When CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER hit theaters earlier this year, the film found itself in the enviable – if not unusual spot of being a comic-based film to be met with near-unanimous audience and critical acclaim. A sequel that still feels fresh despite being the ninth chapter in the ever-expanding MARVEL Cinematic Universe (MCU), Captain America sure is different than the ‘Cap I grew up with.
As a kid, Captain America was in a cheesy realm – one largely influenced by those terrible TV movies from 1979 – ones that Channel 32 here in Chicago would air regularly, and like the similarly-terrible Spider-man TV movies, I would find them to be AWESOME! But I was about five when I first saw them, and wasn’t really questioning a ‘Cap whose headgear was just a motorcycle helmet with wings taped on. Later, I’d have the MARVEL Secret Wars action figure (who would regularly crossover with my larger collection of DC Comics Super Powers figures), and many adventures would be had. That handsome little boy pictured to the left in the Captain America t-shirt circa 1981? That’s me, “baking” with Play-Doh, though I can’t explain why I was putting animals into my Play-Doh cookies.
2011’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER delivered the first truly respectable live-action ‘Cap, with Chris Evans completely owning the role of Steve Rogers/Captain America in a World War II story that seamlessly connected with other films in the MCU, while laying the decades-old groundwork for future plot points to be explored as ‘Cap found himself thawed-out in present day after a 70-year deep freeze thanks to an Arctic crash-landing.
With THE WINTER SOLDIER, filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo set out to make a film that was more a vintage conspiracy thriller than superhero action, and they succeeded in near-perfect form, working from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
The multi-layered plot keeps the audience and heroes in the dark as to what’s really going on and who’s really calling the shots in a world where the “Battle of New York” from the end of THE AVENGERS is used as a sort of post-9/11 device for the government – or agencies within it – to begin ruling by fear and making decisions without asking for or receiving the necessary approval… and Steve Rogers isn’t having it.
Sebastian Stan is fantastic as The Winter Soldier – a mysterious assassin – an alias of ‘Cap’s old pal Bucky Barnes, who we last saw falling to his supposed death in the first film. Not only is the character impressive, but The Winter Soldier in live-action form looks ripped straight from the pages of Marvel Comics. Scarlett Johansson continues to embody the perfect version of The Black Widow, while Anthony Mackie is a welcome ally as the Falcon. Samuel L. Jackson does a fine job as a double-crossed Nick Fury this time around, and Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce – the top guy at S.H.I.E.L.D. – really ties that whole 70s-style conspiracy thread together.
My only criticism is a little bit of pacing in the third act, with the running time going just a tad long. Overall, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is a great film that takes the MCU into some new territory.
*Reviewed from the single-disc Blu-ray edition.
The Rock Father Rating: 4.5/5 Stars