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Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Exciting, Complex, and a Dramatic Shake-Up
It's interesting to look back at the history of comic book movies over the last few decades. While Iron Man basically kicked off this latest batch (let's call it the Third Age of Comic Book Movies), where the film makers decide to tie all movies into one long story arc, let's look a little further back.
After the embarrassment of Batman and Robin, it was largely the first X-Men movie that was responsible for convincing Hollywood to invest in a whole slew of more serious attempts with the genre. And let's call that the Second Age of Comic Book Movies.
But let's even look a little bit further back. To the Golden Age, as it were.
I grew up watching the Christopher Reeve Superman movies—particularly the first two. They're classics and very nicely reflect the film-making of the day, while still totally holding up for today's more jaded audience. And you always knew when Superman's job was done because, once again, the status quo was restored and he'd fly out to smile at the camera.
These latest comic book movies have their fair share of camera winking, but in many of them, when the end finally arrives, the status is decidedly not quo.
Which brings us to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
But first, the story
Some time after the events of The Avengers, Steve 'Captain America' Rogers (Chris 'Johnny `Human Torch` Storm' Evans) has been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. as a front man, figure head, and human smart missile. He is sent on a mission to rescue a few S.H.I.E.L.D. hostages on a boat that has been taken over by pirates. Riding shotgun with the Cap. is Natasha 'Black Widow' Romanoff (Scarlett 'My Eyes Are Up Here' Johansson), who seems to have her own agenda for the mission.
After a "successful" mission, Rogers takes issue with the tendency of his commander—Nick 'Nick Fury' Fury (Samuel L. 'Mace `Only Jedi With a Purple Light Saber` Windu' Jackson)—to keep some secrets from even his most trusted and loyal soldiers. Rogers grew up in a much simpler time. Hitler? Bad. Flag waving? Good. Chocolate? Yummy. Small Pox? Plentiful. So it wasn't perfect, but the idea of lying to someone for their own good is just foreign to him.
But Fury has his own concerns. Something that Agent Romanoff brought back from the ship has him worried. He goes to speak with Senator Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) about delaying a planned operation. Pierce agrees to try, but Fury had better make it worth the effort.
After an attempt is made on the life of Director Fury by a mysterious and suped up assassin, Captain America is suddenly targeted by S.H.I.E.L.D., is left unsure of who to trust, and soon finds out that a few of the things from his past that he had long thought left in ruins back in 1942 might not be as left-in-the-past as he thought.
Dot dot dot
In just about every way that matters, The Winter Soldier is a real improvement over The First Avenger. The action is more kinetic and compelling. The story is significantly deeper. The characters are more fleshed out. And the ending is much more compelling than the touching, though rather understated "I had a date" from the first one.
I found that previous ending very poignant and I do like it, but there's something to be said for getting a bit more of a punch at the end.
Also, this movie finally gives Black Widow her true moment to shine. She's done well enough in previous movies, but not actually given all that much to do. In Iron Man 2 she was basically given one hallway to fight through and show her skills. And in The Avengers she was easily overshadowed by people like Thor, the Hulk, and Tony Stark's ego—which I understand has grown an ego of its own already. But in this one, she seriously holds her own and kicks some serious tail.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer
And I haven't even gotten into Anthony Mackie as former soldier Sam Wilson. He does a great job too.
And when I said earlier that these newfangled comic book movies liked to end with the status decidedly un-quo, this is one of the most un-quo statuses—stati?—that you'll likely see. So much so that I have serious questions regarding how this movie will influence the development and story-line of the new "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." TV show.
But that's a good thing in my book. For these kinds of movies to have any real punch, where fates of worlds lie in the balance, sometimes you have to allow drastic changes to occur or else the audience will never be able to believe that the heroes could actually lose.
How's that for writing a whole bunch without ever actually saying anything? And I didn't even do it in a Facebook status.
Anyway, the movie is great, the story is compelling, and this is an excellent addition to the latest spate of Marvel movies (basically starting with Iron Man). In my book, they may have made a couple movies that aren't quite as compelling as they might have wished, but overall, they haven't made a bad one yet.
Let's keep our fingers crossed, shall we?
But what do you think of the movie?
In thinking about my review of this movie, I am forced to re-evaluate my review of the previous Captain America film. Not that I think I was completely wrong about it. But I think my rating (I gave it an 8 / 10) might just be a touch higher than it should be.
I definitely enjoyed it. But I think that The Winter Soldier is considerably better, and I'd probably have to give it an 8 / 10, which means maybe The First Avenger should probably be more of a 7. But I'll leave it as-is.
Captain America: The winter Soldier is rated PG-13 for intense violence, action and gun-play (though mostly quite bloodless).
P.S. - The 3D on this one is a conversion, but it's well done. I noticed a couple spots where it was a little noticeable, but conversions have definitely come a long way and if you like the 3D format, this one uses it well.