brightest, most optimistic hero in the Marvel pantheon gone emo? Whoda
thunk? Back in the wilds of World War II, Captain Steve Rogers knew
right from wrong; the good guys wore white cowboy hat and bad guys wore
black ones – or, more accurately, SS uniforms. Things were cut and
dried with zero ambiguity. After his rise from a 60-year cryonic nap,
Rogers couldn’t have expected how much things would change in the next
century. The stealthy nature of the nation’s enemies was to be
expected, but to discover that secrecy and duplicity even from those on
whose orders he’s risking his life is something the soldier cannot
abide. With hidden agendas everywhere, is the straightforward Captain
America the only honest man in the world; hopelessly lost to his naïveté
and idealism? Well, he is from Brooklyn, ya know…
Picking up after the events of 2012’s
Avengers, Captain America is in his happy place; beating up
bad guys on behalf of the good ol’ USA. A mid-sea hostage situation
sees our All-American fighting machine back in action (in a slinky
new black and silver getup) leaping from moving helicarriers sans
parachute and cutting a swath through an army of terrorists in
hand-to-hand combat. When his team member, the acerbic Black Widow is
revealed to be under separate and secret orders that nearly kibosh the
whole mission, Cap is understandably peeved.
Confronting the master of
all games, Nick Fury, head of the spy operation S.H.I.E.L.D., Cap is
basically told this is the way things are, so get used to it, which is a
great big no for the honourable soldier. Frustrated at his lack of
options, Rogers takes comfort in the good old days, remembering lost
friends and whiling away hours in his wartime memories on public display
at the Smithsonian Museum. While Cap searches for some justification
for his life and chosen career path, Fury faces a different existential
crisis. Understanding the deep spy game he must play every day, having
himself ordered all sorts of hidden surveillance and double and triple
crosses; even Fury can’t predict the threat going on under his nose.
Like Rogers, Fury is about to have a nasty shock when S.H.I.E.L.D. is
attacked by an unknown enemy attempting to seize a new lethal airship
capable of obliterating thousands of lives in mere moments. Bolstered
with the presence of an unstoppable figure, whose awesome fighting
ability seems very reminiscent of Captain America’s, the Winter Soldier
has popped up on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s radar over many years, yet was never
captured despite scores of assassinations and general mayhem. Figuring
out who to trust in this world of deception, makes trying to stay alive
and foil the bad guys that much harder for our upstanding hero; but
backed by a small crew, including the shifty Black Widow, Fury’s right
hand (and left eye), Maria Hill, and a new accomplice, fellow
veteran, Sam Wilson, at least Captain America isn’t completely alone.
much as I enjoyed the 2011
Captain America film, this sequel is
miles beyond. It ups the ante in storyline, character development and
action. More complete than the last, it is the best of the
Marvel/Avengers pantheon since The Avengers movie. While watching Steve
Rogers’ depression, longing for old friends and his struggle with the
truth of this world, I was tempted to start calling him Captain Emorica
(though I daresay Winter Soldier has the look down with his long,
floppy, dark hair and raccoon eyeliner). As acted by Chris Evans
with still wide - but not blind - eyes, Steve Rogers’ disappointment at
what war and defence of his nation has become rings throughout the film.
It was notable when trust issues first arose in The Avengers and comes
to a head here.
Cap’s not happy. He even confesses to the thought of
giving it all up, which, as we are reminded in quasi-flashbacks, would
have been the furthest thing from the mind of that original
98-pound-weakling from 1942, whose only dream was to serve his country.
In those days, you knew who the enemy was, plain and simple: Command
trusted their soldiers to be honest and give their all for the country. There were no hidden agendas.
In this day of everybody-in-it-for-themselves, there are now plenty of ulterior motives; some necessary for
the protection of the populace, and some a force of habit as exhibited by
Fury, who can’t seem to stop himself from playing all sides against each
other, even on the same team.
What all the eyes everywhere cannot see
is that there is a very old enemy still among us. Burrowed deep into
the very foundations of the mighty S.H.I.E.L.D., is a parasite eating
away at the organisation, weakening and corrupting it to do its bidding,
starting with commandeering the new weapon. It’s bad enough for the
“right side” to have that much power, but what happens when it’s in the
hands of those with a much darker agenda, who want to mould the world
over in their own image? Rogers is right in his assertion that had there been
more openness and clear communication amongst the forces, that threat
might never had grown.
Captain America is definitely a relic of the past, happy to live in his
memories and finally making contact with his old sweetheart, Peggy
Carter, now a granny in a nursing home, he hasn’t let his fighting
skills remain the 20th century. Cap’s been watching some MMA!
Jumpy cinematography aside, the fighting set pieces are phenomenal.
Right from the start, a terrorist’s accusation that our hero hides
behind his super strong shield results in the bad guy picking his teeth
up off the floor when Cap mops him up mano-a-mano. We get much more of
a sense of what the Super Soldier formula has wrought, as he takes on
literally dozens of very armed, very large villains, crashes through
walls, doors - whatever’s near - and can outrun and jump the fittest
what appears to have been a part of the whole point of the film, Black
Widow also gets a big up in this chapter. While I was not impressed
with Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of that character in The Avengers,
Natasha’s nominally improved in that we actually have Widow’s Bite
action, more fighting – albeit with very visible stuntwomen – and a
superior coiffure versus the soccer mom ‘do from The Avengers (though
still not the cool fringe or backcombed hair bump). There’s still
work to do on the character, as she’s yet without the feline or
sophisticated quality I’d long associated with the elegant ex-KGB agent. Her sidekick/stolidly platonic relationship with Cap seems weird and a
bit laboured, though I’m glad the obvious wasn’t pursued.
The reveal of
the new hero, The Falcon, seems a bit wonky at first, but the excellent
staging of his incredibly fast, whiplash movements with his metal wings
live up to the name. The Winter Soldier himself is an example of old
ghosts coming back to haunt S.H.I.E.L.D. and even Captain America. The
hollow-eyed, merciless killer is very much what might’ve happened to
Cap, as drugs and electro-shock keep the super-powered assassin nice and
obedient to his masters, without any thoughts of his own or memories of
surely having its funny moments (the elevator showdown is a riot),
Winter Soldier doesn’t quite snap with the wit of the previous movie,
and I practically wanted to throw a shoe (or a shield) every time
unnecessary shakycam kicked in during a thrilling fight.
relatively small complaints when compared with all the excitement and
story development of this newest chapter. Captain America: The Winter
Soldier sets the stage for many an interesting turn of events (One of
two Easter eggs features a pair of “twins” I’ve been waiting to see on
screen for ages.) that don’t all have to do with the war against the
forces of evil as much as the war between Captain America and the world
he doesn’t quite understand. I can’t wait for the next one.
Lady Miz Diva
here for our review of 2011's Captain America; The First Avenger.
here for our review of 2012's The Avengers.
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