a superhero movie. It’s more of a conspiracy thriller, and a great one at that. There are enough twists and turns to keep a fan of clever movies intrigued, there’s enough creative and original action sequences to keep an action fan watching, and there are enough classic superhero tropes to keep casual fans entertained. And any comic book nerds like myself will certainly enjoy the nods to classic comic book character such as Doctor Strange that litter the film. As well as this, the film’s other elements also make one of the top tier Marvel movies. The score is especially good, mainly in the case of The Winter Soldier, making him even more menacing than the metal arm and M16 had already done. The script is good as well, mixing some serious, well written dialogue with some funny lines thrown in. There’s a lot more that can be said about the film but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone as this is a movie that you should go and see at the cinema if possible, don’t wait for it all to be spoiled by the time of the DVD release.
The Bottom Line: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is definitely up there with the best of the Marvel films. It has some awesome characters and some equally awesome actors and also some incredibly fun and original action. The film also has a surprisingly relevant message to it making it one of the cleverer Marvel movies out there. The film isn’t as out right funny as Iron Man 3 nor is it quite as good in my opinion, but it is still an exceptional film and is probably the most risk taking Marvel film, pushing boundaries that others like Thor 2 wouldn’t touch. Captain America: The Winter Soldier actually affects the Marvel universe, and thus makes it feel like it matters within the canon. While Thor 2 was a very fun film, it does feel inconsequential in the grand Marvel narrative, and arguably so did Iron Man 3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the most fun films of the marvel universe, and also one of the smartest. If anyone out there thought Marvel was losing it slightly and the superhero boom was waning, watch this film and your faith will be restored. Not only is it a brilliant superhero film, it’s a brilliant film full stop.