In commemoration of the upcoming CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) as well as AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019), I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and revisit ALL of the films relating to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
- IRON MAN 3 (2013)
- THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
- AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)
- ANT-MAN (2015)
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Cast: Chris Evans (GIFTED , and upcoming films KNIVES OUT  and THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT ), Anthony Mackie (MISS BALA , THE HATE U GIVE , DETROIT , TRIPLE 9 , and upcoming films THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW  and AGAINST ALL ENEMIES ), Robert Redford (MAN/GUN  and PETE’S DRAGON ), Frank Grillo (THE PURGE 3 , and upcoming films BOSS LEVEL  and HELL ON THE BORDER ), and Emily VanCamp (THE RING TWO  and REVENGE [2011 – 2015])
Directors: Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe (YOU, ME AND DUPREE )
Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Narnia: LION, WITCH, WARDROBE  and DAWN TREADER )
Composer: Henry Jackman (RALPH/INTERNET , JUMANJI 2 , BIRTH/NATION , PIXELS , X-MEN: FIRST CLASS , and upcoming films POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU  and DHAKA )
Cinematographer: Trent Opaloch (ELYSIUM  and DISTRICT 9 )
Editors: Jeffrey Ford (STREET KINGS  and HIDE AND SEEK ) and Matthew Schmidt (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
This is my honest opinion of: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
In World War II, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) knew what the right thing was and stuck to his proverbial guns. But now in the present day, he’s having a hard time adjusting to what the right thing really is. His most recent mission with SHIELD was to free hostages from a ship that got hijacked by mercenaries. Though the mission is mostly a success, Steve discovers that Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) had a secret mission of her own to extract data from the ship’s computer, and Steve wasn’t informed. Confronting Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) regarding the incident, he lets Steve in on SHIELD’s latest project that Romanoff assisted with: Project Insight, linking three Helicarriers to spy satellites to eliminate threats before they happen; a plan that Steve doesn’t agree with.
Not long after, Fury is suddenly attacked by unknown assailants disguised as local law-enforcement out in the open. Though Fury escapes, he is very nearly killed by what many thought was a myth, the Winter Soldier. Fury ends up at Steve’s apartment to inform him that no one in SHIELD can be trusted and before anything else could be divulged, Winter Soldier manages to kill Fury and escape. Unable to know who to trust in SHIELD, Steve and Natasha go on the run to figure out what’s happening.
How the hell do you go from a two for two of the weakest films that the MCU managed to crank out to arguably one of the best? Somehow, WINTER SOLDIER has only gotten better with time.
The movie starts off wonderfully. We get to meet Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and he and Steve have a great little back and forth. We know that Steve has been busy being given recommendations on what to catch up on, just a whole lot of charm between them both. A nice little bit of calm before the action starts.
And by God is the action in this movie one of the best of the MCU!
Not that I’m anti-CGI, but considering how special effects-heavy the MCU typically gets, even for the more grounded movies, I have to voice my love for a movie that’s mostly practical effects. Watching Cap literally just run around that ship and hurling his shield at bad guys, kicking them overboard and into walls, it’s fantastic. What’s better is that there’s always something visually different with each encounter. And what can be better than that fight between Steve and Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). Dude, that was some serious bad-ass hand-to-hand. The way they were shot, mixed with how aggressive it looked, every blow had me jerking back into my seat as if I was actually being punched. That’s some damned immersion right there, yo! But it’s not just Steve that steals the spotlight. Even Black Widow gets some cool moments. Her staple “hop on a dude and take him down,” and then using him to anchor herself as she quickly zips down taking out bad guys, hiding behind corpses to go for an optical illusion effect, and ending it all with a traditional smack to the head with a steel rod. I don’t know why, but that seemed to hilarious to me. All the creativity, all the bad-assery, and then it’s just… WHACK. With a steel rod. I mean, a girl’s gotta knock a bad-guy out somehow, but… aww well. And most of the action scenes are this awesome. Fury in his car with his nifty arm-rest machinegun, any time Cap and Winter Soldier fight, it’s all awesome.
Seriously, how awesome is Falcon? What I love about this movie is that these characters don’t even feel like comic book characters. The way they’re written is in such a way that these feel like real people. Cap already feels like he could be any soldier in the armed forces, but the tradition extends now to Sam, and Mackie delivers a performance that’s very much on the same level as Evans. Though they’re not the same character, there’s something so genuine and honest about Sam. He got out of the Air Force and is helping other veterans that still need help with adjusting back into the world, only coming back into the fold to help out Cap. Love this dude who has his own attitude, his own swag, but a very familiar sense of right and wrong in the modern era.
