Movie Review – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

If you follow Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., watch this movie before Tuesday. Also, be aware that this isn’t really a super hero movie, but is really a James Bond movie with much fancier technology. As always in a Marvel studios production, stay through all of the credits; there are two additional scenes in this one.

Cast and Crew Information

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
Scarlett Johansson as Natalia Romanova / Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow
Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell
Emily VanCamp as Agent 13
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola
Stan Lee as Smithsonian Guard
Jenny Agutter as Councilwoman Hawley
Garry Shandling as Senator Stern
George St-Pierre as Georges Batroc
Ed Brubaker as Scientist #2
Danny Pudi as Com Tech #1
Gary Sinise as the Smithsonian Narrator
Alan Davis as National Mall Jogger, but this isn’t the “Alan Davis” comic fans might think it is.

Three other significant characters that only appear during the credits who shall not be named.

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on a story arc by Ed Brubaker, with elements of work by Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis and Bob Harras in there as well.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

What You Need To Know

A friend of mine has never seen a Marvel movie before, but asked me if she’d be able to understand this one. The answer is a definite “yes.” The only piece that isn’t recapped in detail is how a World War II soldier still looks so young in 2014. The answer: he spent about 70 years frozen in the Arctic ice, surviving only because of the experiment that turned him into Captain America. S.H.I.E.L.D. found him, thawed him and recruited him. That’s the only piece of the puzzle that isn’t right there on screen very naturally within the first 15 minutes. (It does still get touched on, though.)

Premise

Captain America learns that there are activities within S.H.I.E.L.D. that he does not approve of. Going down the rabbit hole, he learns that there are activities going on within S.H.I.E.L.D. that absolutely must be stopped.

High Point

It’s nice to see how perfectly they brought the Falcon to the screen. It is difficult to decide whether the high point is that or the way they brought in current political themes without being preachy.

Low Point

Those of use who know alter egos from the comics will not be surprised by things that should be surprises.

The Review

This is an original Marvel Studios film, particularly in the tone. These characters are spies and soldiers much more than they are super heroes, and that comes across in their actions and concerns. Even though it’s adapted material, they adapted from enough sources and made enough minor changes to make it feel like their own story. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are extremely well done. Some are physical, and some are CGI, but I can only be sure about which are which when we are talking about effects too large to be done physically. Utterly seamless visual effects are a very good thing. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is very tightly structured and well paced. They drew from a lot of source material, but it never feels like they crammed too much in. Of the 13 major comic characters, 6 have never been on the big screen before, yet none of those 13 ever feel shortchanged for development. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is great all around, at least as far as the script demands. (Some are only in the movie for under 10 minutes, but they do feel as though their purpose was fulfilled.) There are some emotionally powerful moments that play out here, and the cast handle them well. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production was top notch. Director teams sometimes become pedestrian and bland, as we end up with the common denominator, but this doesn’t seem to suffer terribly. There aren’t any greatly innovative moments in the direction, but there are no problems either. The story clearly comes first. The direction doesn’t call attention to itself, instead serving the story. The musical score accents the screen action wonderfully, but isn’t a score I’d listen to in isolation. The editing puts story first and doesn’t “play up” or over emphasize the numerous cameo characters and actors. The story comes first from start to finish, and that’s something I want in my summer blockbusters. In fact, I could name a summer blockbuster or two that I really couldn’t stand because they put story in a back seat. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is undermined only slightly by my foreknowledge of the source material and the corresponding lack of surprises. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this may be Marvel’s strongest film. I enjoyed The Avengers more, but if you watch The Avengers in isolation without the lead-in films, I don’t think it holds up as well. This does. In fact, this could be your first Marvel film and you can still expect to enjoy it. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Captain America: Winter Soldier receives 40 out of 42.

5 replies on “Movie Review – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier””

  1. So based on some of the events in this film, I had the thought come up in my head as a suggestion for a future Comic Book Physics episode: Cap’s Shield (and somewhat by extension, Vibranium).

  2. Fez says:

    Saw this today with the family and the biggest question we all left with was: What does this mean for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Presumably the corruption has to bleed over there, explaining the current ongoing plot somewhat. But given that the various “good” agents were moving to other places (Stark Industries, CIA, etc) they made it appear as though S.H.I.E.L.D. was gone (or on its way out).

    The only low point I could think of was a couple of exposition-heavy scenes with Robert Redford that seemed to drag on a bit. I had no qualms about using one of them as a convenient bathroom break.

    • The comments above about Harras and Hickman are what I think this means for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Bob Harras wrote Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D., a six issue miniseries that has been reprinted by Marvel two or three times in the past year, marking the first time it has been collected in almost 30 years, in which Nick Fury discovers that Alexander Pierce and Jasper Sitwell are involved in the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D. from within and Nick Fury breaks away from the organization to stop them, doubting who he can really trust. Hickman wrote Secret Warriors, which launched with the storyline “Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing.”

  3. JD DeLuzio says:

    We just got back from seeing it.

    Yes– could be the strongest of the Marvel superhero films, taken on its own merits. I liked the handling of character, which gives a little more depth than its predecessors, without taking us out of superhero reality. I also liked the use of conspiracy theory– grandiose, world-embracing conspiracies*, like superheroes, work if taken as metaphor. The film used some timely metaphor.

    I hope we see more of the Falcon. Nicely reimagined.

    The review covers the big things, so here are some small ones:

    -the fact that the Watergate is visible outside SHIELD headquarters. Nice touch.
    -the reference to Stephen Strange (who hasn’t yet appeared in these movies, but it’s nice to know he was on the villains’ radar)
    -(Of course, the references to other superheroes raises the question of why this activity didn’t attract the rest of the Avengers. Okay, okay. Dramatically, that would be all wrong).
    -Both credit bonuses, though I think that, once again, they get their sequence reversed. The first one should be the one that actually ties into the film. The final one should be the one that promotes some other film with unrelated characters. Ah, well. They never ask me. Good sequences.

    Problematic:
    -So, Cap, the Widow, and the Falcon breaking into a U.S. military installation– not SHIELD, but the one where they get the Falcon’s gear– and stealing military hardware just gets blown off? Jennifer Walters has clearly been working overtime in the background!
    -Did HYDRA (not compromised SHIELD, but HYDRA have an African-American among their inner guards in one scene? Does that mean they’ve dispensed with some of their Nazi views? Just a question.

    *As opposed to the Project Paperclip and Watergate-variety ones.

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