The juggernaut that is Marvel Comic’s movie universe gathers pace with the release of the second Captain America film. With the weight of expectation from its predecessor and the hugely successful Avengers Assemble, how would this film sit in the pantheon of super hero films?
A lot of work is put into identifying audiences for films. There has to be something about the film that makes it stand up on its own as well as within the bigger picture of a multi-movie storyline arc. It should appeal to the person who will only watch this film and to the one who has seen everyone that’s ever been done and wants to see how this one fits.
Winter Soldier works on a significant level in bringing in the casual viewer who has no background knowledge, and the fanatic who watched all the other films sixteen times over. The key to this is the story.
Engaging in a new world, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is committed to the cause through S.H.I.E.L.D, but events are leading him to see how blurred the lines are. The good guys aren’t always that good, and the bad guys are not that straightforward either. Looking for answers from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) only leads to further muddied waters.
Wrestling with these issues his world is turned upside down when a fatal hit takes place as done by a mysterious new super villain simply known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Rogers becomes a fugitive and the only person he can confide in initially is the still secretive Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Their quest for the truth leads to all sorts of ugly stuff coming to the surface, some from Roger’s own past, that threatens the very way of life for people around the world.
To combat this significant threat, Steve and the Widow enlist the help of Sam Wilson who was assigned a specific military project that gave him the name Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The size of the threat, however, looks require drastic measures that certainly has huge implications for Rogers and the way the world is protected from perceived terrorist threats.
Some viewers have talked about the possibility of super-hero fatigue. The number of movies coming out means that it gets a lot harder to produce something that doesn’t come across as run-of-the-mill. The key is not necessarily to be original, but it is to appear as though you’re taking a creative combination together and producing something memorable and entertaining.
This movie does that by keeping everything story-centred. It is not an action-flick, though it has great action set-pieces in it. It is not a Captain America-centred movie, although you still know they guy is important to it. It is a stunning story exploring issues of freedom, security, truth, trust and changing values in a changing world.
There may have been political undertones in the film and it’s clear that there is a subtle message about the importance of not getting too caught up with security that it threatens freedom. It is not, however, a preachy story. At face value, it’s a story of how one guy discovers how dangerous certain secrets are and what that does to his sense of what the right thing is.
What makes the film work as well is that there is no happy ending. It has a resolution that lives up to the billing of having significant implications for the rest of the Marvel Movie Universe. There’s enough to make the first time viewer consider following the story to what happens next as well as looking back on what lead to it.
Much credit then goes to the performances for keeping the movie worth following. More often than not the movie looks to be as ‘realistic’ as possible. There’s little in the way of distracting graphics that make the movie take on a computer game quality.
Evans takes on Steve Rogers again, he didn’t have to carry Avengers Assemble, and there was origin character development stuff in the first CA movie, so this film comes with new challenges. Now he has to be someone to relate to in a way, be the straight clean guy, but not anyone too white-bread that he would be plain as vanilla. He plays his part very well. The character of Captain America is more of a collection of ideals from yesteryear than a real guy, but the story helps greatly to give him a sense of purpose. Evans doe well in the role which is critical to the enjoyment of the film.
It is not just his film, however, and Johansson gets great credit for her performance as Scarlet Widow. She gives away little in terms of her character, but keeps everything intriguing about her showing her strength and brief moments of vulnerability.
Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford do well also in their respective roles as SHIELD personnel. Redford revels in his role without turning it into a pantomime performance. Jackson was given permission to be Jackson from the time he took on the role and there’s every reason to believe Fury was based on him anyway.
Sebastian Stan doesn’t say much, but he gives off enough in the physical menace to give us another intriguing character whose story people will need to follow carefully in the movie. Mackie as Falcon plays an instrumental part in the film but obviously understands he is a supporting player.
When you have a good story with great performances it is the hallmark for a riveting movie experience that makes you eager to recommend it to others. Due respect and props go to directors Anthony and Joe Russo for bringing this together and showing they can handle this job bodes well should they be entrusted with the third Captain America film.
This film is certainly close to the holy grail of super hero movies such as Reeves’ first Superman, Keaton’s first Batman and The Dark Knight. That as well as the still phenomenal Avengers Assemble. Winter Soldier hits all the marks for an enjoyable filming encounter.
C. L. J. Dryden