Not a Movie Snob - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Posted on Friday, April 04, 2014 at 06:00 PM

"Universal Soldier"

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

When last we peeped the Captain, he was battling the evil cheese that was Redskull. He had just gone through his unfreezing and had found hisself in another era, all his friends, the people and things he knew, were gone. Then he was battling Thor's pain in the neck brother and his otherworldly minions with a group of even more impressive specimens in The Avengers.

The Winter Soldier finds him in better spirits than we've seen him in his previous outings. He's still getting used to things, still catching up to his current decade (there's a funny sight gag where he writes down in a little notebook everything someone tells him he has to experience; i.e. Thai food). But he's finding his groove, meeting new people and seems more content. He's noticeably less pissy and brooding than he was in Avengers and less angry than he was in The First Avenger movie. Which isn't to say he's all sunshine and smiles. Skipping from one bad guy to the next. There's still a struggle happening. He still gets lonely, still has trouble relating. He hangs out with a knockout in Scarlett Johannson's Black Widow who obviously has the hots for him, but he can't seem to see the sexual tension for the trees and never works up the grit and gristle to ask her out. Fighting maniacal bad guys from other dimensions is easy, just don't put him in a place where he's forced to express himself to a girl.

There is a lot of plot in The Winter Soldier. A lot. Unlike some comic book movies which may or may not fall under the Marvel umbrella, C.A. is never caught twiddling its thumbs. If you give it your full attention though and you're not walking in half asleep, it shouldn't be hard to keep up. It's kind of hard to divulge much of the plot without giving away some of the twists, but the lowdown is that SHIELD is compromised, el Capitan is called in and quickly finds himself not only dealing with the SHIELD threat, but facing his past in a very unexpected and personal manner. Everyone's favourite big cheese Nick Fury has his juiciest role yet in a Marvel movie and goes through all kinds of hell on behalf of the eponymous cold-shouldered soldier, worrying his buds and us on more than one occasion. 

As tight and big boned as the plotting in this movie is though, I did have one big problem with it. SHIELD, the organization that 'runs' the Avengers, is under fire in one way or another throughout this whole movie. Captain America is there, Nick Fury is there, Black Widow is there, (introducing) The Falcon is there...where the hell is everybody else? I wasn't expecting the whole crew to show up, they'll keep us waiting for Avengers 2 for that, but I wouldn't have minded at least an Iron Man cameo, or a Thor. Even Bruce Banner popping in to see how one of the team is doing when they come close to death would've been cool. Nope. It could be that they're all busy fighting their own threats, or they're not all that concerned with SHIELD's issues, or the movie just maxed out it's budget and couldn't afford to pay RDJr five hundred G's for a pop in. Whatever the case, their absence isn't even mentioned in passing. Strange.

I'd have to credit Chris Nolan with it to a large degree, certainly with popularizing it, but comic book heroes have become increasingly inward in recent years. More human. Bruce Wayne's a more acutely tortured soul in his last few outings than ever before on the screen; Spider-Man is every crappy thing that happens during puberty and teen-dom all wrapped up into one big ball of angst and teen spirit; Superman's lost every semblance of a capacity for fun or a sense of humour; Iron Man's having panic attacks brought on by post traumatic stress disorder. It looks like even the protectors of our cities and our planet aren't immune to the anxieties and mood disorders that have become, either more prevalent or more (perhaps over) diagnosed in the new millennium.

In the same way Captain America, the first Avenger with his own movie (imaginatively subtitled The First Avenger) has gotten noticeably more emotionally venerable in his third appearance at the multiplex. The Winter Soldier is grittier, harder edged, more machine slick than it's clumsy predecessor. I love that about it. I'm not in to whipped peanut butter and jam without the seeds. I like thick, chunky peanut butter with sand and broken glass. I like Bourne brand peanut butter. And Winter Soldier is definitely close enough to Bourne brand to satisfy me. Director's Anthony and Joe Russo, despite resume's that mostly feature comedies on film and TV (including Arrested Development and Community) are unarguably Greengrass disciples. The fight scenes in this movie are all crack boom bang, shaky cam muscle on rippling muscle glory.

And despite Black Widow's sexually charged presence, this is at root a film for fans of men being men. Testosterone vitamins. Another appropriate title for the film could've been Captain America: What do you press?

Such a good movie with so many good things to talk about, I didn't even mention the impressive cast, jaw dropping visuals, or complex character arcs. So I'll mention them here. Even though that's not what the Verdict is for. Hey, it's my review. I'll do what I want.

Rating: ****

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