The action alone is enough to already put this movie pretty high on my list of favorite MCU films, but what sets it apart from the rest is how smart it is. Not the smartest, granted, but most of the movies have been pretty simplistic up to this point, minus THE AVENGERS, but even that doesn’t have a moral quandary as the main theme of the story. This one does. What is security? What is the price of freedom in this day and age? And what use is Captain America, a black and white symbol of good, in a world that’s all kinds of different shades? Steve comes from a time when it was clear who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. But now it’s not so easy to distinguish. SHIELD may have the best of intentions in mind, but Project Insight is a very debatable subject. I mean, preventing a crime or an attack before it happens? Sure, algorithms beyond our understanding, got it, but the actions and emotions of a person are impossible to get down to a tee. Project Insight believes it does. This is a tactic that Steve thinks is meant for fear. Not security. But really, how wrong is he? Is he even wrong? It’s all open for debate and it’s easy to see both sides of the argument.
What I especially love is how the real villain of the story isn’t any character. Sure, Winter Soldier is a tough and ruthless fighter able to match Steve blow for blow, <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ and Alexander Pierce is a nice, thick slice of moldy dick-cheese, ] <<<END SPOILERS>>> but I think Cap’s real villain in this movie is the modern American way. Think about it. Everyone and everything around him is a product of the time, which has significantly evolved since his. Every time he wants to do something by the book, or do something right, someone has to step in and remind him that it’s not simple. They all have to adapt to how the world really works, but Steve has a problem with that.
Even the emotions hit home pretty effectively. I am specifically referring to the scene where Steve and Peggy (Hayley Atwell) are talking. Not only is Atwell’s old-lady make-up extraordinarily convincing, but to see Cap be so vulnerable, and to see Peggy in such a weakened state compared to how we left her, who was so bad-ass and strong-willed. It’s heartbreaking. And then throwing in that she loses her memory… I got so choked up as she relived seeing him for the first time again. Seriously… how dare this movie make me feel things. I’m not crying. You’re crying!
Oh, and Emily VanCamp makes everything better. What is with Marvel and getting such great TV talent and barely using them? Like, I want so much more from VanCamp’s Agent 13. Why doesn’t she get a couple more action scenes or join Cap on his quest? An extra gun never hurt nobody in these situations. Hmph. Oh well, better to see as something. I’ll take a win where I can.
However, please don’t hate me, there are a few… shall we say, “zits,” on the face of this this beautiful action movie.
While I know that Fury doesn’t have to tell Cap everything, one would think that telling him about Natasha having her own mission that might require her from breaking away from Cap’s would have been helpful. Have her take control of the engine room, be all like, “Hey Cap, I gotta download some shit off the computer. Can you handle the mission without me for a few minutes? Cool, bro.” I don’t know, last minute changes from your own side is not only disrespectful, but it’s does jeopardize the mission. And for something so small, it seems pointless to withhold that info. Maybe Cap doesn’t need to know what Natasha is downloading, but knowing that she’s going off book might be a bit beneficial so the team can adapt. Sure, everything turns out fine, but for as smart as the movie is, there is still some dumb decision-making.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ While I joke about how underutilized Agent 13 is, I don’t joke about how much I wish we got more from Zola (Toby Jones). This guy served as Red Skull’s right hand man. How in blazes is he just in one scene and in quick flashbacks? Seriously, he became a computer! How does a character like that, being so unique to the MCU as a whole, not become a recurring villain?! It’s already a gigantic shame that Red Skull doesn’t hold that distinction, but now not even Zola? Lame. Granted, this is a small nitpick, but still. ] <<<SPOILERS CONTINUED>>>
<<<CONTINUE SPOILERS>>> [ Also, I really disagree with how Natasha somehow blames herself for working with SHIELD that is quickly becoming Hydra. She says, “I thought I was going straight.” Uh, you were. Hydra played an amazing game of proverbial chess. Honestly, everyone should be all like, “Well played, Hydra. I mean, I’m still gonna beat you senseless with my star-spangled awesome shield, but hey, a nine for effort.” Blaming themselves for unknowingly working for Hydra is pretty strange to me. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, I’ve been saying it for years, this is probably one of my favorite MCU films. Amazing action and stunts, challenging themes, one of the better-written scripts of the franchise, terrific performances, it’s not even just one of the best MCU movies, but it’s a fantastic superhero film in general. One of my favorites of this franchise back then and still to this day.
My honest rating for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER: a strong 4/5