Joel does Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain_america_winter_soldier_movie_poster_by_alvincapalad-d5af6nf“On your left.”

The Scoop:  2014 PG-13,  directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford

Tagline:  In heroes we trust

Summary Capsule:  Captain America suddenly finds himself chased by those he thought were his allies as well as hunted by a mysterious assassin, The Winter Soldier.  Who can he trust?

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Joel’s Rating: 4.5 Frozen Super Soldiers

Joe’s Review: Before I get to the meat of this review, I would really like to know what kind of operating budget SHIELD has in the Marvel Movie Universe. I mean, when you watch this and see the kind of hardware being used and built in this movie, you will understand what I mean. Just how much money would that take? And do they have bases like that in every country that one of the council members comes from?   GI Joe would have completely demolished Cobra if they had that kind of ready cash!  Geez, defund that and America’s economic problems will be over!

Rant over, review begins.

This sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger picks up with Steve Rogers (Captain America, played by Chris Evans) trying to get accustomed to life in the 21st century. He is a dude, so he’s starting to notice the ladies and make a few friends outside of avenging stuff and the organization he works for, SHIELD. Nick Fury, Commander of SHIELD (Samuel L. Jackson), sends The Captain on a mission to recover a ship that has been taken by pirates led by Batroc, and this mission is successful with a couple bumps. However, Captain America has some concerns about the mission, and learns a few things about the ship that had been kept from him in the mission brief. Even as he figures out something is going on behind the scenes, someone tries to kill Nick Fury in a very brutal and public way. This sends Cap, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and newcomer The Falcon (Anthonie Mackie) on the run with enemies around (literally) every corner, with our heroes not even really knowing who the enemy really is, and with the mysterious  assassin ‘Winter Soldier’(Sebastian Stan) on their heels. I think it is all meant as an analogy of bi-partisan fighting in the US Congress but I might be mistaken.

Wow, this is such an educational film, it should be rebranded as a Public Service Announcement… a 2+ hour PSA! I mean, I learned that if you are driving a police car but indiscriminately shooting up the town, no real police are going to even get curious! Another big, highly armed attack takes place with people dressed as a Federal security group, and people in that group in the same city’s HQ do not even notice or question it! I even found out that amazing pieces of technology, even if they are the last one in existence, are kept in museums fully charged and ready to go!

I will go into the stuff I didn’t like first this time, because honestly, most of it is nitpicking and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the movie. In fact some of them are just my little preferences. I would have liked to see more from Batroc (The Leaper!) the mercenary pirate, since he was a favorite of mine back when I read comic books. I really didn’t understand all of the huge chase, explosion, and gunfire sequences in the middle of the city that had absolutely no reaction from local authorities, especially when the main parts seemed to take place in Washington DC. And while I don’t want to drift into Spoiler territory, the details of ‘Insight’ seemed absolutely ridiculous to me, even from a super hero movie standpoint. Honestly, how do you get that kind of complex with that kind of weaponry built within a short motorcycle ride away from the US Capitol? What, no one would notice the gigantic amounts of steel and equipment being delivered?

I’m sure there are more I could mention, but they are still pretty minor things. It isn’t quite like The Dark Knight Rises or Iron Man 3, which both had plot holes so large that I noticed and thought about them even as I watched the movies the first time! The Winter Soldier, while the plot is kind of huge, holds up pretty well under scrutiny. At least I can’t remember anything that bad.

There are two things particularly that I loved most about this film, and both reminded me of films from the 70s and 80s. Firstly, despite having long-underwear characters running around, the movie feels as much like a political action thriller as it does a super hero movie. The maneuvering of folks on every side is tense and makes sense from the point of view of each person involved. At the beginning, there isn’t just ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’, we really don’t know who is on the side of the angels fully (except Cap, of course). While there are some really big effects toward the end of the movie, I appreciated how many scenes simply relied on the actors to carry the moment.  Robert Redford shines in his role and Samuel L. Jackson, the veritable stereotype of a tough guy, seems vulnerable and not as much in control as he normally is in these roles.  Great acting across the board.

