Marvel movies should probably have their own scale, and be reviewed relatively to one another, because quite frankly their always really good, it just comes down to which ones are better than others. That being said, the original Captain America, as good as it was in the story department, had some technical flaws and was perhaps the weakest of the early round of ‘The Avengers’ films. So Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a lot to prove in my book.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is beginning to have difficulty finding meaning in the work, and he doesn’t trust his colleagues, including Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson). However, when a new threat shows up, he must take sides with a navigate his way through politics (Robert Redford), his colleagues and the shocking appearance of a familiar face. Between Captain America, SHIELD and a new friend (Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie) they must uncover a conspiracy and prevent a force that threatens modern global freedom as we know it.
As I mentioned above, Marvel movies are great. Recently we’ve had The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Thor 2: The Dark World. They were all good, and The Avengers was incredible. So going into The Winter Solider, I was honestly expecting to see another good, solid Marvel movie, but also expecting it to be below most of the others in it’s ranks. Having left the theater, I can only say that I was blown away at how wrong I was. Right from the get go, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was nothing short of brilliant.
One thing about the Marvel universe is that it is full of some fairly outlandish things, such as aliens and super powers. For this reason, sometimes it can all seem a little far from reality and cartoonish. That’s not to say it isn’t brilliant. I’m perfectly fine with it. But immediately what I got from Captain America, was this sense of real life. Of course, Steve Rogers phsyical abilities are clearly not realistic, but the initial action scene was the most physically brutal, visceral and gritty action sequence I’ve seen in a Marvel film to date. It was awesome. It was a blend between The Bourne series, 300 and Metal Gear Solid. They managed to take fighting concepts and add just enough craziness to keep it grounded in reality. This concept held throughout the majority of the film, and it was incredibly refreshing from the usual laser beams and super powers.
Adding to this sense of a Marvel movie slightly more grounded in reality was the plot. It was fantastic, and one of my biggest complaints with some of the Marvel films, like Iron Man 3 for instance, is that for whatever reason I never felt like the stakes were as high as they needed to be. But with The Winter Solider, they took an angle that was much closer to real life current events. The ideas of big data, governments monitoring our every movie, artificial intelligence and human experimentation. They are all present here, in a film with subtle moments taken from films like The Manchurian Candidate, Enemy of the State and Eagle Eye. A political conspiracy, mixed with big budget special effects that don’t include alien technology is exactly what Marvel needed and they delivered.
The acting was great, and adding Robert Redford was a great move. He brought a real screen presence to his role that added to the film’s credibility. The stars have developed since their previous roles also, and I thought Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie all had wonderful chemistry. Samuel L Jackson also did his best work yet as Nick Fury, with a little more than his usual small role.
As the film goes on the plot development mixes wonderfully with some really effective character development, stealth suspense scenes and just the right amount of big budget action. It is full of twists and turns that somehow managed to be surprising and unexpected. It left just enough loose ends open for future films and closed off the ones it needed to. Brilliant stuff. Perhaps near the end as the action ramped up, a few things got a little outlandish, but by that point you’re so invested in the film everything seems much more plausible.
Overall, much to my surprise after being mildly disappointed with the first Captain America, I walked out of the theater blown away. The film had a wonderful plot with a bunch of great twists and turns, incredibly gritty and visceral action scenes, real guns, great character chemistry and high stakes. One of Marvel’s best ever in my opinion. This is what a big budget blockbuster is supposed to look like. Take notes, Michael Bay.