The difficult part about reviewing comic book films is the challenge that comes with understanding the plot without an extensive background in comic book lore. This could be likened to reviewing Harry Potter films without having read the book. The poor writer is left with nothing but the film plot as basis for whether or not the movie is a worthy adaptation. The lack of such knowledge also limits the writer’s ability to provide further insight about the quality of work present in the movie. He/she also runs the risk of stepping on a few toes with possible misquotes brought about by such kind of ignorance.
This is why I hope to tread carefully with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, hoping against hope that I don’t make the mistake of dismissing certain aspects and events in the film as occurrences that seem out of place. My sole basis for this review are previous installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I’ve already watched: “Iron Man 1-3”, “Thor” and the first Captain America film.
The second installment picks up with Steve Rogers slowly adapting to life in the modern age (to him, everything from Apple to the Internet is amazing). He gets called on a mission to rescue SHIELD agents from a hijacked ship and obliges, not before discovering his fellow agent Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), taking confidential SHIELD data from onboard the ship. Angered that he wasn’t informed about the ‘other’ mission besides the rescue, Rogers confronts SHIELD head Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, eyepatch and all) and gets in on a secret (Project Insight) in return. Fury is later attacked and (supposedly) finished off by the film’s titular villain, the Winter Soldier. Following Fury’s death, Steve’s refusal to reveal information leads to him being turned into a fugitive alongside Widow and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a friend of Steve’s and a former Para Jumper. Working on a lead (the USB drive Nick left with Steve before his ‘death’), the two discover a plot that turns their worlds upside down– making them question everything (and everyone) around them.
That’s all I want to say (I’d rather let the audience discover the story for themselves). Plot seems to play a much bigger part in this film. There’s time taken to give the audience concrete context behind everything, a play that takes care of possible plot holes, and a good move on the part of the writers.
But don’t get me wrong– the good bits are still there. Some memorable moments include a standout fight scene with UFC vet Georges St Pierre, busty boosts of girl power thanks to Johansson and the debut of a new hero into the Marvel lineup (I’m sure you already know who he is). But at the end of the day, Evans is the glue that holds this film together.
It’s awfully surprising to see an actor known for joker roles manage to play the old-guy-stuck-in-a-young-guys-body role convincingly well. Evans doesn’t force the conservative, aged side of Steve Rogers. He’s just clearly grown up as an actor. Johansson is a so-so companion but proficient at playing the superhero part of her character (can’t say I’m too fond of the rebond, though). Redford wasn’t at his best playing SHIELD official Alexander Pierce, while it looks like Jackson’s still got it.
Just like any film set in the Marvel universe, the Winter Soldier had its share of exciting post-credit scenes. I don’t want to say much (as I believe, these should be a surprise to the viewer), except this: expect to be excited. You’ll be itching to see Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron once you leave the theatre.
The Winter Soldier continues the somewhat serious tone of the previous Captain America film, amping things up into the modern age with a workable (yet not over the top) amount of action and CGI magic. At this point, Evans has grown into his role, doing a laudable job of leading the film alongside a talented cast.
He may not be the Avenger with the wildest personality, but Captain America is, in himself, a colossal force to be reckoned with. The sequel to the First Avenger reminds you of just that.