Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Posted: April 13, 2014 in Movie Review
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Captain America - The Winter Soldier (2013)

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie

Within the universe created by the Marvel Studios film company, in which costumed superheroes teamed together to fight a common enemy in 2012’s “The Avengers,” each individual has traversed a unique path. Bruce Banner, living a Jekyll & Hyde kind of life, taught himself how to control the beast from within. Tony Stark/Iron Man learned how to act selflessly and that there can even be a life for Tony Stark separate from Iron Man, through three solo adventures. In two films set in Asgard and other realms including our own, Thor learned patience, humility, respect for his elders, and all other tools required for the future king of a world populated by the Norse demigods of legend… although he still hasn’t learned how to recognize when his brother, Loki, is deceiving him.

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is likely walking the most difficult road of them all. He was an undersized kid who just wanted to serve his country during World War II, and got that chance thanks to the Super Soldier program which made him bigger, stronger, and enhanced all of his motor skills. Thanks to him, the plans of the Red Skull and the criminal organization HYDRA were defeated… but the world that he knew is gone. It’s not 1942 anymore. Steve was hibernating in the Arctic for 70 years following the events of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and the alien threat that he and others had to deal with in “The Avengers” did not give Steve the proper chance to adjust to the 21st century. By the time of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” he’s a bit more acclimated to his new environment. His biggest test in the new world is not in fighting monsters from other realms, nor is it ascertaining what all this newfangled technology is all about. Now he has to struggle with the uncertainty of who is friend or foe, and contend with a new enemy who will strike at the very heart of him.

Picking up after the events of “The Avengers,” Captain America now works with/for S.H.I.E.L.D., that organization which is equipped to tackle situations which the CIA, NSA, FBI, and even the military are in no position to handle. Lately, this has meant frequently partnering up with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a.k.a. Black Widow. One hostage situation nearly goes south because Natasha is retrieving files when she should be helping with taking out the bad guys. It turns out she was doing this under orders from S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), an explanation that still doesn’t earn her any points with Rogers, who feels his trust betrayed. He has bigger problems to worry about when a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier takes Fury out, and he and Romanoff, along with a few other loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, are branded fugitives by senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). HYDRA it seems is alive, well, and firmly rooted in every conceivable corner of the United States government. With the aid of Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Cap must put an end to HYDRA’s plans before millions are killed.

The plot of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” bears the resemblance of a two-hour episode of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV series (which itself manages to work the plot of this movie into its own storyline). As soon as Alexander Pierce first shows up, I knew that Robert Redford had been hired to play the villain. Speaking of Redford, he lends this movie the same kind of gravitas that Tommy Lee Jones, another veteran actor, had for the previous “Captain America” entry. Chris Evans, now playing the role of Steve Rogers for the third time, looks quite comfortable in the red, white and blue costume. Likewise for Scarlett Johansson, also in her third appearance as the beautiful and formidable Black Widow. Early signs in this film might lead one to suspect a romance is brewing between the two, but don’t be fooled. For all that they’ve been through together, Steve and Natasha are more like family now than anything else. Besides, she still has that will they?/won’t they? friendship with Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton/Hawkeye to further explore without adding a new complication to the mix.

Except for a few moments here and there, you won’t have much cause to express surprise during “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Yes, the movie is fairly easy to predict, but complicated plots aren’t what these movie are made for. The intent is for the audience to have a rollicking good time, and on that “The Winter Soldier” delivers just as surely as “The First Avenger” did. Still, there will be those for whom the continued existence of this franchise remains a mystery. I will defend to the death the superhero genre much in the same way that I do the horror genre. In either case, I’ve read countless reviews which basically scream “I’ve never been into these kinds of movies, so I’m predisposed to hate this one, too.” In particular, “The Avengers” caught a lot of hell from critics who deemed their attention worth being paid to “smarter” entertainment. I can’t wait to hear or read the same sort of commentary for “The Winter Soldier.” While I respect in theory the notion of not wanting to waste one’s time, what I don’t understand is the futility of attempting to apply logic where none really exists, which is what the majority of the negative reviews for these movies attempt to do.

Unable to reap the benefits of being a period piece like the first “Captain America” film, “The Winter Soldier” trades nostalgia for politics. What if the Third Reich of Nazi Germany had been more like Al-Qaeda, in the sense that the death of Adolf Hitler did not mean the end of the threat? “Cut off one head, two more shall take its place” is a line that is often repeated by HYDRA members. How would the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain America have handled things had he been around for 9/11? My guess is that Steve Rogers and Dick Cheney would NOT be friends.

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