Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Posted: April 7, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

Almost six years after first taking off from the station, the Marvel Studios train is showing no signs of slowing down, but there is one question to ask by this point: is this whole enterprise starting to lose steam? And Captain America: The Winter Soldier feels like a good movie to use to ask said question, but the answer, at least from my perspective, isn’t so clear-cut. However, what is clear-cut about this star-spangled sequel is that this is not just another movie whose main purpose for existing is to mainly help bridge the gap to the next Avengers film. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fully functioning solo outing which does a perfectly respectable job of both telling its own story while also advancing this whole over-arching multi-movie plot that spans everything that Marvel Studios puts out. And it does it well, I might add.

Fitting into the MCU timeline two years after The Avengers, The Winter Soldier sees Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) fully entrenched in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s active operations while also still acclimating to a world very different from the one he was forced to leave behind in the 1940’s. But there’s one thing Rogers can’t get used to, and that’s the shift in political climate of the modern world, and how he sees it affecting the freedom he fought so hard to achieve. The questionable motivations behind S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sending Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a team of agents on a supposed rescue mission of captured S.H.I.E.L.D. agents onboard a vessel seized by Algerian pirates are only the tip of the iceberg, however. Soon after that very mission, S.H.I.E.L.D. finds itself under serious attack, and the only face they have to put to all this chaos is a lone operative with the codename “The Winter Soldier.” And trust me, this guy gives new meaning to the phrase “one man army.” Pretty soon, Rogers and Black Widow find themselves on their own and off the grid, pursued by senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), as they try to piece together who exactly the Winter Soldier is taking orders from and what the endgame behind an all-out assault on S.H.I.E.L.D. is. Along the way, they forge an alliance with former Pararescue war veteran Sam Wilson a.k.a. The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who may just be the only person Rogers and Black Widow can trust in a world that’s proving to be more and more dangerous with each passing minute.

By now, there may be a few of you wondering why I said that the answer to the question I posed at the start of this review isn’t clear-cut. Well, allow me to explain by breaking it down to two components. To start with, I can recognize and appreciate just how much of a game-changer The Winter Soldier is to this multi-franchise epic story that’s been unfolding since 2008. Here is a sequel that’s clearly and aggressively unwilling to fall into the previously-established pattern of just serving as filler popcorn fare until we get to Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. Instead, The Winter Soldier not only raises the stakes, but blows them up as well, making for a pretty tight and tense film that doesn’t simply rehash its predecessor. However, there’s a “but” coming, and that “but” is that it goes about raising the stakes in what ultimately feels like a been-there, done-that type of fashion. There’s a definite level of polish and professionalism present in all of the pyrotechnics, but I’m not sure how much feeling there is behind it all. Now, if you’re taking this to mean that I didn’t like the movie, let me assure you that’s not the case, but we’ll get back to this in a minute.

Before then, let’s talk about the performances. In his third outing as the titular hero, Chris Evans continues to embody the characteristics of Steve Rogers that make him worthy of being called Captain America in the first place, and while I personally may not be too enamored with the character, I still can’t deny that Evans does a very respectable job with the material. He’s definitely heroic at the end of the day, displays a likable charm and functions effectively as the type of guy you would follow into battle. Scarlett Johansson is as sexy and kick-ass as ever as the tight-suited Black Widow, and just like in The Avengers, we’re given enough insight into the character’s past to make her feel more like an actual person rather than the obligatory action movie sex symbol. Together, though, she and Chris Evans have some truly fun and natural chemistry. As for Samuel L. Jackson, he has the most meaty material to work with as Nick Fury here than he’s had up to this point, but I won’t say anything more to avoid spoilers. Franchise newcomers Robert Redford and Anthony Mackie also make strong impressions, with Redford offering up a nice dose of straight-laced seriousness and something else that befits the plot as it goes on (again, I can’t say too much more without venturing into spoiler territory) while Mackie provides a good blend of bravery and humor that makes him a more than suitable supporting hero. It’s also nice to see recent How I Met Your Mother graduate Cobie Smulders back as Agent Maria Hill.

Now, back to my issues where the execution of the plot is concerned. It doesn’t have so much to do with the action sequences themselves, which are all really exciting and fun, but more to do with the conviction involved in all of the movie’s other aspects. Like I’ve already said, I appreciate how The Winter Soldier changes the dynamics of the part of this universe directly related to S.H.I.E.L.D. by the end of the film – and it’ll be very interesting to see how it ultimately affects the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. T.V. show – but when I get right down to it, in the end, I have the same main issue with this film as I did with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. For all the stake-raising this movie does, I don’t think I ever really felt the consequences of it all. This mainly has to do with how little I actually care about Captain America as a character; I have the same problem with him as I do with Superman, except for in Man of Steel: he’s just too damn wholesome. The blame for this falls more on screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely than co-directors Anthony & Joe Russo, because while the movie certainly entertained me consistently, I still felt just a little detached on an emotional level. By the way, if you want your audience to buy into a character death in your movie, then try to avoid including scenes featuring the character from later parts in the movie in any of the previews. I’m not saying The Winter Soldier needed to explore levels of pathos and deep themes similar to those present in The Dark Knight, but a real reason to care about everything certainly would have been welcome.

So does that mean I’m giving Captain America: The Winter Soldier a negative review? No, I still quite liked the movie, but you won’t see me hopping on the bandwagon of people declaring it to be the best Marvel movie to date; I personally prefer Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World in this whole “Phase Two” of Marvel films so far. But I can still qualify The Winter Soldier as a success, and at least it continues the traditions of these last three Marvel movies, where it leaves you genuinely interested to see where things go from here.

***/****

Comments
  1. Good review! I do have to admit that I am one of those people jumping on the bandwagon for this one, though it’s actually my second favorite Marvel movie, after the first Iron Man. ;) Marvel really does seem to be unstoppable at this point. The true risk for them will be Guardians of the Galaxy this summer, to see how far their brand really will carry them.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Michael. A whole bunch of fun, except for when it got too serious and focused on whatever the hell it was trying to talk about in the first half-hour.

  3. reel411 says:

    hmm quite a cautious review.

  4. Great review. I loved the film and thought the new thriller aspect of the film took Marvel into a new Genre even if in a relatively small way. Very much looking forward to the next one :D

  5. […] cheesy, and the acting could get very spotty at times.The plot seemed somewhat thin as well. In PG Cooper’s Captain America Review he said that he “never really felt the consequences of it all”. I agree with this […]

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