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Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Disney // PG-13 // April 4, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
Even though The Avengers came out back in 2012, it's still fresh in many of our minds. It stands as one of the very best superhero films to date. However, that makes it more difficult for each hero to impress us with their individual motion pictures, as everything will inevitably be compared to Joss Whedon's self-aware action flick. When Captain American: The First Avenger was initially released, everybody seemed to praise it, yet I found it to be quite weak compared to the debuts of his fellow Avengers, such as Iron Man. This Friday, Captain America will be sliding back onto the silver screen with a sequel that has been getting more buzz than just about any other Marvel film to date. It's definitely much better than the Captain's Phase One debut, but it's surely not the best thing to come from Marvel.
Now that he's brought back into the modern world, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) feels lost. Almost everybody he once knew is dead, and is all he has left is his work at S.H.I.E.L.D., which he appears to be losing passion for. Once his boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), proves to be in terrible danger, Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are forced to kick into action. Unfortunately, there is nobody left for them to trust, as a new threat from the past has a mission to kill Captain America and anybody else who gets in his way. He's a Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier gets off to a fairly strong start, as screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely make this hero a little bit more relatable. Several jokes are incorporated into this, which work quite well. He has a conversation with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who tells him about what he has missed while he was frozen. Rogers keeps a small notepad full of popular movies, music, and types of food that he has to try in order to catch up. This is a pretty decent way to introduce Captain America to us in the present day. In fact, there's a lot more focus on our hero than there usually is. while we're still thrown into the middle of the battlefield rather quickly, as Captain America is deployed on a mission for the security agency. The difference is that it feels as if we're being included in his life, rather than simply watching it unfold. We finally have the opportunity to learn more about Steve Rogers as the man he is after he has faced what he did post-New York with the Avengers. Once the real action begins, there's no stopping it.
Audiences have come to greatly enjoy the dialogue from these Marvel features, as it's generally witty and entertaining. This continues to be true for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as it flows quite well and the jokes deliver on the chuckles. However, if you're looking for some epic battles between the Captain and the Winter Soldier, you'll end up disappointed. The Winter Soldier is a strong antagonist who fits into this sequel very well. Unfortunately, the film spends a lot of time showing grunts fighting, who would obviously not stand a chance to the Captain's bullet-proof shield. Even after the Winter Soldier is introduced, he doesn't have very much screen time. Despite the fact that his identity is obvious from the start, Markus and McFeely try to delay revealing it for quite some time. When they finally do get the chance to fight, they're usually interrupted by the remainder of nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, who are once again, no match for our lead. For a film with the antagonist's name in the title, he sure doesn't show up very much.
There has been a lot of buzz stating that this is the best feature to come from Marvel, which I absolutely disagree with. While the tone is most certainly the same, a lot of it feels like more of what we've already seen. Other than the fact that the story receives more attention, a large amount of the action gets a bit tiring. There are only so many times that I can watch nameless soldiers fire directly at Captain America's bulletproof shield, as he charges and beats them all up. I'm glad that not all of the action scenes are merely big explosions, but the fight sequences could have and should have been much stronger. Black Widow and Nick Fury steal the Captain's own film right from underneath him, as their action sequences prove to be far more entertaining and inventive. Once we reach the third act, the audience truly feels the effect of a horribly weak antagonist above the Winter Soldier. Once you reach the final fight sequence between Captain America and this historic enemy, it has the case of "too little, too late." Once the credits started to roll, I found myself just wanting to see Avengers: Age of Ultron rather than Captain America's next sequel.
The role of Steven Rogers is absolutely critical to this film's success, as it doesn't have the personalities of the other Avengers to save him from crashing and burning. Even though quite a few moviegoers disagree with me, I don't support Chris Evans as Captain America. He's fine in The Avengers, since he works quite well in the supporting role. However, I simply don't buy him as Captain America when he's front and center. There isn't anything necessarily wrong with Evans' performance, but it just doesn't quite work for me. The same cannot be said for Scarlett Johansson playing Black Widow. This is a perfect casting decision, as she provides most of the film's personality. Johansson owns this role not only through the action scenes, but even through the more comedic and emotional moments. Samuel L. Jackson proves yet again that he's absolutely phenomenal as Nick Fury. He has the wit and charm required for this role, and it's great to see that he has more to do in this feature. Anthony Mackie also delivers quite a bit of personality as Sam Wilson. His bits with Evans are solid, and he keeps quite a few of the scenes grounded that would have gone off of the rails otherwise. Robert Redford does an alright job as Alexander Pierce. Unfortunately, the character is so critically underwritten, that there isn't very much for Redford to do, other than provide the generic performance that one would expect from a character such as this.
Given that this is a Marvel film, it should come to no surprise that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is going to be monumental in its visuals. However, directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo have made the wise choice of utilizing as little CGI as possible. The majority of the fighting sequences are clearly done in front of the camera, allowing them to feel much more natural. When the CGI is used for some of the bigger scenes, it looks really good. However, the camerawork is bothersome, as there is way too much "shaky" cam being used. While some of this style makes sense in this film, it's even used during a lot of the dialogue scenes, which ultimately becomes quite distracting. If you're looking for an audio track that you will feel rumble through the cinema, then this is for you. This will be an incredible demo Blu-ray disc.
While it's definitely an enjoyable superhero film, it isn't as great as a lot of the buzz indicates. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely provide audiences with more story than we're used to seeing from Marvel flicks. The story flows fairly well, as it never once becomes dull through its running time. The supporting characters ultimately make this film what it is, as Black Widow and Nick Fury provide both personality and the best action scenes in the picture. However, there is too much meaningless fighting between idiotic and nameless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and not enough of Captain America fighting a worthy opponent, such as the Winter Soldier. Regardless, this is still a fun action feature that improves upon the first one. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an entertaining ride, but it's no Joss Whedon. Recommended.