Well, it’s Independence Day, and because we’re super cool, my wife and I are celebrating by watching the two Captain America movies. The Chris Evans ones, I suggested watching the crazy 70’s ones with Reb Brown, but no dice. We’re both huge fans on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and these two movies are no exception.
They’re both great movies, but I want to focus on Winter Soldier in this article. First Avenger is a fun movie, but it’s not really one of my favorites in the series. I think Chris Evans is great as Cap, and generally, the writing in the first movie is good. I love that it was set in the 40’s, and combines with the two most recent X-Men films, I think the subgenre of Superhero Period Piece could be very fun in the future. It was also a great idea to get Jo Johnston do direct the first movie, since really, his only great movie is the Rocketeer, another pulpy superhero movie set in the 40’s. The Marvel movies have done very well so far in fining great directors you wouldn’t expect to make their movies. I enjoyed Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, and Hayley Atwell as Agent Carter, but there’s just something about the movie that doesn’t click 100% with me. It may be the action, which is a little weak. It could also have gone a little bit more in the pulpy side. But overall, I think it’s an okay movie, and a good introduction to the character that would then go onto better things in the series. I do like Captain America: the First Avenger quite a bit, but I really don’t think it holds a candle to it’s sequel.
When I first heard that they were making the second movie based around the Winter Soldier storyline, I got excited. Ed Brubaker is probably my favorite comic book writer, and while I love his noir crime comics, I think his superhero work is some of the best there is, and his run with Steve Epting on Captain America is rightly considered one of the best the character has ever had. And it all started with their Winter Soldier story line. I think if anyone had been asked about the premise, they would have thought it was ridiculous. Cap’s teenage sidekick whose been dead since the 40’s is brought back as a Soviet hitman with scraggly hair, amnesia, and a cyborg arm. It sounds like the most crazy 90’s comic there is. But it worked. Oh man did it work. And it made for an amazing movie.
One thing that’s interesting about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the varying tone. They’ve really started to expand the horizons on the tones and subgenres of the movies, to a great success. They’re all fun, with great humor, but they’ve been adding in strange inspirations for the movies that are giving them all their own unique twist. And for Winter Soldier it’s clear they went with a 70’s conspiracy/thriller sort of bend. The movie really doesn’t feel like any of the others, but in a good way. It’s more serious and grounded, but still feels at home in the same world that has a God of Thunder smashing Frost Giants, and a gun-toting raccoon. It deals with some serious issues, like Government surveillance and neo-fascism, while still being a fun superhero movie. But it’s toned down in the traditional superhero bombast that the Marvel movies revel in. This is more of a black-ops superhero flick.
After a funny opening that has Cap meeting Sam Wilson by running laps around the Washington Monument’s reflecting pool, we get right into the action with Cap, Black Widow, and a group of SHIELD agents led by Brock Rumlow infiltrating a ship that’s been commandeered by pirates. We get a great scene of the good guys sneaking around the ship, taking out pirates stealthily, culminating in a great fight scene between Cap and the leader of the pirates, Georges Batroc. That’s right, this movie includes Batroc the Leaper, and they make him awesome. By casting ex-MMA figher Georges St.-Pierre as Batroc, they gave a ridiculous character some serious intimidation and threat to Cap. The scene also sets up some contention between Cap and Widow, as she’s obviously hiding some secrets from him.
Back in DC, Cap meets with Nick Fury in the new SHIELD headquarters, and is introduced to SHIELD’s new project, a fleet of helicarriers that will come equipped with technology that will find targets before they become issues. Cap and Fury discuss the ethical implications of the project, and after finding that the data Fury had Widow retrieve from the ship in the beginning is encrypted above his clearance level, Fury becomes suspicious as well. He meets with the head of SHIELD, Alexander Pierce (played by the always awesome Robert Redford, who lends some gravity to the film), who ensures him everything is okay.
Fury’s then ambushed on the streets and almost killed by people masquerading as police officers. He does pretty well for himself, but is eventually stopped by the mysterious Winter Soldier.
Fury manages to escape though, and ends up in Cap’s apartment, warning him not to trust anyone. After Fury gives Cap the flash drive with the information he had Widow steal though, Winter Soldier returns to finish the job, and shoots Fury. After Cap chases Winter Soldier on some roof tops, he gets Fury to the hospital, where he seemingly dies. The next day, Cap is brought back to SHIELD headquarters, where he meets with Pierce, who demands Fury’s information, but when Cap refuses, he’s branded a traitor and has to fight his way out of SHIELD.
After an amazing elevator fight scene, Cap meets up with Widow, who has the information, and wants to help Cap take down the conspiracy. She tells Cap that the man he saw kill Fury is the Winter Soldier, a sort of boogyman in the former Soviet military. The two manage to use the data on the flash drive to find a secret SHIELD bunker in New Jersey. In a secret basement of the secret SHIELD base they come across a reel to reel supercomputer that’s housing the mind of former Red Skull lackey, Arnim Zola, now sporting something closer to his comic book look.
After insulting their intelligence for a while, Zola reveals the true masterminds to the conspiracy the heroes have found themselves enmeshed in. Hydra! Dun Dun DUNNNN! Zola reveals that not only did Hydra not die in World War II, it’s infiltrated SHIELD, and most worldwide intelligence agencies. They’ve also created the hellicarrier program Cap heard about, and are going to use it to eliminate any threats to their new regime, and take over the world. Cap and Widow narrowly escape, and end up on the doorstep of Sam Wilson, asking for his help. Wilson reveals that when he was in the Air Force he used a pair of experimental wings that let him fly, and after they steal the wings, he joins the team to take down Hydra. The Winter Soldier returns to kill the Hydra mole the team interrogates, leading Cap to finally realize that Winter Solider is actually his old pal Bucky. The team is seemingly caught by Hydra, but they’re saved by Maria Hill, who is continuing not to be as obnoxious as her comic book counterpart.
Hill takes them to a secret base where Fury is revealed to be alive and recovering, and the team prepares to take down Hydra. They end up breaking into the SHIELD base, revealing that Hydra has infiltrated the organiazation, and attempt to sabotage the three hellicarriers. The team splits up with Falcon fighting Rumlow, who ends up getting scorched and full of vengence to return in the sequel as Crossbones, Widow and Fury sneaking into the SHIELD control room to fight Pierce, and Cap having a climactic showdown with Winter Soldier, trying desperetly to bring him to his senses.
Of course, in the end the heroes are triumphant, Hydra’s plan is stopped and they’re revealed at the evil organization they truly are. We even get to hear Robert Redford say “Hail Hydra” which was pretty amazing. Winter Soldier saves Cap, and begins to break through his mental conditioning to get on the road to recovery.
This movie was awesome. The fight choreography is great, the cinematography is fantastic, the acting is great, and best of all the writing is on point. It was a great idea to give the movie to the Russo brothers, even though this was their first foray into action flicks, they nailed it. The humor in this movie is effortless and well threaded throughout. The movie has humor and heart, and does a great job of humanizing the stoic Cap. Little scenes like him trusting the kid in the Captain America exhibit in the Smithsonian, or visiting an aged, Alzheimer suffering Peggy Carter really bring out the human behind the shield. Anthony Mackie was great as the Falcon, a character that I feel could have easily been goofy and out of place. Robert Redford was fantastic, lending some cinematic credibility to the movie, and delivering a surprisingly great performance, he didn’t phone this role in, he’s legitimately menacing. The relationship between Cap and Widow is great, and believable. They really made a great team.
It was an amazing movie, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and as produced by Marvel Studios.
Categories: Reel Talk