Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a film that can only go up due to the last film showing everything that is wrong with the Marvel Avengers franchise. Thor 2: The Dark World stands as one of the most boring and draining action films to be released as of late, without a doubt in my mind it is the worst of the most recent Marvel films. Nonetheless, Marvel shows to be going one step in the right direction at least with at least this time around delivering a more compelling storyline that I’m actually able to care about.
The Winter Soldier continues the story of Captain America (Chris Evans) as he comes to terms with the new America that he lives in as he battles new foes and tries to find out secrets of his past and present.
For as jumbled as the screenplay becomes, I firstly think this film at least deserves some credit for being the most ambitious Marvel Avenger film thematically since Iron Man. The movie goes in great length about how America’s military and commercialism has changed for the worst and is now used as a shadowy, lifeless function rather than as a service of good and unity. The antagonist in the film is the head of a very corrupt, rich militia and he literally turns Captain America’s kind and generous military friend into a soulless, heartless killing machine. With such huge themes like these, I think this film could work as a thought provoking blockbuster much in the way of most recently the far superior Catching Fire.
However, I think all of the films problems come off of the classic criticism of something biting off massively more than it can chew. Beyond having a thought provoking theme, the film also features countless new characters, plenty of plot twists, a very complex stories revolving around many areas and all at the same time attempts to make a fun, rousing popcorn flick. And frankly, I feel like the difference between The Winter Soldier and Catching Fire is that Catching Fire had much more competent a director and writer working behind it.
Above all things, Winter Soldier still feels like in some ways a user of the lifeless stock format highlighted in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. The direction, visual effects and dialogue still feels very similar to stuff you’ve seen before in the franchise. And that I think it is the soul perpetrator behind the films failings. The film is going for something very different that thinks outside the box in many areas but the film still is entrapped to a need to stay with the norm. The film therefore sabotages its cool premise with red herrings, a reliance on clichés as well as one sided answers to very thought provoking questions. As for the question of the sudden darkness and change in America, the film blames everything on the stereotypical bad guy excuse and leaves behind no moral ambiguity. The film has so many smaller storylines and aspects that the film ends up rather dumping them or answering them all at the same time in a choppy fashion. How can a film be so daring and yet so undaring at the same time? It’s all highly entertaining but I can’t wash off the feeling that the movie was failed by the naivety of the directors. I don’t even think the film is poorly directed but directors Joe and Anthony Russo are not competent enough filmmakers to be able to tackle something this complex and succeed like that of what Sam Mendes did for Skyfall. Of course some of its works (the relationships between characters mostly) as it is in many times in which a film tackles a lot different stuff but the screenplay and the story of the film fails because it glues everything together using 50 cent bubble gum and big shock…a lot of it ends up falling apart near the end.
Nonetheless, I will say the reliance on cheesy entertainment despite being the films downfall also redeemed the film in terms of being solid entertainment. The action scenes for as unoriginal as they have become in these films were surprisingly original in this one. My favorite scene in the film is near the start when a man is trying to survive despite being shot at from every angle from inside his bullet proof car. The action in the film is shaky and nowhere near as nauseatingly dull as the colorless, thrill less scenes of action shown in Thor 2.
The film is also in some way very well edited. I think the problems of the film being choppy were less the fault of the editor and more that of the screenplay. In fact, despite being a 2 hour and 18 minute film, this was so competently edited that the film felt like 90 minutes. I found the energy and entertainment held in the editing to be very admirable on the films part even if the storytelling was weaker.
Finally, I thought all the acting was very impressive. Chris Evans’ performance in the film was pretty good and he added a lot of emotion to his character and he seemed to do a great job in sharing dialogue with other actors. Robert Redford played what was a very stereotypical villain but his great ability to act as seen by his most recent role in All is Lost which I went as far as to call the best performance of 2013 allowed his to add to memorability to the character. Samuel L. Jackson continues to be one of the most exciting aspects of the franchise and Scarlett Johansson through great energy and delivery of dialogue manages to be the best thing of this film. I also enjoyed the performance of Anthony Mackie as Captain America’s sidekick Falcon even if the character fell to pieces near the end in terms of his story arc. The cast I would say certainly succeeded in carrying emotion and humor to the movie and I have to say that the performances in the film is the one reason why I could buy a lot of the story throughout despite being a mess, I was motivated to see what happened to these characters.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has respectable goals and exciting performances as well as some good popcorn fun in the action and in some of the dialogue. However, the screenplay stays way to close to the Marvel checklist and ends up becoming less of a memorable, thought provoking blockbuster film and more of a light yet fun, interesting piece of entertainment that’s more worth seeing when it comes to being able to rent it. It’s always a shame when a film tries so much and achieves so little.
Release Date: 4/4/2014
Concept and Story by: Ed Brubaker