Monday, March 31, 2014

My review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier rocks.
by rick olivares

It’s not your typical superhero movie. It never will be because Cap is just a guy on some kind of steroids with only his wits, physical strength, and indomitable will to keep him ahead of the game. It’s an action film with espionage overtones ala Jason Bourne. And that means the action is fast and furious.

As a long time Cap fan (the Mad Bomb storyline during the American Bicentennial was the first ever book I got), seeing the first and second films are a dream come true. I watched the old Cap films where Reb Brown played Steve Rogers/Cap. I knew of Brown from the war flick, Uncommon Valor where he starred alongside Gene Hackman, Fred Ward, and Patrick Swayze. He didn’t seem the ideal Steve Rodgers but there it is. It was difficult watching those two Captain America movies but I did because I was a fan. Those two made a case for why it was difficult for comic book characters to be adapted into film. That is until the Michael Keaton Batman and The Rocketeer.

I have made it a habit of mine to not read any of the release stories and gossip so when I watch the film, I don’t know what to expect outside of what I see in the trailers. Try it. It actually makes for pleasant viewing.

I basically thought that they had adapted Ed Brubaker’s excellent storyline The Winter Soldier that brought back Bucky Barnes. But as the film unfolded, it was increasingly clear that the plot borrowed more elements from another classic Marvel Comics story, Nick Fury vs. SHIELD than Brubaker’s Cap masterpiece from a few years ago.

I found myself somewhat in denial that the movie producers and scriptwriters touched up that classic SHIELD story (written by Bob Harras and penciled by Paul Neary). The Marvel movie universe is fairly new and I felt that SHIELD was only getting operational when it was already infiltrated. But the writers explained it well by tying in elements from Captain America: The First Avenger (the Arnim Zola angle and Hydra).

Furthermore, the pace of the film wasn’t the Brubaker style that is more cloak and dagger but is more akin to the run of Mark Waid and Ron Garney back in 1996 (20 years after the Mad Bomb storyline). What characterized Waid’s Cap -- and I will borrow his lines (from Captain America #454) here – was “the man torpedoes through the plot with little time or patience.” And verily so, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one non-stop action film where there are car chases to go with multiple shoot-em-ups and close quarters fight scenes.

It’s a triumph for writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who juggle multiple lead characters from Cap, Nick Fury, the Black Widow, and the Falcon. There’s time for some characterization as we see Natasha Romanova’s character fleshed out. And there’s some romantic tension between her and Cap (although the Black Widow realizes that this is a no win situation for her with Rogers). Nevertheless, I wish to see more of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow… Whew. Breathe. Now, exhale.

Back to the movie… I won’t give away any spoilers here. Suffice to say that the world today is not in hues of black or white (when his golden generation knew what was right and wrong) but with lots of grey areas. And that reflects on the geopolitics that come into play. Hence, SHIELD’s building bigger heli-carriers that can wipe out threats even before they happen.

As Cap notes, “This isn’t freedom – it’s fear.”

The old ghosts and soldiers of Cap’s day have come back to haunt him in the modern world. However, his foes have adapted to the changing times but Rogers refuses. And he fights the evil within.

My only beef with the film is Alexander Pierce and Jasper Sitwell used as villains. They weren’t villains. No. No. And an emphatic "No."

As I have said, not reading much promotions about the film, I was surprised to see Georges St. Pierre as Batroc and I loved it. That was just as cool as seeing Cyril Raffaelli, the French Parkour traceur who appeared in Live Free or Die Hard (the fourth in the Die Hard series of films). These French-speaking guys sure are bad ass.

Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter is another cool cameo. I look forward to seeing more of "Agent 13" in the next Cap film.

By film’s end, we see Baron Strucker and I wondered if the Fenris twins were around the corner. Instead it was Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. And the film leaves us with the teaser of Bucky and that Cap will next appear in The Avengers: The Age of Ultron.

It’s a darn good film that thrills you no end. I love Captain America: The First Avenger but Captain America: The Winter Soldier surpasses the first film and is one of Marvel’s best if not one of the best superhero films.

1 comment:

  1. Such a fun movie, even if it's not nearly as good as the Avengers. Then again, none of these stand-alone movies are. Good review Rick.