01/04/2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Release: 2014, theatrical
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After a black-ops operation on a hijacked U.S. ship, Captain America starts having doubts about the integrity of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization and he soon discovers that maybe modern day America isn't as black and white as the world he came from.

Hans' thoughts:

When you summarize the names of superheroes that will do well internationally in your head "Captain America" is scarcely the first one that comes to mind. Grounded deeply in the American reaction to the Second World War, the character was created basically as a propaganda piece to sell warbonds. One of the most well-known images of the character is simply him giving Adolf Hitler a punch to the jaw. However Captain America: The First Avenger actually turned out to be one of the more well received entries in what is now named "Phase one" of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), consisting of (in order of continuity): Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and ending with The Avengers in 2012. So far "Phase two" of the MCU is also looking decent enough, while Iron Man 3 received some critical panning and the tie-in TV-show "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been deemed a failure by many fans Thor: The Dark World was considered one of the best entries to date. So how does The Winter Soldier hold up? Surprisingly well actually. 

Unlike Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is very scarce in referencing the events of The Avengers, instead The Winter Soldier gives us a more in-depth look at the intelligence bureau known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Where our titular hero portrayed by Chris Evans, a man of simple values and straightforward methods, is having trouble fitting in with the methods of his secretive boss Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Evans portrayal of Cap is as good as ever, his arc in this movie is very much about having old world viewpoints in a new world and while the actor himself turns in a good performance, and the writing is actually really good. I can't let the fact go however, that his costume has never really been all that good in any of the movies thus far and unfortunately it's the same case this time around. Costume designers seem to just be unable to get it to look good, and that makes total sense since the original Captain America suit was designed in the 1940's and has seen little to no updates in the years since then. This time they decided to make his ears be free from the hood part of the suit and unfortunately that makes them seem huge. I quickly got used to it, but in the first few moments of the movie I had to remind myself that this was not a comedy. The movie has a lot of returning actors and it works to the advantage of the piece, as instead of throwing a lot of new things at us we have the growth of already established characters with the exception of newcomer Sam Wilson, portrayed by Anthony Mackie. Mackie fits right in with the old cast however, and quickly sets up himself as another well-known Marvel character. His special effects are actually done really well and though his action scenes in full get-up are few they are very enjoyable and doesn't take away focus from the main cast - though unfortunately his costume design for this movie follows the Hollywood trend of removing as many colors as possible from superhero get-ups as was the case for the MCU's version of Hawkeye. The other newcomer is seasoned veteran Robert Redford as the chairman of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he has a lot of great moments in the movie. His portrayal made one of the twists of the movie all the more surprising. Scarlett Johanson returns as Black Widow, once again showing new sides of the character and seems to just have a lot of fun portraying the character. Nevermind the fact that she's not held back by a tacked on romantic sub-plot that probably would've been present in a lesser movie. Black Widow is thus far the only female superhero set up in the MCU, but she can definitely stand toe to toe with the likes of both much more seasoned actors Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford. 

The elephant in the room in this review thus far is of course The Winter Soldier himself, this is not because of his portrayal (the character is actually done a lot of justice and I enjoyed every single scene he was in) but because his identity is supposed to be a complete secret. Rest assured Marvel fans, there's no big fake out moments here as was the case with The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. More than that I'm not really willing to say, even though promotional material for the movie has not been all that secretive I feel that non-comic book nerds should discover this awesome plot twist for themselves. So there's that. Moving on to the action of the movie, it has a fair amount of "shaky cam". Meaning of course that the camera is moved frequently in the film to up the intensity of some of the scenes. Unfortunately it makes some scenes fairly hard to follow and I heard complaints from one of my companions that he could barely see what was going on in some of the bigger action scenes at all. It's a big shame because on the other hand the hand-to-hand combat scenes are really good and the choreography makes the action in these scenes seem very intense without needing the added effects of shaking the camera. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a much more eventful movie than its already strong predecessor and stands as a testament to the really great thing Marvel Studios has going at the moment proving that the high quality of "phase one" wasn't a complete freak of nature. The special effects of the movie are great, even if we're not able to see as many of them as we would like due to the rapid camera movement and the writing of the story is spot on - taking one of the major plotlines of Captain America's comic line and updating it for modern movie going audiences and the setting of the MCU.
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