Sunday, April 6, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier review

When Captain America: The First Avenger was released in 2011, it did well at the box-office.  I reviewed the film and liked it very much, and liked the direction Marvel was taking the character.  Here we are a few years later, and the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been released.  The new film takes place after the events of The Avengers film, keeping the continuity built by Marvel studios.  All the stars return, include the Captain himself, Chris Evans.  But new to the party are the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo.  Let's get right into it.

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
The cast is comprised of some terrific actors, starting with Chris Evans of course.  Again he plays Steve Rodgers with a sincerity you can't help but fall in love with.  It's like watching a film hero from generations ago.  He's charming, has a sense of humor, and knows how to treat people.  There's an element to Rodgers' psyche that was only touched on in The Avengers; he's in a world he doesn't know or understand.  So much has changed in 70 years, it would be difficult for anyone to adapt.  And I loved that the character carried a notepad where he writes down culturally significant things to catch up (like Steve Jobs and Nirvana).  Great stuff here.

The rest of the cast compliments the Captain nicely here.  Scarlett Johansson returns as Black Widow, with a much bigger role than in either of her two previous Marvel films.  I love where the writer's went with her character.  She's a spy that has had to pretend to be so many other people than herself, she's not sure WHO she is anymore.  Samuel L. Jackson keeps us guessing about Nick Fury, Director of SHEILD.  Is he good, is he bad?  Jackson plays it so well, you just don't know.  Robert Redford is a newly introduced character and fits very nicely into the film's universe.  Other supporting actors include Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie; who are both wonderful additions to the franchise.  

The Tone
This may be my favorite aspect of the film.  Most Marvel films are just an action-comedy, basically.  'The Winter Soldier' doesn't necessarily fit that mold.  It does have action though, A LOT of great action; something I felt was lacking in the first film.  The action is new, fresh and inventive.  Captain's hand to hand combat is awesome, as well as his many creative ways to use his shield.  There's some great humor in the film as well.  But the movie is really a thriller.  As the plot unfolds, we're continually guessing 'who done it'.  And I really enjoy movies that can pull that off.

The Pacing
The film is non-stop fun.  The action is swift and direct; yet the moments where the film slows down are just as fulfilling.  We learn a lot about these people, and I love that.  We learn about their motivations, their personalities, their past, without being pulled out of the film.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
As I mentioned above, the movie plays out like a political thriller, and that aspect of the story is a good thing.  But what I couldn't get over were the absurd aspects of the plot.  No spoilers here, I promise... but there's THAT many people involved in this evil plot?  And no one knew about it?  Suspension of disbelief is expected when going to see a film about a man who was injected with a super-soldier serum, but this is just ridiculous.  The story was gripping until the major plot twist is revealed and they lost me.  Not enough for me to dislike the movie, just enough to bother me, a lot.

Captain America Can't Carry His Own Film
I thought about this point for a long time.  Why can't Captain America carry his own film?  Marvel brought in Black Widow, Falcon (played by Mackie), and gave Nick Fury a huge role, because unfortunately Captain America can't carry a film on his own.  A similar thing happened in the first film.  In that film, the Captain recruits the Howling Commandos, who fill in the supporting roles of that film.  I hate to say it, but I agree with Marvel's strategy, and don't think the character is strong enough to carry his own film.  I'm sure comic-book enthusiasts have hundreds of stories and characters they'd like to see play out on the big screen, but I don't know.  What do you think?  Can the Captain carry his own film?

The Verdict:
One of Marvel's Best
Now just because I thought certain story elements were ridiculous, and that the character is not strong enough to carry his own film, doesn't mean I didn't love this movie.  Because I did.  It's exponentially better than the first Captain America film, and definitely up there with the best Marvel has produced to date.  The director brothers did so many things right and kept the audience so engaged, it's difficult not to love this movie.  Stick around until the very end of the credits for some cool stuff Marvel is working on that sets up The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Good stuff!

No comments: