Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

You can’t see it right now, what with the computers in the way, but I am saluting the flag. I feel an overwhelming swell of patriotism growing inside me, having taken in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is a damn fine country and it produces some damn fine movies about damn fine superheroes. How many does this make for Marvel? How many amazing action movies have they produced so far? The Avengers was one of the biggest movies of all time, and all three superhero follow-ups have been dynamite, with Captain America 2 probably the best of the bunch. This movie has everything. This movie is everything.

It makes me proud to be an American.

Movie Rating: 9/10 – Great.

Not that American patriotism is the driving factor of The Winter Soldier, I just needed a good opening. This movie is actually about SHIELD and the secrets it keeps, and how Steve Rogers may be the only honest man left who can get to the bottom of the mysteries that lie at the heart of the organization. SHIELD has been the glue that binds all of the Marvel movies so far. Heck, Marvel went ahead and based a whole TV show around them. But something inside SHIELD is starting to crack, and Captain America is just the sort of hero we need to save the day. He’s not flashy like Iron Man or Thor. He’s not at war with himself like the Hulk. Steve Rogers is just a man, for the most part. He’s determined and honest, and a lot tougher than most. But he’s a man who wants to do the right thing, and has the strength to stick with it when the odds seem overwhelming.

Plus he’s brought along a bunch of neat friends. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is almost as much of an ensemble film as The Avengers, and it works just as good.

In terms of sheer spectacle and excitement, The Avengers is still the best. But The Winter Soldier is of the same caliber and quality. The action and danger are very real, with ties to both The Avengers and Captain America’s first film. The characters are true to themselves, and grow beyond what we’ve seen before. And, as always, that signature Marvel wit just saturates the film. The dialogue is delightful, the banter is beautiful, and the film knows exactly when to sprinkle in the humor.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Movie Machine. Once again, Marvel raises the bar for action movies and superhero movies everywhere.

Join me after the jump for the full review. I’m going to try to keep SPOILERS to a minimum.

One of the best things about Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the plot. In my review of Thor: The Dark World, I had a few problems with the plot, mostly about the point of the Dark Elves and their mission to destroy the Nine Realms. They kind of came out of nowhere. That’s not the case in The Winter Soldier. The bad guys are born from within the franchise, pulling on threads leftover from both The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger. It makes for a much more exciting movie. This isn’t just Captain America punching some random bad guy they plucked from the comics. This is Captain America facing a threat with real meat on its bones, a threat that changes the entire landscape of the Marvel Movieverse. It makes for a great sequel.

Even the titular Winter Soldier is built from the remains of the first film. Obviously those of us who read the comics know his identity, but I’m not going to spoil it for anyone else. Just know that the Winter Soldier definitely works as the villain. He’s dangerous, he looks badass, and the big reveal adds even more weight to Captain America’s fight.

The metal arm is pretty sweet too

And like I said, the rest of the big bad guys are just as good. Nobody really stands out like the Joker from The Dark Knight, but this isn’t that kind of movie villain. The bad guys here are more institutional. Though I will say that there’s a surprise appearance from a classic comic book villain, a cameo I was not expecting, but greatly enjoyed. The film is full of Easter Eggs and tons of references to the comics and the other movies, and none of them feel forced or silly. It’s all solid.

The strongest parts of the film are the main characters, without a doubt. Chris Evans returns as Captain America, and he does a fantastic job carrying the film. He’s noble and heroic, but not in a hokey way. He’s more than willing to bust some heads and get into the thick of the fighting. He’s not ruthless, but he doesn’t hold back either. His eagerness and earnestness are both strong values that Evans embodies. You can really see why everyone is so willing to follow him and trust him. He’s a good guy, that Captain America.

With pearly white teeth

Evan’s supporting cast is equally stellar.

Scarlett Johansson returns as the Black Widow and gets probably her biggest role yet. She’s Cap’s plucky sidekick, but is fully capable in her own right, whether she’s holding her own in a fight or proving she’s the best spy in the world. Johansson is charismatic and fun, and thankfully there isn’t any kind of forced romance between her and Steve. They are just two colleagues, both skilled, and both trying to save the world. Those eye-popping acrobatics that we first saw in Iron Man 2 are back as well. The Black Widow can definitely move. And we finally get a bit more backstory on her beyond just ‘Budapest’. By the end of the film, you’ll fully believe she deserves to stand as an Avenger.

Solo movie perhaps?

Nick Fury gets a bigger role too, with a lot more depth than just standing around yelling at Tony Stark. He’s a living, breathing character in The Winter Soldier, and Samuel L. Jackson handles it with his usual style. All of the characters who were little more than supporting props from the earlier films get bigger, more fleshed out roles in The Winter Soldier. Even Cobie Smulders’ return as Maria Hill is a lot of fun.

The biggest addition to the cast is Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, and he’s just as good an addition as the Winter Soldier. I was a little worried beforehand that adding the Falcon to the mix might be overkill, but he fills an entirely different role than Black Widow, Nick Fury or anyone else. Just like in the comics, Sam Wilson is Cap’s friend, and Cap could really use a friend like Sam in this movie. That Sam also has a set of jetpack wings that allow him to fly like a personal jet fighter is just icing on the cake. Though if I’m being honest, the fact that the very human, very down-to-Earth Sam Wilson can suddenly strap on those wings and hold his own in a Captain America-level fight is a little hard to believe. But Mackie fits in well with the cast. He’s a great addition.

I hope he never gets a comics-accurate costume

Everything works in this film, everything fits together so well. The cast is great, bringing their superheroic roles to life with charm, wit and just the right amount of punching. The action is great, though the bigger stuff is obviously CGI, but the up close and personal fight scenes are some of the best you’ll see in a superhero movie. Every punch is felt, every kick is expertly choreographed. Batman never got into fights like these, and it’s great when Black Widow and Falcon get into their own skirmishes. Cap doesn’t hog all of the action or all of the heroics.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is another one in the win column for Marvel Studios. It expertly balances character, action and plot into another epic superhero adventure, while serving as a true sequel to the first Captain America movie. So if you happen to pass an America flag this weekend, maybe linger a little bit longer. They should have hung a bunch in movie theaters around the country.

———————–

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on April 4, 2014, in Avengers, Marvel, Movies, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. couldn’t agree more! saw it last night at the early showing. this movie actually made me proud to be an American. for the first time i can ever remember, Cap’ is cool!

  2. Ask his stunt double what it’s like to always get his sloppy seconds.

  3. Who by the time the movie came out didn’t know that X was Y? Even if they ignored the comics, and internet, was it possible to ignore all the trailers? There were a few that showed his face.
    To further spoil it, if anyone in the theatre I was in didn’t know who it was, there was an interview played before The Winter Soldier in which blabhblah was asked about playing the winter soldier.

    I thought the movie was great, obvious reveal aside, but there were a few things I had a problem with. I didn’t think the Algerian’s facial hair was enough, which is ridiculous because, besides his suit, it’s his one distinguishing feature.
    The titular character’s origin story was kinda convoluted. Not that it shouldn’t be, but I think they turned it up a bit.
    Nick’s story made him seem younger than I’d like him to be, although, like with Tony and Howard, there could be some weird age tweaking. The thing that annoyed me the most was about the building-dangler. I could almost accept that they cast someone who was completely wrong for the role, he didn’t seem that bad. But the direction they took him in the movie just pissed me off. I don’t think there was anything else I had a problem with, and there was a lot more I loved. Like the name drop. And the three cameos I noticed, especially the computer guy. When he came on, I commented to my sister, whom I brought with as a birthday present, that we were missing X, so it seemed like a nice trade.

    • I like to think that some of my non-comics reading friends read my blog, so I didn’t want to spoil it for them.

      As for Nick’s age, that’s just one of those comics to movies changes that we must accept. He’s not going to be comic book Fury with that life-extending serum. I think movie Nick has been pretty badass.

  4. *insert awesome gushing here*

  5. Images Unplugged

    I agree this was a great movie. Ranking this would be #1, IM3 #2, and Thor #3. Falcon was a great addition and I like how they incorporated his “powers” without it being cheesy (no talking to birds). I believe the reason he was able to hang on Caps level is because he had used the suit before in combat situations to retrieve comrades behinds enemy lines when they couldn’t send in larger vehicles because of threats. I did have one issue and it was the openness of Black Widow, it almost seemed campy. I always think of her even when reading the comics as more hard, and secretive, not cracking jokes and getting emotional. Otherwise great job and can’t wait for CA3 for the rest of the Winter Soldier story.

    • I’m wondering myself if they’ll really pick up the Winter Soldier in Cap 3. That would be neat. Obviously the story wouldn’t be about him, but he could be a new ally, like the Falcon. Maybe they’ll even move him into place to take over as Cap like they did in the comics, in case Chris Evans ever does step down as Captain America. I’m so pleased that Marvel has managed to lock all of these actors into their roles with very few slips. It really enhances the experience.

  6. I am a little mad that, yet again, an Avengers’ set up movie has destroyed an integral part of the Avengers universe. Trying not to spoil it so if you don’t know what I am referring let me know and I will clarify.

    • I don’t know! What do you mean?

      • Ok. But BIIIIIIIIG SPOILERS so no one read past here if you haven’t seen the movie. S.H.E.I.L.D. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a second think it is gone for good, if for no other reason then the TV series (which please get people to watch that I really want them to get a second season). But in this movie, at least half of the agents of shield turn out to be evil, and all the rest are seen moving on to other positions in other locations. All of shield’s secrets are released onto the world, thus removing its purpose. The main office and 3, of what I can only assume are billion dollar machines, are completely destroyed. And both the governments of the world and most of our populace seem to have lost faith in it. It is going to take a much bigger explanation then ‘mustering dark energy’ to bring them back for another film. :smiles:

      • Oh I thought it was great that SHIELD got dismantled! It shows that literally anything can happen in these movies. The filmmakers aren’t going to play it safe and keep everything all hunky dorey. They’re going to really push against our expectations. Plus without SHIELD, the returning Avengers don’t have that safety net. Now they really are lone superheroes. I think it’s a great step forward.

      • Oh i didn’t hate it. the concept is very nice and like I said, you know it will come back. and this sacrifice works better then all the others, the bi-frost, the Iron Man suits, Odin’s ‘replacement’, all these were more obstacles for the next avengers to overcome, great for one movie but harder on the series as a whole, but this one is, like you said, a boost for the next film. Now the Avengers must assemble without there ‘assemblers’ :smiles: it’s just, can’t we have a really epic ending to a marvel movie without something we love being destroyed. I am sure it is possible!

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