Movie Discussion: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by), Joe Simon (based on the Marvel comics by), Jack Kirby (based on the Marvel comics by)
Actors: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford
Release Year: 2014
Scott Hardie | May 17, 2014
I don't know if I'd say that this is better than the first Iron Man or The Avengers, but it's pretty damn good. Thanks for seeing it with us. :-)
To me, it's kind of a miracle that a good movie was made with this character, because he doesn't lend himself to drama very well. Bruce Banner struggles with controlling his emotions; Peter Parker struggles with terrible bad luck and teenager issues; the various X-Men struggle with racism. Steve Rogers is a perfect human being (physically and intellectually and morally), and his life is pretty damn sweet. He should have pathos stemming from being lost for decades and losing most of the people he knew, which could be a metaphor for recovered POW/MIA soldiers. But the movie has no interest in that, and no idea how to deal with it anyway -- when it does come up, the movie just shows Rogers stoically staring into space, leaving us to guess his feelings -- so the movie mostly avoids the subject. Perfect heroes tend to make for boring movies, but this one manages to be pretty exciting, partly by coming up with proportionate challenges for the hero to overcome, and partly by giving a lot of screen time to the many colorful supporting characters. (Black Widow and Nick Fury are practically co-leads.)
I wouldn't say that any of the plot twists were revolutionary in and of themselves; every last one was typical for this kind of material. But to have so many plot twists, one right after another, made the film feel fresh and unpredictable. If the first Captain America film felt like a boring march in a straight line towards the inevitable conclusion, this one took a crooked zig-zagging path to get where it needed to go, and (with a tip of the hat to Robert Frost) that made all the difference. S.H.I.E.L.D. should be boring, because it's all government bureaucracy and fascistic art design and its infinite resources strain credibility, but the various Marvel movies keep finding ways to make the organization entertaining in spite of itself. Here, S.H.I.E.L.D. lends the spy-movie twists and turns that make this movie so good. It's long past time for Black Widow to get her own starring role; she might not sell as many tickets as the top-tier heroes, but she can easily carry a good two-hour story by herself.
A few quibbles:
- One of my biggest movie pet peeves came up: A character waiting in exactly the right spot at the right time when he couldn't have known where to wait. Nick Fury improvises an erratic escape path down various city streets, but the Winter Soldier just happens to be waiting to ambush him in the middle of one of those streets. Is the Winter Soldier psychic?
- Knowing that accessing the thumb drive would bring assassins down upon them within minutes, assassins who would not hesitate to shoot civilians, why would Cap and Black Widow access the drive at a crowded shopping mall? That seems unheroic of him, and unstrategic of her.
- Most of the special effects were great, with one big exception: The old-lady effect on Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. It was distractingly unrealistic in an uncanny-valley way (her eyes kept shifting around as if they weren't attached), and for me it ruined the scene. The craft will come far enough along in a few more years to pull off that kind of effect with CGI; until then, Hollywood should keep using prosthetic makeup or a different actress.
I would have appreciated a bigger monologue by Robert Redford at the end, explaining the Insight program from Hydra's point of view. There's a lot of potential there for moral ambiguity; plenty of people would agree that guaranteeing the safety of 7 billion people is worth eliminating 20 million (a fraction of a percent). Plus, it can be useful to remind the audience that villains motivated by principle don't see themselves as villains: Hydra thinks they're the heroes of the story, and to them, Cap is a dangerous miscreant interfering with world peace. But this movie isn't The Dark Knight, and it can't afford that kind of complexity, and I can be satisfied without it.
Open question for discussion: Were you shocked by any of the plot twists? I knew some in advance from the comics (the identity of the Winter Soldier) or from spoilers online (Hydra's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D.), but there were so many that I was still pleasantly surprised in a few parts. The death of Nick Fury in particular struck me as a surprise, as the character is so central to Marvel's movies, but it felt appropriate in that Samuel L. Jackson would eventually age out of the part, and in that he got so much screen time leading up to his death, which is usually an ominous sign for a recurring character in franchises like this. :-)
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Evie Totty | May 2, 2014
Ok this movie is arguably the best in the MCU so far - though my heart will always be with Iron Man and it seems blasphemous to not have the Avengers there. I've seen it three times already but wouldn't mind a fourth.
I loved how they had Cap be... Cap. How they showed off his physical AND mental skillset. And this film is like Superhero James Bond or something. How he notices the guy with his hand ready on the stick, the sweat going down another dude's face. I loved the gymnastics they had him do, the fantastic shield play - reminded me of playing my old Wii game (I forget the name).
I only had a few problems with the movie. It's hard for me to believe they'd recruit Zola and not keep a good eye on him and his activities and thereby allowing Hydra to not only be born again but thrive and eventually take over SHIELD.
I cringed when they said 'Hail Hydra'. It just seemed ridiculously silly. But overall a solid addition to the MCU and I'm looking forward to Avengers 2 and then Cap 3 for sure.