By: Aly Hand
Okay, so let me start off by saying I don’t normally review movies. Opinions are a dime a dozen, and everyone has one. That being said, I feel this one is actually worth talking about. My husband and I have had a long-standing discussion over whether or not it’s worth having individual Marvel hero movies after the introduction of The Avengers. Both of us believe it doesn't exactly make sense to have a movie like Iron Man 3, where there’s a big bad guy and lots of action, yet no one other than Tony Stark is ever involved. You’d think a terrorist like The Mandarin would show up on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar, but apparently Nick Fury was too busy that day to bother sending Cap out to help.
Captain America: the Winter Soldier is definitely a movie worth seeing in theaters. Even without any of the other Avengers (with the exception of Black Widow), this movie manages to stand solidly on its own. The story is engaging, the plot progresses smoothly, and there’s plenty of action to feed the drooling masses. I was a little nervous going in, because whenever I see a run time of more than two hours, I wonder just how much of the movie will be filler. Sweeping landscape shots are very pretty and all, but I don’t need to stare at New Zealand for ten minutes (looking at you, Hobbit.) The movie starts out with a simple character interaction, something that shows off how much more advanced Cap is, yet still paints him as a human being with a desire to be a part of society, to connect, to make friends and right wrongs.
It progresses fairly quickly into the action, without a lot of “woe is me; I’m so lonely” hand-wringing, which was a relief. The banter between characters is real and honest, and while it was relatively easy to pinpoint who the “bad guy” was, it took much longer to learn why. The story never dragged, and while the film could have been tightened up here and there it never seemed like scenes were uncomfortably long. Action scenes were well-done, with the fighting looking natural and realistic rather than staged. I will say there’s a scene towards the beginning that seemed as though it was at risk of falling into the “you’re beating me but I’m going to pull a victory out of thin air because I’m the title character” trope, but it felt as though the director, producer, and actors all realized it quickly enough to put a conclusive end to the fight before it got there. There were times, however, when the natural action progressed too quickly and too abruptly, and I was left wondering what had happened. While this is very realistic, it isn't necessarily the best choice for a movie, simply because my expectations for a knock-down, dragged-out fight weren't met. There was too much going on and it was over too quickly for me to get my brain wrapped around what was happening until it was over.
For all its positives, though, there were some negatives as well. For one, and without spoiling anything, when I started thinking about it there were facets of the plot that just didn't make sense. They relied on Nick Fury missing some key intel, and I have a hard time believing it with how they've portrayed the character. Also, what happens in the movie is significant for the entire Marvel-verse, which makes me wonder how it will affect other movies and the oft-maligned Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. In an effort to maintain a spoiler-free review, I’m not going to say much more about this, but for those who believe the movies should follow one of the already-established comic series cannons the events of Winter Soldier will prove to be both nerd-gasmic and disappointing.
The introduction of The Falcon was done extremely well. At no point during the movie did I see a character and say to myself, “well that’s obviously Falcon, duh”. He also seemed very human, understanding his limits and his capabilities without trying to promote himself as ‘better’ than anyone else. At no point did he try and compete with Cap for the role of leader or hero, and it was a welcome thing to see. I would even go so far as to say he was the best portrayed character of the film, because he seemed to be someone who knew his capabilities and his limits, and how to work within them, yet still come out looking like a badass.
Black Widow came out of the movie more human, more reachable, and I have yet to decide if this is a good direction for the character or not. There are hints of a potential romance between her and Cap, as well as between her and Hawkeye, and while she has always been portrayed as brutally efficient, I could easily see her forming some kind of emotional attachment to the people she fights with. At the same time, that kind of emotion-driven interaction is very out of character for Widow, who even in Winter Soldier is shown to be ruthless and focused on her missions first. It’ll be interesting to see how the character evolves from here, either as a more human, more loveable Natasha or as a cold, calculating assassin in Black Widow.
Of everyone, though, the most obvious growth as a character centers entirely around Cap. Not only do we see him trying to integrate himself into a society he doesn't understand, and try to do it without sacrificing his own values, but we also see him coping with his own personal demons and confronting both the beautiful and the ugly of his personal past. He has to integrate the life and values of Steve Rogers with the duty and power of Captain America. He’s forced to realize his whole life is a no-win scenario, and that there’s a knife waiting for him around every corner. Okay, maybe not that bad. There’s a few scenes that emphasize not everyone is out to kill Cap, and that maybe he has more friends than he thinks.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Captain America: the Winter Soldier to fans of Marvel, fans of action films, or just anyone looking for a good way to spend a couple hours. I wouldn't recommend it for very young children, as the violence and occasional language might be too much for some parents. Older children, like teenagers, would likely enjoy it, and adults of all ages will find something to enjoy, whether it’s the action or the story.