Coming off of two Phase 2 movies already, the interesting (I’m using restraint here) [Iron Man 3](movie:24391) and the unapologetically fantastical [Thor: The Dark World](movie:206462), I was super excited for the premiere of [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973) and, you know, the introduction of The Winter Soldier himself. And as of now, I am happy to report that my excitement was not in vain.
But before I get down to the nitty-gritty of this aforementioned film, here’s a brief summary:
It’s been a hot minute since Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) has been on ice. When the movie opens, we are informed that it has been two years since the Battle of New York. We also find Cap attempting to adjust to the pure f*ckery that is the 21st century by staying in shape (an activity that humorously introduces us to Anthony Mackie’s Falcon) on top of attending to his special ops duties under S.H.I.E.L.D. As he dutifully attends to such things, it becomes increasingly clear that Cap’s continued employment at S.H.I.E.L.D.—and all their multiple secrets and sketchy ass “initiatives”—begins to leave bad taste in his mouth, as a straight-laced, morally upright Cap questions what and who exactly he’s fighting for.
His questions start to get immediate yet appalling answers when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) comes under attack by a number of professionally trained and well-organized mercenaries. Things get a bit more complicated when it is discovered that the attack is spearheaded by none other than the Winter Soldier, who has been described to many as a “ghost story”. When this happens, Cap and compatriots Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) must jump right into all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s secrecy to insure that the world’s freedom continues.
Anyways, this film was fantastic and improved upon the strengths of its predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), while simultaneously bringing its own strengths to the table. However, as per usual, I still have some reservations (good, bad, and “eh”) about the movie.
Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
- Steve Rogers/Captain America
In this movie, the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony Russo) completely blow the whole “super gymnast” sentiment surrounding Cap out of the water—which should also be credited to the wonderful script adapted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely from Ed Brubaker’s amazing, original story. Not only does the movie show more of Cap’s unwavering, moral side (something that interests me greatly), but it is also very interesting to see how he not only deals with the modern world and all its imperfections but also how he deals with the distrustful organization that is S.H.I.E.L.D. and the fact that in this case, they may or may not be “the good guys”.
Bonus points for showing Cap as a complete BAMF when it comes to physical feats.
- Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Early reviews have reduced her role in this movie as “the leather-clad ass-kicker”, which is a role that I wholeheartedly reject. My question for such reviewers include the following:
A. Did we see the same f*cking movie?
B. Leather-clad? Really guys? You say this as if no one else in this movie wears leather and to be frank, you could probably come up with something better. (Real talk: Natasha’s suit is just as tight as Cap’s, (the proof is all in both of their butt shots), but I don’t see anyone reducing the guy to the role of “the leather-clad captain”.
Anyways, what I’m saying is that while she does kick her share of ass, a lot of people are missing what is finally established by this film that previous films have been unable to do: that Natasha is (and probably always will be) a survivor. All her secrecy and lies come back to that. This “survivor’s mentality” is perfectly illustrated by the following line that she utters to Cap at one point: “What do you need me to be?”. This is a welcome layer to the multiple layers that are Natasha Romanoff, while still maintaining the air of mystery that surrounds her character because let’s be real: she’s a f*cking super spy. She’s not exactly going to be an open book. I look forward to learning more about her.
- Sam Wilson/Falcon
First of all, let me just say that Anthony Mackie is a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Additionally, I am very happy that he was not reduced to the very tired trope of “the wise-cracking/sassy” person of color. Sure, he has his humorous moments, but he actually serves as an interesting juxtaposition to a disillusioned Cap. Furthermore, he is just as capable and heroic as Natasha and Cap, even without their physical advantages. Also, I am totally digging his wings. They’re exceedingly awesome.
Supporting Characters (Growth, Development, and Screen Time)
To begin, this movie mostly does a good job of presenting appropriate focus on supporting characters, unlike Thor: The Dark World which left me wanting a lot more from supporting characters like Sif, The Warriors Three, and such. Here, everyone gets a chance to shine.
- Nick Fury
As the man that is the keeper of all secrets (even those secrets that have secrets to their secrets), Fury gets a lot more time in the film to shine and as a result, he becomes much more than the ruthless, no nonsense director that he has come to be known as. Also, his lamentations about having trust issues—which is rather ironic—hits home for me in a lot of ways.
Let me just say that her introduction in the film is priceless. If I hadn’t known the actress and who she was playing, I would have been even more humored and surprised. That being said, Sharon (Emily VanCamp) is an interesting character in that she is not about blindly following orders, even as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. This is something I look forward to learning more about.
- Agent Maria Hill
This is the reason I used “mostly” to open this section. But on a more positive note, I very much like the fact that Hill (Cobie Smulders) is given a lot more to do this time around. She is involved in some key scenes that not only make me laugh, but also get me to think (which is always a good thing).
- Cap and Natasha
Cap and Natasha do a lot of bro-ing out in this movie (I love a good bromance!) and it’s great because it’s one of the first female/male partnerships in a Marvel movie where romantic feelings between characters aren’t forced-fed down the audience’s throat—unless you count Thor and Darcy, which, you know, I don’t. Anyways, the two are good for each other and strengthen each other in a lot of ways.