And I love the action sequences.  This is why I could overlook some of the things I didn’t like, because the action made me forget! I know there was some CGI, again especially toward the end, but I was impressed about how much was simple stunt work and old-school FX. The car chases especially seemed nearly untouched by computer animation. When they did have to tweak a scene, it normally was not obvious. It seemed like they only used computer graphics when they couldn’t finish a scene with a basic stunt or crash. Even in the hand-to-hand fighting, there was more physical stunt work than animated figures (at least to my eye).

Another thing to appreciate is that there is some real character development here. Several of the characters in the movie have been seen in previous Marvel films (Agent Coulson was too busy on tv to appear here, I guess.  What a prima donna.), and even a couple of the lesser characters have something happen that changes them a little. Of course, the primary characters Cap, Black Widow, Fury, and the Winter Soldier himself, get most of the real development, but they are all changed by the time the credits role. In fact, by the end, the entire Marvel movie universe has changed in ways that I certainly didn’t expect.

For those who plan to see it, be prepared for some pretty intense action. Disney did make much of the violence as bloodless as they could, but there are some really painful looking shots as well as scenes where a lot of people would have to be getting injured or killed in the background, even if we aren’t seeing it. Overall, Winter Soldier is a bit darker, faster, and more brutal than the original Captain America and even than the other Disney-Marvel films.

I could go on, but it is better to just let folks who haven’t watched it to find out for themselves. I can only say that I found it beautifully done, fun to watch, and easy to suspend disbelief. At least Cap didn’t suddenly remember the 30 armored suits he had in reserve that he really could have used earlier in the movie but just… didn’t. You can play ‘spot the Marvel reference’ as usual, and please stay for the two additional scenes, one during and one at the end of the credits. For us old comic fans, the first one was pretty exciting.   To put it simply, unless you just don’t like super heroes or action movies, by all means watch Captain America:  The Winter Soldier.  It is a pretty wild ride!

This is the part where Spider Man mistakes Falcon for his enemy, The Vulture, and attacks.  Great moment!

This is the part where Spider Man mistakes Falcon for his enemy, The Vulture, and attacks. Great moment!

Intermission

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the mid-point for Disney/Marvel’s Phase Two universe.  The story starts in Iron Man 3, continues in Thor: Dark World, will continue through Guardians of the Galaxy, and will culminate in Avengers 2:  Age of Ultron.
  • During an interrogation, SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell mentions several individuals considered potential threats, including Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steven Strange… as in Doctor Strange, a major Marvel comics character we have not yet seen in the movie universe.
  • Many of the named SHIELD agents in the movies are from the comics, too
  • It might have been my imagination, but those flying vehicles SHIELD has (the smaller ones, not the big ones) look an awful lot like a version of the Avengers Quinjet transport from the comics.
  • Steve’s ‘to-do’ list in the movie changes depending on which country you are viewing the movie in.
  • Sebastian Stan, the actor playing the Winter Soldier, practiced with his knife often on set because he wanted his movement to seem practiced and natural during filming.  He also studied subject like brainwashing and spy practices during the Cold War to get  a feel for what his character had gone through.
  • Part of Robert Redford’s motivation to be in this film came from his grand kids, who thought seeing Grampa in a super hero movie would be cool!  He played more than one political thriller back in the 70′s and 80′s, so this role is also sort of an homage to his legacy.

 

Groovy Quotes

Steve: [running past Sam several times] On your left.

Natasha Romanoff: Most of the intelligence community doesn’t believe he exists. The ones that do call him the Winter Soldier. He’s a ghost, you’ll never find him.

Sam Wilson/Falcon: Captain America needs my help…

Nick Fury: Looks like you’re giving the orders now, Captain.

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2 Comments

  1. I think the idea with the real authorities not showing up was that all of this was happening VERY quickly, and by the time any of the real guys noticed, the fake ones were already gone. Anyway, the advantage of a plan like that is that few people would think to call the cops when it looks like the bad guys ARE the cops.

  2. Maybe, but in real life, one cop can be at a basic traffic stop and still have two more cops stop to see if everything is cool! It is a small thing, though, I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Thanks for the comment!

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