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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

April 4, 2014

Captain America has long been one of my favorite comic book characters. Many people are often surprised to learn that fact, but then again many people are often surprised when they realize how much I love Superman. For me, whereas a character like Superman represents this platonic ideal of goodness and the struggle for his character is his inability save everyone, Captain America is the normal person who steps up when his fellow man needs him. There’s nothing extraordinary about him, he’s just a good person who wants to do his part.

That’s what makes Steve Rogers the perfect candidate to become the first super-soldier, and I appreciated the fact that in The First Avenger they took time to establish that. The super-soldier serum does make him a much more physically capable, but it would have been wasted on someone who didn’t have the right personality. The fact that Steve Rogers is a Good Man, is also what has always made his more modern espionage/political thriller stories so great.

Whereas James Bond and Jason Bourne are basically just assassins with some ancillary skills, and Jack Ryan is everything your conservative relatives believe CIA analysts are, Steve Rogers is a good and honest man first and foremost. When you put him inside of shadowy plots where he’s forced to question his values and how far he has to go to make his idealism a reality, you get a really interesting story.

Or in the case of The Winter Soldier, a really great movie.

This movie is pitch perfect and interesting from the moment it starts. Cap has settled into his role as a SHIELD Agent quite well, switching from having a friendly chat with a fellow veteran to getting ready for wet work operations with Black Widow with astounding ease. Of course, in those first five minutes, we’re already being reminded that Steve Rogers is a man out of time when we see his list of things he needs to learn more about (including historical moments like the Berlin Wall alongside pop culture like I Love Lucy and Nirvana).

The first act is jam-packed with plot information, characterization, references to the previous films, and some good old fashioned myth building. Yet somehow, it never feels like it’s as hectic as it really is. The film moves almost seamlessly through discussions on Steve needing to ask coworkers out on dates, to his struggles with his own status as a legend, and sparring with Nick Fury over what he feels are shadowy dealings. It’s these shadowy dealings and suspect actions that become the focus of the film’s plot, as enemies old and new make their moves and threaten freedom as we know it.

I don’t really want to give too much of the plot away, beyond the tidbits that Robert Redford has already spoiled anyway, because the reveals are a large part of what makes this movie so fun. We jump around from interesting set piece to interesting set piece slowly unraveling the mystery right alongside Captain America until everything reaches an epic crescendo in a wonderful action packed third act. Along the way, we meet many of the supporting characters that Cap has accumulated in the comics over the years, and make lots of fun references to other Marvel franchises. It’s fantastic and I was really blown away by how much I loved it.

The big takeaway for me is obviously how much they managed to fit into this film without it ever feeling cluttered but there are a few other points to touch on very quickly. First, I felt like this was the first movie where Scarlett Johansson actually had something to do. Her character is still annoyingly obfuscating at times but then again she is a spy. There were also a few obvious fan service shots but they didn’t feel as obnoxious as they are in other films. The introduction of Cap’s longtime partner Falcon was handled very well and I hope that we’re going to see even more of him. I would have also loved to see more of Agent 13 but clearly so did the writers so I imagine that I will get that wish at some point.

The writers and directors definitely had a really great feel for the character, and they definitely were excited to take on this project. The dialogue is great and feels very natural which is a hard task when the rest of the movie involves people punching each other through walls. Also, unlike the awkward bits of humor in Iron Man 3, the humor in this movie is subtle, fitting, and actually made me laugh.

The direction was on point as well, making the action easy to follow with superb fight choreography. I really can’t recommend this movie enough and I can’t fit all the praise I want to into a thousand words. If there’s anything I could complain about, it’s that the 3D is unnecessary and as is the case when you’re building a sprawling franchise some narrative threads were either a little thin or left hanging at the end. Still, this was one of my favorite Marvel movies since The Avengers (I might even like it a little bit more than The Avengers) and it’s definitely my favorite action movie in a long time.

Go out and go see it, you won’t regret it.

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From → Movies

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