And to think that if you were to come up to me after I watched those god-awful Fantastic Four movies and try to convince me that the guy who played the Human Torch would ever star in a superhero movie again, I would have laughed, and laughed and laughed…
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Produced by: Kevin Feige
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Sequel to: Captain America: The First Avenger
Series: Marvel Cinematic Universe (9th installment)
Genres: Superhero, Action Thriller
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson,Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson
Plot: Two years after the battle of New York in The Avengers, the cryogenically preserved title character, World War II superhero Steve Roger, code-name: Captain America (Chris Evans) is keeping himself busy trying to catch up with 65-ish years of pop culture and news, and carrying out missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., the shadowy spy agency led by one-eyed badass Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), accompanied by deadly super-spy Natasha Romanoff, code-name: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a lethal S.T.R.I.K.E. team led by Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo). During a mission to rescue hostages being held by Algerian mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre! Seriously!!!), Cap discovers that Fury tasked Romanoff not with saving the hostages, but with extracting data from the ship’s computers for Fury.
When Cap confronts Fury about this, he is briefed by his boss on the brand new Project Insight, which consists of three enormous helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to eliminate terrorist threats before they get serious. In other words, it’s Dick Cheney’s wet dream. Fury tries to sell Rogers on the project, but Steve, still an advocate of fun little things like “freedom” and “fair trials”, is disturbed. However, when Fury tries to decrypt the files that Black Widow stole, he is not only denied access, but, on his way to a rendezvous with fellow agent Maria Hill, he is assaulted by a hardass Soviet assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). After the attack, Rogers is unable to reveal any information about the attack to senior S.H.I.E.L.D. director Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who declares him a fugitive. Rogers, accompanied by Black Widow and his friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) embark on a journey to uncover the truth about the Winter Soldier… And some bad apples who have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.
Anybody who’s going into this movie thinking that it’s gonna be your typical Saturday morning cartoon-turned superhero movie (Avengers, Thor, Amazing Spider-Man the first Captain America) should know that they will be not disappointed, but kind of jarred by the tone of this movie. Right off the bat almost, the audience is shown that this will not be a light-hearted almost-comedy like Marvel movies tend to be, as Captain America, Black Widow and the Winter Soldier often get into prolonged, somewhat brutal fight sequences with terrorists and S.H.I.E.L.D., which often end in graphic death, not exactly something you’re used to seeing in superhero movies.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Tarantino film, and the movie has its’ lighthearted moments. Especially the comedic scenes between Cap and Natasha, but this is in no way, shape or form a movie that I would be comfortable taking my hypothetical children to see. When I saw it, there were parents in the theater who were clearly regretting taking their very young kids to see it.
This isn’t meant to be a discredit to the movie though. I love me some graphic violence, and it makes sense to me that the different superheroes of the MCU should each have their different film genres (Iron man gets sci-fi action comedies, Thor gets fantasies, Hulk gets tragic dramas and Captain America gets gritty semi-political action thrillers).
Sure, the plot does suffer from a little bit of the Thor: The Dark World malaise of making the plot a little bit more complicated than it really needs to be (And, in fact, the two screenwriters for this movie also co-wrote the second Thor movie), but it’s really not so bad in this case. The plot is mostly airtight, with the often risky political overtones actually feeling important to the story and not shoehorned in for a phony sense of urgency. I, personally think that they should’ve played up the whole “spying on innocents” angle, but that’s probably just my pesky left-wing liberal bias.
And maximum kudos to the Russo brothers, who had previously been known for directing episodes of Happy Endings, Community and the good seasons of Arrested Development, for crafting a movie that is way out of their comfort zones, with some kickass fight scenes that may be some of the best I’ve ever seen, even including an awesome fight scene at the beginning between Cap an UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre. You aren’t gonna see any of that shit in Arrested Development.
As for actors, There isn’t a weak link among the cast. Chris Evans is everything you’d want in a charismatic superhero lead, and has grown a lot as an actor since his nauseating performance as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. Scarlett Johansson is great as Black Widow and Anthony Mackie makes a great impression as a Marvel newcomer. Robert Redford is wonderful as the somewhat shady Alexander Pierce, and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is probably the best Marvel villain so far apart, of course, from Loki.
Conclusion: Dark and violent while also funny and entertaining, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best MCU movies released so far (I’d put it just behind Iron Man in second and The Avengers in first) and the best movie in Marvel’s second phase.