I’m going to be perfectly honest here; I’m not a very big fan of the Avengers movies. I haven’t actually enjoyed a Marvel film since 2008’s Iron Man and that was back when I was thirteen. I understand the hype; I understand perfectly well why people like them, they just don’t do it for me. I can never actually find myself giving in to the films and just have fun. I kept putting my face in my palm during Iron Man 3 every time another indestructible villain came on screen. If Robert Downy Jr. wasn’t in those films, would they be as good as we think they are? No, I don’t think so. It’s the stars that make these films. And out of all the stars I feel Chris Evans brings the least to these movies. He’s bossy, only has one tone to his voice, and above everything else he’s just plain boring. The odd thing is that I actually enjoy him in most of his films but I just can’t give in to him as Captain America. And that hasn’t changed much with this one.
In this follow up to 2011’s The First Avenger which is one of my least favorite Marvel films, Steve Rogers (Captain America) is now basically SHIELD’s personal 007. He goes on secret missions, gets shot at by baddies, and does a lot of punching and dodging in return. During those few scenes in the beginning I couldn’t help but wonder why he’s sneaking around at night dressed like someone who just walked out of a cosplay convention. Yes, I know, it’s a superhero film but come on. Blend in when you go on a secret mission maybe? Anyway, eventually SHIELD becomes compromised and Rogers and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow must go rogue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
This time, it’s the supporting cast that makes this movie rather than the lead like in the Iron Man movies. It has so much more to offer than the usual Marvel films we’re given. This is a plot that actually matters to the Marvel universe rather than just throwing in a cool looking bad guy for our hero to defeat.
Robert Redford’s here this time around playing Alexander Pierce, a SHIELD bigshot, and brings quite the presence to this film. He plays the type of character he’d usually be against in some of his earlier, political paranoia films. Anthony Mackie is here as well who’s great as Sam Wilson, a new friend of Rogers’. He brings great energy and a fair amount of humor to practically every scene he’s in. And this time we finally get a good villain, The Winter Soldier (let’s just forget Red Skull ever happened). Aided by well-choreographed fight scenes, he’s a pretty good addition. He’s not in a substantial amount of scenes and I can’t really talk much about him without giving away essential details of the plot, so I won’t. Anthony and Joe Russo, taking over directing credits from Joe Johnston who helmed the first one, bring a lot of fun to the franchise, offering the kind of rebirth this superhero needed.
The Winter Soldier is the kind of film where the good guys have cocky, wise-cracking one liners and the bad guys have their sinister smiles and villainous plans. This is more like a Mission: Impossible or James Bond film than an actual superhero flick. Rather than rescue innocents from crazy mutant criminals, the characters babble on about intelligence information and the agency being breached. The characters have cool gadgets, shoot big guns, and fly through the air in pursuit of dangerous baddies. There are huge explosions and fast cars, good guys turned bad and bad guys turned good. Usually I’d roll my eyes and exclaim, “Another one of these?” but, you see, that’s part of the fun.
The problems with this film lie mostly in the repetition. Despite its energy, I can’t help but point out that there are plenty of movies like it out there. Yes, very impressive car chase scene but I’ve seen that in plenty of other films. Yes, good elevator fight but I can name off quite a few films that did it better. Its 136 minute running time does, at a certain point, feel a bit strenuous at times as well. It could’ve easily been condensed to a 100 or even 90 minute running time. But you can’t go around expecting everything to be perfect.
No, it’s not Citizen Cane believe it or not. In twenty years I doubt anyone will even be mentioning it. But thanks to a solid supporting cast and a good number of very entertaining set pieces, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the kind of harmless commercial escapism that you can’t help but have fun with. I look forward to seeing what else these movies have in store for us in the future. B