- Cap and Falcon
This was another good bromance that I fully supported, because as I said earlier, they juxtapose each other well. Also, Cap’s adoption of one of Falcon’s funny lines in this movie is priceless.
- Cap and Nick Fury
There’s a lot of respect and equal footing between these two, despite their moral differences. It’s also interesting to see their relationship change as the power dynamics in the movie changes.
- Cap and Bucky
To avoid spoiling anything, all I can say is prepare for the feels.
I love this relationship, as it gives some context to how and why Fury got to his position and why the guy has trust issues. Their friendship is an interesting one and the film uses it well.
The Villain (And All Related Villany)
I had to use that word because there’s such a potent, evil force at work in this film and that is all I can say without spoiling the pleasant (and welcome) surprise.To explain, while I am a hardcore Marvel fan, a Marvel stan and blind fanboy/fangirl I am not. This means that I’m always willing to call Marvel movies on their legitimate bullsh*t (and as an asshole, doing so does bring me slight joy). On that note, my biggest problem with the MCU so far has been its lackluster villains. The only “villain” that has come pretty close to being multi-dimensional and sufficiently motivated is Loki, which explains why he is a fan-favorite (excluding the rabid fangirls). However, despite his motivation, he lacks physical formidability.
Basically, his threat level (minus his army) is like at 3 at best.
Captain America: TWS changes this with the addition of The Winter Soldier himself and the grand conspiracy that surrounds him. Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of the titular soldier will simultaneously tug at your feels and (almost) scare you shi*less. Unlike the limited villains in Phase 1 and the erratically motivated Aldrich Killian and underdeveloped/underwhelming Malekith of Phase 2, The Winter Soldier is legitimately threatening as well as formidable and unlike previous movies, I actually doubted for a few seconds whether our heroes would make it out of this alive and unscathed.Marvel fans and non-fans alike will be pleased with his addition.
I will also add a very wise line from Fury his self: “Do not trust anyone.”
The film plays with the idea of freedom versus security, which is something that is smart and hits home, considering the fact that we live in a NSA/post-Edward Snowden world. Are the two mutually exclusive? Do you have to sacrifice one for the other? Or can you have both? These are just a few things that I thought about watching this film.
In the past, the fight choreography in the MCU has been sufficient at best, but having been exposed to a number of things since the MCU’s birth, (I’m looking at you, Arrow) I found the fight choreography to be lacking. In TWS, I can say for a fact that fighting choreography in this film is exceedingly more believable and effective, especially as it concerns Cap. I was hissing and cringing—in a good way—at how clean, yet brutal his fighting style was portrayed. Natasha’s is a slightly different story, but I’ll get to that.
Let me just say this: final-f*cking-ly.
For the first time since Iron Man, the humor was wholly appropriate, well-delivered, and didn’t make me feel like I was watching some dumb ass sitcom complete with a distasteful laugh track. I will also add that it kept the movie from taking itself too seriously.
Cameos and After-Credit Scenes
- “The Twins”
In this scene, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch get introduced in an interesting, albeit strange way, which is sure to definitely peak people’s interests. Additionally, this scene may have introduced the new “it” word for “mutants” in the MCU and it’s a lot more positive-sounding than you might think.
- “A Visit to the Smithsonian”
In this scene, someone makes a surprising visit to the Captain America/Howling Commandos display and it is a scene that is sure to tug at more feels.
In all seriousness, I have nothing exceedingly bad to say about this film. My one and only complaint is that the movie’s opening did run a bit too long and could have been shortened. Also, a significant amount of time was dedicated to showing off large set pieces and that could be slightly distracting at times. However, if I had spent all that money on set pieces, you can be damned sure that I would show them off too.
Black Widow’s Choreography
Much like I side-eyed the choreography—i.e. the way she flips unnecessarily for days rather than going for the more quick and effective takedown—in The Avengers, I side-eyed her choreography in this film. Maybe that’s the style that the directors are going for with her, but I’m convinced it be more bad-ass if her style was a bit cleaner.
Maria Hill and Her Missing Depth
Maybe it’s just me, but even though she’s doing much more in this film, I still don’t know exactly what she’s about. This is the second MCU film she’s appeared in and I still find her character lacking a bit. I’m hoping this is rectified in future MCU films.
How This Film Affects Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I have made it no secret how much I detest AOS and I even hypothesized with friends that just by the trailer alone, TWS was going to undermine AOS. Boy was I right. TWS gives us the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization that we deserve and need right now, in all of its amoral and secretive glory. I don’t know what the future holds for AOS or whether it will be renewed for a second season (Dear God, I hope not), but one thing for sure is that it entirely needs to get its sh*t together.
Before I close, here’s some food for thought:
- TL;DR: The movie was awesome.
- An aged Peggy Carter returns and her and Cap share a tear-jerking moment.
- The villain, Crossbones, is introduced in this movie. Kudos to Marvel for setting things up.
- Stephen Strange is name-dropped. Make of that what you will.
- I saw the film twice in 24 hours, so…
- There is a Pulp Fiction reference. And it is great.
- Seriously: TRUST NO ONE.
All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was an exceedingly impressive film and has to be one of the best Marvel films to date. It’s smart, it’s more grown-up, and it’s a good film even if you attempt to separate it from its superhero elements. I am looking forward to a third Captain America installment.
***For more snark and GIFS, you can read this on my website here.