While I will always be a Star Wars fan, I have to admit, going to a screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and seeing several women in their skintight leather Black Widow outfits doing their best Scarlett Johansson impressions almost converted me to the Marvel world.
Not just because he is contractually obligated or anything, but Chris Evans is back as Steve Rogers – the soldier we now know as Captain America (the former World War II soldier who kind of got pumped up on steroids and survived getting stuck in the ice for about 75 years, so he can save the world, but he can’t play major league baseball). He is trying to adjust to living in the modern world, but seems to need a purpose or assignment to help him get distracted from being a 1940’s man stuck in a 21st Century world. Be careful what you wish for because he is about to get an assignment.
After sending Captain America and his crew out to save a ship that was hijacked by evildoers, S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is concerned about the organization’s top secret Project Insight, which consists of a new fleet of powerful Helicarriers (think of them as super awesome aircraft carriers that can fly and deliver devastating firepower, your husband wants one for his birthday). He wants to delay their deployment into the vast arsenal of weapons at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s disposal, but his boss, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), isn’t hearing it. They might be long time pals, but Pierce is under some pressure to get those Helicarriers in the air (what good are new toys if you can’t play with them?).
Just as he is trying to stop the program, Fury is attacked, and Captain America is warned by the mysterious one-eyed leader that he can’t trust anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D.
Can Captain America get to the truth behind Project Insight?
How will he fare with everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to arrest him, or worse?
I admire the creative people behind the success of The Avengers and all of the companion movies. In many ways, they could go into cruise control and make each one of these movies a formulaic piece of junk, but each one tries to be a great movie on its own, even if they already know millions will pay hundreds of millions to see the latest installment, and this installment of Captain America is an improvement over the last one in many ways.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the most contemplative and challenging of the Avengers movies thanks to directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, along with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. While we could use a few more details and mystery, this movie delivers on the action, camaraderie and storytelling we have come to expect and relish, while having a massive impact on the Avengers world in ways you would never expect if the creative team was just trying to make some quick cash instead of attempting to make a good movie.
Also, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a great example of how a movie franchise can build its universe with new characters and giving us more revelations about the ones we already know and love. Scarlett Johansson gets to expand Black Widow beyond being the sexiest woman in skin tight black leather you will see this century (your husband wants one for his birthday) to make her the smart aleck this movie needs to balance out Captain America’s earnestness, which helps to keep the movie from getting too stuffy.
However, we need and welcome some of that stuffiness as delivered by Evans. He is fantastic as the true American hero fighting for good against evil, and standing up for what is right when the rest of the world is busy trying to embrace the gray areas to justify their own compromised decisions. He has helped evolve the character from the first Captain America through The Avengers and to completion here. And, Evans does it in a way you won’t be mocking as some sort of anachronistic throwback to the days of Ozzie and Harriet. He’s admirable and heroic, just like Captain America should be, especially as we get to watch him become more of a leader, which gives Evans a chance to be more dynamic and less reliant on some jokes.
Yet, I will sound like a broken record when I say, I enjoy all of the references to the other Avengers, but it makes me harp on the idea that this new team of crimefighters would stick together and help each other out in the worst of times. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, all of Washington, DC is being attacked and blown up, including the S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, yet, Bruce Banner isn’t catching it on the TV and rushing in to help? The only person to ride to the rescue is Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders)? Sure, Cobie has time on her hands after the ending of How I Met Your Mother and all, but let’s see the team sticking up for each other (no, I don’t want to wait for the band to get back together in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, I want it now).
Redford is absolutely awesome, and I wasn’t as disappointed as I thought I would be as the whole Winter Solider angle is not played up that much. The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) comes off more like a snappy title than apt description of what we should expect from the movie. He is more tool than nemesis and makes you wonder if he was introduced to help bring him into the fold and play a bigger role later. In some ways, The Winter Soldier is more of a distraction.
And, yes, you must stay to see the 2 scenes placed in the trailers. The entire movie sets the Avengers world on fire, and these two scenes sufficiently tease you to be excited for next year’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Captain America: The Winter Solider is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.