Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

10 Dec

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When Marvel Studios brought us its Marvel Cinematic Universe, movie audiences found themselves looking forward to a new continuing chapter in…well, whatever adapted-from-comics saga it would throw at them. It began with a promise made in the first “Iron Man” movie that an “Avengers” movie would actually happen, and it released movie upon movie upon movie to assure us it would come, from “The Incredible Hulk” to “Iron Man 2” to “Thor” to “Captain America: The First Avenger.” And when “The Avengers” finally hit, it gave them a hell of a good time and exactly what they wanted to see—superheroes working together and a load of action scenes for them to partake in. Then, after seeing the origin stories of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk, audiences were curious to see where they were going to go next before the next Avengers movie. With Iron Man, they had “Iron Man 3.” With Thor, they had “Thor: The Dark World.” Both were decent movies, but there needed to be something more. A lone-superhero sequel that truly upped the ante in terms of action, thrills, story, and even comedy and drama; and not just filler to catch up with the heroes. (I may like “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World” fine, but when I really think about it, it is sort of “filler” before the next Avengers movie.)

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is that movie.

“Captain America: The First Avenger” was a fun origin story for whom people say is the bland Boy Scout of the Avengers. Adapting the comic-book hero for a movie was a difficult task, but thankfully the movie was fun. However, you have to wonder: how do you make something complex out of a patriotic do-gooder? Well, with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” sibling directors Joe & Anthony Russo and writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely have found a way.

Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (played again by Chris Evans), is adjusting to life in the modern world, after awakening from decades of suspended animation. Not only does he have a list of pop culture to catch up on (for a treat, pause the DVD/Blu-Ray to see what else is on the list), but many of the people he knew are gone and his old girlfriend is now an ailing elderly woman. But that’s not all. His old-school ideals must make way for subtler threats and difficult moral complexities—nothing is as simple as he was brought up to believe. Things get even more difficult when it seems SHIELD is slowly being taken over by HYDRA, an enemy organization. Before Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) falls victim to a HYDRA attack brought on by the ominous Winter Soldier, he instructs Captain America to trust no one. So Cap, along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen), go rogue as they find answers as to who exactly is behind this. They partake in battle after battle as they discover some harsh truths about the people they know/meet as well as the identity of the Winter Soldier himself.

What elevates this exciting action-thriller to more compelling levels is its dramatic aspect, mostly centered around the character of Steve Rogers. The struggles he faces as a person are heartbreaking, as he tries to get used to living in this world he’s not too familiar with—a world in which his old friends are either gone or fading. The scene in which he visits his old girlfriend, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), is particularly affecting. And as a hero, he has more to deal with, such as being hunted by the people he works for, facing newer threats with political agendas alien to him, and even the upsetting idea that he’s not doing as much good for the world as he wants to. All of this helps make the character of Captain America more interesting and complicated than we would’ve expected. I appreciate what went into his development in this movie. And when it becomes revealed who the Winter Soldier is, it only makes it more difficult and gripping.

But whatever. People weren’t there for its psychological issues; they were there for the action. And “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” doesn’t disappoint. They’re perfectly executed, fast-moving, and exciting. That’s really all I can say about it, except that because the film takes time out to establish the environment and develop the relationships of the characters, we care about what’s at stake here. It doesn’t feel like a typical superhero movie; there’s more than meets the eye with it.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the best movies the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. It knows how to tell the story, it knows what to focus on, and it knows what to deliver when the time calls for it. There’s more to the film that I already explained in the review, so if you want to find out what I mean by that, I recommend you check the movie out and see what else it has to deliver.

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