Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) Review

director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson

genre: Action | Comics | Spy

released: March 27, 2014 (Germany), April 3, 2014 (Australia & Greece), April 4, 2014 (U.S.), 

It's still amazing to this day, that audiences have gravitated so much to Captain America. Especially with all the anti-American sentiment that resides in the world. This shows exactly what a good movie can do, when it encompasses a down to earth character. That doesn't propagandize and always puts the human element first, before country. Having its sequel be an action packed installment of goodness, targeted at all audiences. As well as keeping the action limited to where it feels natural, so to have character moments that further layer out the characters and finally have a story that lifts the comic book material to even more serious subject matters, that adult audiences will expect such a film to have.

story:

After the Chitauri invasion in "the Avengers" film. Captain America (Chris Evans) has gone on to become a fully fledged Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Showing leadership, being apart of different missions and following the call of duty. Though with the passage of time he sees that his former friends and allies might not be what they seem and that he may be on the wrong side of an impending war. This is perpetuated further by a new figurative leader in "S.H.I.E.L.D." in Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and the emergence of the mysterious villain the Winter Soldier.

thoughts:

Well before the film's release, there was an enormous amount of hype surrounding the film. Many journalists and insiders had constantly been mentioning how it was going to rock and that the hype was warranted. Each set visit or interview that was made, furthered that point even further. A stark contrast from the promotion of "Thor 2". In the end much of the hype was valid. The film is not only entertaining, but a fairly serious adaptation of big goverment and security gone wrong.

The film also gives enough time to introduce its new characters and additionally for its main cast to all go through individual story arcs. Once more, a strong contrast to "Thor 2's" characters. Furthermore the amount of call backs, minor characters from the Marvel universe and other little touches. Make the world still feel special and vibrant. That anything can be possible from the magical to the impossible and for all these characters to be possible to co-exist harmoniously.

Shortly after the announcement of who was going to be the director of the film, I would say most were a little bit more than apprehensive. The directing duo of the Russo brothers, had only directed a handful of "Community" episodes and were then suddenly put in charge to handle a 100 million dollar franchise. Though everyone's wariness will quickly vanish, the second they see the film. Because now studios will be rushing to foot the bill for their next endeavor. As the brothers showed not only to having an acute touch for comedy, timing, and character moments. But also demonstrating their skills in coordinating action more than anyone could have imagined.

The duo mix up action throughout the film, never making it feel repetitive. It varies constantly from fast paced and intense car chase scenes, to exceptionally choreographed one on one fight scenes, to incredible big effect filled panoramas, that are also thankfully not the show stealer or annoyingly depended upon. One distinct touch the duo brought along, was the retaining of a realistic feel to the action and the great feeling of the Winter Soldier being an unstoppable menace. Moreover many will notice how authentic it feels every time Cap bursts through a door or window with his shield, or how the gunfire in the film feels exactly like its penetrating objects and even how the change from CGI Cap to stunt man is near seamless. These touches lift the duo much higher than other action directors in the field, with their sensibility for not going overboard with style and focusing more on the substance, context and quality of what makes a good action film.

Although I did enjoy the film tremendously and the production did a heck of a job in making the film an all out hellblazer. I still have to say, they could have done a bit more in two specific departments, one is with the lead villain and second with his group's level of evil. The film tries maintain a natural and conventional order of villains. Having a couple of tough grunts that you want to be put down, a villain that has an emotional connection to the hero and another being the ideological villain that is hell bent on getting his way. In general the three types of bad guys were done perfectly. The grunts are foul mouthed, rough and characteristic, the emotional villain Winter Soldier has a great conclusion and provides the emotional weight to the film and the ideological villain is a little bit too absolute and lacking in reasoning to his actions, but the actor that plays him. Provides enough gravitas to rarely even think about these issues.

Without spoiling much, there is a tiny twist to the villain and who he is connected to. The problem is that the explanation to his true allegiance isn't quite good. Him saying that he sees the world differently simply doesn't work. Because we never knew another side to him, except the evil side, that is also revealed pretty quickly. So it wasn't so much of a twist, but also he and his organization are very light on their rhetoric. They are deep down an extremist, racist, eugenic and fanatical organization. However they never mention these things. They are right at the thin line of never mentioning their beliefs, but still marching on with the "big brother" plan. Nevertheless we could have used a little more background and of their motivations. A group who would lay down their lives immediately for the cause. Because we know they are not about the money and solely on the idea of power. Its their hate filled and ideological background that fuels them. That is yet again, barely mentioned.

The reason behind this, is understandable with Marvel targeting the film to a very general audience. Which is pretty much every demographic group. For kids, families, adults and even for older men and women, from around the world. So they preferred to keep much of the content "pc" (politically correct) and in the background. Not to show, mention or indicate that their lies themes of race, class, surveillance, hate and a few others as well. Because than that would make people think and possibly question the content and the ideas at work. Even though the comics never shied away from such topics and notwithstanding the film having some light torture, blood and a couple of curses spoken.

Finally there was the opportunity to have the biggest twist of them all, that nobody would have seen coming. Except for comic book fans who have read the "Avengers" storyline "Red Zone". If they had done that and had clues throughout the film which were already possible. This film may have not only entertained audiences, but also blown their minds away. Sadly it didn't happen, but always can be utilized for another sequel.

verdict:

I won't go as far as saying this was the best of the Marvel lineup, but it is real close to being second best. Its able to be incredibly serious with its plot, laying down the footwork for its characters to grow, for emotions to flow and for the action to burst out. I do wish they had done a couple things differently, but I have to remain a pragmatist and that such things are difficult to be done. Once young audiences are attracted to such properties, we have to be gratful that filmmakers are paying respect to the material and doing their best within the fine lines of the controlled studio system.

Personal Rating:

4 Stars.jpg

review by Paul Katsaros

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