Sunday, April 6, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Film Review

Entertainment
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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Somebody just turned the volume up to 11.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (CA: TWS) just grabbed THE AVENGERS and leapfrogged right past them to catapult himself right to the top of the super-hero movie pyramid. This is a fully realized synthesis of everything that has come before in the Marvel Comics Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe perfectly distilled into a taut action epic that never once loses sight of the character or... the world he exists in.
The tagline that has been tossed around with this movie is a classic comics tag: “Everything changes,” only this time it is true.

The first Cap film, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER served as both an origin story for Cap but also a prologue for THE AVENGERS film. CA: TWS explores Cap’s loss of innocence in a world where the villains are not so easy to identify as it was when they wore swastikas on their sleeves. Where IRON MAN 3 served as an epilogue to THE AVENGERS, it falls to a Captain America film to be the prologue once again for an AVENGERS film (the currently filming AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON). However, CA: TWS is also a true sequel picking up on story threads from the first Cap film.

This film is securely Cap’s film, but it strongly builds up his supporting cast without ever feeling like it takes away from Cap’s story. This is an ensemble film that revolves around Steve Rogers, man out of time and the world’s greatest soldier. In the first film, set mostly in the middle of World War 2, we saw Steve, an intrinsically good man, given the strength and power to accomplish great things and not become corrupted. A natural leader, he demonstrated that rare quality of charismatic and confident command with an intuitive sense of when “just following orders” was not a proper option. As a result, he earned the trust of everyone he came into contact with. His arch nemesis, The Red Skull, functioned as the contrasting distorted mirror version of Captain America demonstrating how the same power could absolutely corrupt someone who is already bad.
 

There were other character stories in the first film including Red Skull’s top scientist in his Hydra organization, Arnim Zola. You will remember that he was eventually captured by the Americans. Steve’s best friend from childhood, Bucky Barnes, was the only soldier in Cap’s “Howling Commandos” team to lose his life in the war when he fell to his death off a speeding train in the mountains. Steve’s guilt and pain was magnified as he was there with Bucky and was unable to save him when he fell. And then there’s “Agent Peggy Carter” who was/is Steve’s first and only love but his duties in the war kept preventing them from pursuing anything more than the purest of platonic love.
 
Without spoiling the movie, let me just say that CA: TWS follows through directly on those characters and their current impact on Steve and his personal journey. It also delivers incredibly effective and important journeys for Col. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow). Somehow, the writers and directors of this film also found time to introduce 2 major characters into the mix, Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and the mysterious assassin, The Winter Soldier. By doing this they combined two different eras of the Captain America comic books, the 1970s and the 2000s, into something new and original that knocked my socks off.

As a child, my introduction to the character of Captain America was during the phase in which the title of the book was actually “Captain America and The Falcon.” So I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the character of Sam Wilson. I was both excited to learn they were introducing him into the film but I was also slightly hesitant because I was afraid his character would bear little resemblance to the character as I remembered him. I should not have worried. The casting of the roundly likeable and earnestly charismatic Anthony Mackie is what sells it. They changed up a little bit of Sam’s personal background, but for the most part, this is the guy I already knew. It was like my first experience watching Chris Evans as Cap. I felt that I already knew him. It wasn’t someone performing, this was actually the Captain America I “knew” from my childhood. Sam is also a good man. He and Steve bond instantly with mutual respect and it completely makes sense that they are drawn together through the events of the film brought about by the appearance of The Winter Soldier in an incredible action sequence in Washington D.C.
 
Actually there are a couple of incredible car-based action sequences that are in and of themselves worth the price of admission. The action in this movie is ramped up, violent, and impressive. It weaves in and out of mass destruction-type action and personal combat expertly – very “BOURNE-like” in that way.
 

Part of why it is fitting to include The Falcon in this story is that the ‘70s era of Captain America comics, following the Watergate controversy and the fall of President Nixon, dealt with a loss of innocence in Steve as he had to face the inroads of corrupt government. This film deals solidly with issues of over-reaching government and the politics of the day – especially how far should the people allow their governments to go under the guise of “protecting” them? The film also solidly addresses the importance of the free flow of information. The themes explored in CA: TWS are strongly relevant and I believe that it will only increase in relevance as time passes.
 
Oh yeah, I almost forgot something. For the hardcore Cap fans who maybe thought there was no way to ever incorporate “Batroc ze Leaper” (a mostly absurd French stereotype villain whose super-power is super-jumping) into the more grounded Cinematic Universe, well… worry no more.


 Bottom line is….GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

★★★★★ out of ★★★★★

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