CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
**** (out of 5)
April 4, 2014
Chris Evans as STEVE ROGERS
Samuel L. Jackson as NICK FURY
Scarlett Johansson as NATASHA ROMANOFF
Robert Redford as ALEXANDER PIERCE
Sebastian Stan as WINTER SOLDIER
Anthony Mackie as SAM WILSON
Cobie Smulders as MARIA HILL
Emily VanCamp as AGENT 13
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When it comes to this new breed of Marvel movies (which is the Marvel-spearheaded, Avengers set-up), I’ve tended to like the sequels a little bit more than the original films.
Well, except for “The Incredible Hulk,” which doesn’t have a sequel… yet. (Can we get a sequel to “The Incredible Hulk,” already? Why can’t we have nice things?)
I imagine the reason for this is because, even when entirely appropriate, I’m not a huge fan of origin stories. While each superhero has his or her unique origin, they generally are the same: a strong character is driven by a painful emotional background, a change happens that gives him or her super powers, he or she begins fighting evil, and he or she must eventually learn how to deal with this is normal life.
The joy of reading comic books is that the writers don’t redo the origin every four or five issues. There may be revamps over the years, but there are literally years – if not decades – and hundreds of stories with the origin as background.
What makes things awesome with this new batch of Marvel movies, which is still an ongoing grand experiment compared to the one-by-one process Hollywood followed prior to this, is that by interlocking the storylines, you end up with a continuous background that allows the overall universe to develop with them. You also can now start movies by jumping right into the story without spending time (and re-spending time, and re-hashing origins) on all the set-up.
That’s what I liked about the “Iron Man” sequels. That’s what I liked about “Thor: The Dark World.” Heck, that’s part of the reason I enjoyed “The Incredible Hulk” because by cramming the well-known origin into the opening titles, the movie actually played more like one of these sequels than a first film. (Yes, I’m ignoring the entire existence of Ang Lee’s “The Hulk,” partly because it’s godawful and partly because it’s not part of this current Marvel Cinematic Universe.)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” draws from things that happened in “Captain America: The First Avenger” as well as “The Avengers.” However, it doesn’t waste any time jumping into the story. After the obligatory action sequence, we’re thrust into the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D., where we learn there are some dark forces in the government trying to take control of the agency.
As Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to protect the organization’s vital assets, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself a target. After escaping a strike team as well as a new super soldier assassin known as the Winter Soldier, Rogers goes on the run with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) to try to root out the threat inside the government.
Overall, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” runs smoother than it predecessor with a tone deliberately more consistent with the “Avengers” films. Where “Iron Man 2” was the bridge to “The Avengers,” this movie is the bridge to “The Avengers: The Age of Ultron,” at least when it comes to the set-up for S.H.I.E.L.D. And while I enjoyed “Iron Man 2,” I commend “The Winter Soldier” for making a smoother transition.
We see Rogers as the boy scout that he is, rivaling Superman’s goody-goody nature, which makes him a good character to pair off with the darker Natasha Romanoff. The story also strikes a chord with the fears of an overreaching government and how to keep that control from spiraling out of control.
As an action movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is strong. The cinematography gets overly shaky at times, something that have been mostly avoided by directors in this series. I hope this isn’t an indicator for future movies because that shakycam look really only works (not really) in found footage and some films from the early 2000s. We should be over that by now as a popular culture. This might be part of the reason the film was widely screened in 2D, which is how I saw it, so I can’t say if the 3D works or is worth the extra ticket price.
However, much like “Thor: The Dark World,” the film works as a big-screen spectacle, lending the action to the large format IMAX screen. Even though this is technically a spring movie, and the first film came out in the summer, this one feels like a bigger event film. It’s an enjoyable ride and should be good for keeping the anticipation at bay for next summers’ “The Avengers” sequel.