Friday, April 4, 2014
At a glance- superhero action with a dash of spy thriller for seasoning
What is it? In Captain America: The First Avenger we met 90-pound weakling Steve Rodgers who through the magic of science gets turned into 200-pound beefcake Captain America during World War 2. He fought against Hydra, a splinter group of the Nazis who found magic-science weapons thanks to the Cosmic Cube (which was featured in The Avengers). Along the way he loses his best friend "Bucky" Barnes to the Nazis and his budding girlfriend when he lands a plane full of deadly weapons, and himself, in the ocean. Frozen on ice for 40-ish years his super-body manages to survive being a cap-scicle and he awakens in the modern world. Winter Soldier picks up after The Avengers with cap working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and trying to adjust to the modern world.
The acting- A lot of people reprising roles, starting with Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rodgers. I like him in this role, I think he brings exactly the right amount of earnest boy scout and super-soldier to his performance. Samuel L Jackson is Nick Fury, and fits the role perfectly as usual. Scarlett Johansson is The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, and is not just eye-candy, she does a great job of playing a complicated character. New to the series is Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. top-man Alexander Pierce, and let's face it- Robert Redford rarely does a bad acting job. Anthony Mackie is also new as Sam Wilson/ The Falcon, does a great job and I'm glad to see Marvel did a great job with updating the character from the comic books.
The story- Superhero movies are about two things: saving the world and action/explosions/fight-scenes. Spy movies are about two things: lies and trust. Combining them, like in Winter Soldier, makes for an interesting movie, if not exactly revolutionary. Cap is a big boy scout at heart, wanting to do the right thing for mom and apple pie - but now he's working for S.H.I.E.L.D., who like all spy organizations is full of secrets and deception and 'trust me I'm doing it for the greater good but you can't know about it.' I do love a line from Nick Fury where he reminds Cap that even the 'Greatest Generation' of the 40's did some things to be ashamed of - no generation has ever been perfect, and hindsight tends to gloss over the ugly parts of history. And when Nick Fury is attacked, and warns Cap 'don't trust anyone,' it becomes apparent that something rotten is going on in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s shadowy Denmark. Which then sends Cap, The Black Widow, and new friend Falcon on a race to save the world, since this is a superhero movie too. And being a superhero movie, we need a super villain in The Winter Soldier, a Russian assassin with a robotic arm who can give even Cap a run for his money in a fight.
I really liked this movie, and I really liked how Marvel branched out to make a superhero movie that isn't just about men in tights (and women in revealing tights). The bit of spy thriller in the plot helps to make it a more well-rounded movie - and makes the Captain America series even better. In the first Cap we had the period war drama/superhero movie, now we get Spy Games (I had to throw in the reference)/superhero movie and that is great since it covers all the the comic book Captain America's history and character. He was a man of two eras, someone who struggled to do the right thing when that's not always easy to see, let alone do. And added to the modern age of electronic surveillance, drones and the complicated threats the world faces it makes for an interesting story and makes Cap the one superhero from The Avengers who actually feels like he fits in the world. Overall I'd have to say that even for its over-the-top special effects and save-the-world storyline, it actually feels like a very grounded and real kind of superhero movie, which is a neat trick.
My recommendation- worth paying full price, and if you're not really into superhero movies, you should give this one a try (catch the cheap show, it might surprise you)