Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
For a while it seems like the entirety of the Captain America sequel will thoughtfully and not so subtly dissect present day issues of security, privacy, and terrorism. It starts off well enough, as our idealistic symbol of patriotic bravery and selflessness questions the clandestine missions of his employer in a world he knows little about.
It doesn’t last long though, but it’s a good run. Unfortunately afterwards, about the halfway mark, we fall back into spectacle, convolution, and head-scratching.
Chris Evans makes his third major appearance on the big screen as Steve Rogers, the second time he’s fighting in modern day, and the first time he has a movie to himself set in the 21st century. Everything needs to connect though, so while we have some compelling concepts (above), Captain America: The Winter Solider digs itself deep into the ever-expanding Marvel universe, getting a bit too serious and inside itself.
The titular warrior, this unknown soviet assassin, doesn’t effectively come into play until later on, as the tide turns from the geopolitical to the marvelous. S.H.I.E.L.D., the powerful defense company of sorts that commands the Avengers et alia, is just about to herald in a new era of security and prevention with a trio of heli-carriers that can assassinate anyone on Earth in the blink of an eye – let’s hope it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands!
So, while the boyish yet confident Rogers questions such practices and we get a back and forth between him and the one-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), there is plenty subversion already going on. Rogers’s team of soldiers, including Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Frank Grillo’s Rambo figure, set upon a hijacked sea vessel, but the dewy-eyed Captain soon realizes that not everyone has the same agenda.
The coveted item in this story isn’t a powerful hammer, a green alien wand, or whatever that stuff from Iron Man 3 was; instead, it’s a thumb drive. Something incredibly important is on there, and even Fury can’t access it. Secrets abound, and somehow one of the key players is a three-piece suit-wearing Secretary of Defense played by Robert Redford; and good for him for having so much fun in a blockbuster!
Of course this mysterious locket of information, the thumb of all fears, contains within devious plans that ever-so-slowly and not at all surprisingly are revealed. Rogers isn’t naïve: he comes to grips he is in a world where people can’t be trusted, and his personal evolution is most of the time more entertaining than all the running, jumping, shield throwing, and bullet dodging (can’t land one, can they?!)
What’s refreshing is the influx of humor, and like the Thor sequel, Captain America Part Deux is funnier than its predecessor. Rogers isn’t exactly the fish-out-of-water; he has as much brains as brawn. Still, keep your eyes opened for Rogers to-do list of pop culture milestones. Moreover, the running joke between him and Black Widow, in which she keeps trying to set him up on dates, is rather charming; thank goodness every leading man and woman don’t need to be romantically-linked.
There are also a couple great movie allusions and appearance by a beloved TV actor that seems funny and sad at the same time (he will never be able to move on from his character).
It’s needed though, because the second half of the film becomes bogged down, as new characters pop up, old ones show up, there are betrayals and revelations, and things just get kind of ridiculous and messy. This incredibly bullet-heavy sequel (bordering on uncomfortable at times) has all that we’ve come to expect from Marvel (it is as always, incredibly-well done), finding towards the end Rogers’ colleague Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, pretty wicked-cool) joining him and Black Widow in a massive battle.
It’s the three of them against the world, and while the finale is lengthy, satisfying, and thankfully doesn’t casually level an entire metropolis, it’s not loud and awe-inspiring enough to not make you wonder why another Avenger couldn’t come and lend a hand.
Whatever. It’s Rogers’ movie, after all, and a worthy and satisfying one at that. He is growing up before our eyes, acclimating to a world where fear rules, where privacy is a myth, and where everyone is really good looking and those that aren’t have conveniently bad aim.