“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
By Bob Garver
Regular readers know that I’m usually quick to attack Captain America. I argue that he got his powers from taking questionable injections and I consider him a glorified steroid case. I can’t do that with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Injections can’t make our hero so tactical or incorruptible or handy with a shield. So already things are looking up.
The new film finds Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, at his most charming) carrying out various missions for spy/superhero agency S.H.I.E.L.D. Good old S.H.I.E.L.D, they’ve been a dependable home base for The Avengers since 2008. That’s all about to change, as the agency has been compromised by evil organization HYDRA. There are undercover bad guys left and right, and this possibly includes senior leader Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). I suppose it’s just as well; doesn’t it seem like the good guys have a bit of an unfair advantage with a huge organization like S.H.I.E.L.D. backing them up?
Captain America does have some help, including fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). I’ve often said that Black Widow deserves her own movie, and she still does, but at least she’s all over this one. We also get a new hero in Falcon (Anthony Mackie), a hang-gliding master who can, for all intents and purposes, fly. And it wouldn’t be an Avengers movie without an appearance by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. director who warns Captain America not to trust anybody right before he is neutralized by a HYDRA assassin known as The Winter Soldier.
The film goes to great lengths to keep The Winter Soldier’s identity a secret for as long as it can, which I found a strange move. The implication is that it’s some sort of familiar character. But “Captain America: The First Avenger” mostly took place in the 1940s, so everyone Rogers knew from that era should be either dead or really, really old. Maybe it’s someone left over from one of the other “Avengers” films or a debuting character from the Marvel universe? When the character’s identity is revealed, you’ll understand why the film built it up as a big surprise.
HYDRA wants to take over the world with a device that can target and eliminate large groups of people based on biographical snippets. The message is supposed to be that we shouldn’t be so accepting of the government collecting personal information and that a world under constant surveillance isn’t really free. This is the wrong movie for that kind of message. Why take it seriously when the consequence presented is an unrealistic doomsday machine?
The action scenes are about as fine as you’ll see in an “Avengers” movie. The fighting is crisp and the editing isn’t distracting. Unique to this film are the many creative uses for Captain America’s shield. My favorite is whenever he builds up momentum, hops on it, and uses it as a sort of street-sled. I just wish there was a scene set in the snow so he could use it as an actual sled. You’d think that a film with “Winter” in its title would have at least one scene like that.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the better “Avengers” movies. Captain America has become a more likeable hero and the film provides some much-needed development for Black Widow and Nick Fury. The story does seem a little routine at times, but the film makes up for it by promising that the routine is about to change. If nothing else, the film serves to prove that Captain America deserves his spot in The Avengers.
Two and a Half Stars out of Five.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. Its running time is 136 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.