Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Solider is my least favorite movie of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s second phase. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t great (of course it is, if you haven’t noticed Marvel’s logo slapped all over it). Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the movie has arguably the best action sequences Marvel has produced so far. We finally have our first compelling villain since Thor’s Loki. But the overall product was bogged down by the story’s connection to SHIELD (a secret society that reaches between franchises to team up the likes of Cap and Iron Man, for those who haven’t been keeping up).
The film plays more like a build up to Avengers 2 than a Captain America solo adventure. It had everything that makes Marvel movies fantastic, but suffered from a sense of lowered risk, like watching a prequel to a movie you’ve already seen (come on, we all knew nothing would stop Cap and company from appearing in Avengers 2).
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still adjusting to waking up in the 21st century after being frozen in ice since World War II. He has become one of SHIELD’s highest-ranking agents, using his scientifically enhanced physique to infiltrate headquarters and beat some baddies and alongside co-Avenger Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Though his social life is lacking (Natasha insists he go on a date with alarming persistence) he finds success at SHIELD… until they accuse him of conspiring against the agency.
With Rogers, Romanoff, and eye patched SHIELD leader Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) out of the way, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), corrupt politician of SHIELD, takes the reigns. He sends the menacing assassin Winter Soldier complete with his excellent, terrifying soundtrack to hunt down Cap and friends. Rogers already has his hands full with discovering a secret about SHIELD that can impact at least two other film franchises around him, but when he finally comes face to face with the Winter Soldier, he discovers a connection between the two that drastically changes his own life.
Captain America the character went from being unsympathetically invincible (both superpower and personality-wise) in the limp first installment to being dimensional and vulnerable, but still formidable in this one. I’m also convinced his shield is the coolest weapon in Marvel’s entire universe, acting as a weird indestructible, ricocheting boomerang. The shield is filmed with a certain weight that grounds the film’s action with intense realism, along with the rest of the film’s action scenes. Every punch, explosion, and errant vibranium disc seems like it actually happened somewhere in the real world, rather than on a screen.
Along their wayward journey the super-powardly duo recruit Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and his heroic ego, The Falcon. Wearing a jetpack with retractable mechanical wings that we all wish we had, Falcon adds a deadly elegance to the action sequences. It’s hard to watch anything else on screen when there’s a realistic bird-human soaring around with the beauty of a yellow-rumped warbler. Here’s hoping he sticks around for future Marvel installments (which seems rather promising after the ending).
Unfortunately for Cap, the story doesn’t hold the same weight as the action sequences. While entertaining and arguably the most important of Phase 2 as the next Avengers gets closer and closer (who am I kidding, we still have way over a year to go), it feels like just a steppingstone leading to something greater. Still, the movie is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor, as well as almost every other film in Phase 1. Cap still has a long way to go before he can be the leader of the Avengers Marvel clearly wants him to be, but he’s getting there.