Monday, April 14, 2014

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – It’s always nice to have a plot.

Despite what you may have heard in recent ads, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not “the best superhero movie ever” nor is it “better than The Avengers.” I understand the point of the marketing – to trick people into seeing a movie they were already going to see. Wait, what? Maybe I don’t understand. Why would they need to hyperbolize a movie that already has an enormous audience clamoring to see it? Were they not confident in the final product? Were they afraid people might have become burned out from too much Marvel Universe? Are they worried Captain America is viewed as the least awesome of all the Avengers and people won’t be that interested? I think the answer is because the first Captain America was kind of a stinker and they decided to overcompensate. The problem with those ads is they have the exact opposite effect that the studio was going for, causing concern instead of excitement. What they should have done was something simpler, maybe like renaming the movie Captain America: This Time it has a Plot.

Like the first Thor movie, Captain America suffered from being a movie whose sole purpose was to say “This guy is going to be one of the Avengers; give me your wallet.” It was a waste of everyone’s time and only had about four minutes of content that furthered The Avengers storyline, mostly which occurred during and after the end credits. This time around, they followed in Thor’s (The Dark World) footsteps again by delivering a movie that felt like they actually put some effort into it.

Like the previous two Avenger’s follow-up films, The Winter Soldier picks up with its title character coping with the aftermath of the attack on New York City. Captain America (Chris Evans), aka Steve, isn’t so sure about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s motives anymore, but unlike the other members of the team, he is still working directly for them. The film kicks off with Steve befriending another soldier (Anthony Mackie) while running in the park, then leaving with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) for a rescue mission. His distrust of S.H.I.E.L.D. grows when he discovers Widow is there for a separate reason and when he confronts Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Fury shows him a classified project in which three helicarriers bristling with weapons have been built that will be able to fly non-stop and target terrorists before they have a chance to attack anyone. Channeling our full-of-shit politicians, Fury defends the program as “necessary for our freedom and security,” Steve calls him on the bullshit, and the audience starts to wonder if the Winter Soldier is Edward Snowden.

Luckily, Fury is just as suspicious as Steve and Fury calls Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. board member, to put the program on hold until he has a chance to review the data Widow brought back from her earlier mission with Steve. Soon thereafter, Fury is shot multiple times and Steve and Widow become fugitives from S.H.I.E.L.D with the blame placed on their shoulders. Like Ironman 3, the rest of the film follows the two of them trying not to get killed while also trying to uncover the evil plot and who is behind it. Along the way, we meet the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a deadly assassin with a mechanical arm and a cloud of mystery surrounding a past as long as Steve’s. He’s arguably the weakest part of the film, as the “cloudy past” is substituted for character development, even though he’s called out in the title of the film. It reminded me a lot of Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (which is never a good thing) in that they introduce a very promising and intriguing character, but waste him by giving him little screen time in which all he does is try to kill the heroes. Fortunately, that is the only weakness in an otherwise very good movie.

There isn’t much more to say that you probably haven’t already guessed. There are a couple of predictable twists and one large unpredictable twist, some reachback to the first Captain America, and the introduction of another Marvel superhero known as Falcon (Mackie). Aside from the weakness I mentioned earlier, the film is very entertaining and has a story that’s, you know, existent. It was a little surprising to see Redford in this film (I honestly had no idea he was in it) and just as surprising to see he appears to have paid a visit to Courtney Cox’s terrible Botox doctor (his mouth is…just…damn). Naturally, you’ll want to stay through the entire end credits, though it’s the first time that you’ll be truly disappointed as the scene is pointless, redundant, and not even funny, fully driving home the point that marketing folks are sometimes as full of shit as our politicians.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back except maybe from your cable provider for airing those ridiculous ads.

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