Verdict: 4 / 5
Years ago, I made the decision to pick up a bible on Captain America. This omnibus was around 900 pages long and it introduced a new character, The Winter Soldier. Having loved this story, the cinematic debut of The Winter Soldier was a definite must see. So, how does the film hold up on its own and to those familiar with the comic version of the story?
The genius of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting is given the treatment that it deserves. Marvel manages to keep the cinematic version close to its comic source material. The last time we saw Captain America he was busy fighting gods and alien invaders. This time around we are given what Brubaker does best; Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes a more tactical espionage and cyber warfare approach.
Chris Evans has become Captain America. You can see he has grown comfortable in the role as Steve Rogers. Right now, nobody else could pick up that shield and do a better job. When Chris speaks you hear Steve Rogers speaking. His concerns with the morals and motifs behind S.H.I.E.L.D’s actions feel real. You cannot help but feel that Captain America is a champion of the people. No matter your race, creed, social status or nation, Captain America believes that everyone has the right to their freedom and nobody has the right to attempt to control that. Having had enough of the lies, half-truths and secrets, our protagonist has decided to trust nobody, not even Nick Fury.
This rift between characters sets up for the perfect story, offering the opportunity for the introduction of new allies. As the trailers suggested, Black Widow has a major feature in this film and while she is definitely a major character she does not grow much when compared to her previous outings in the Marvel Universe. Sure she has a little personal growth, especially with regards to her past, but for the vast majority of the film she is just there to deliver one liners and look good (very good!). I’m very happy with the fact that even though these two Avengers spent so much time together they did not find the time for romance. Instead, they found the time to understand each other, not holding hands and becoming a power couple.
Another great introduction was Sam Wilson (aka Falcon). Anthony Mackie was simply amazing in this role. The retired war veteran is one of the few people Captain America can trust. But he too has a secret; he was not the pilot that they expected him to be. Instead, he is one of the select few chosen for advanced aviation training using the Falcon wings. His suit, character and action sequences translate so well in this film. Anthony Mackie the perfect choice. His bantering and wits will leave you entertained and smirking.
With the introduction of new heroes, there has to be the introduction of new villains. The movie opens with a stealth mission to take down the mercenary pirate known as Batroc. French-Canadian Georges Saint Pierre (aka GSP) makes his comic genre film debut here. From the get go you will see that Captain America is not about repulsor rays and magical hammers. He is about good ol’ hand to hand combat. This is by far the most prominent feature of this movie; the action sequences are choreographed expertly. The timing of strikes looks real and for once we get to see GSP fighting and striking for the knockout. The acrobatics and stunts are by far the best that Marvel has ever offered. However, the action is not limited to just hand to hand combat. Caps also has to deal with the threat of advanced weaponry and technology. And The Winter Soldier is a product of advanced technology. He is a skilled assassin credited with a number of high profile assassinations spanning over decades, a man that is thought to be a ghost but ends up being more real than our heroes could ever imagine. Equipped with his cybernetic arm and expert range of close and range combat skills, the Winter Soldier makes a worthy opponent for our protagonist. He is a villain so powerful that he is able to catch Steve’s Vibranium shield with ease and return it with enough force to lift Steve off of the ground. He is quick, cold and precise and, even though his story is tweaked a little bit in this movie, The Winter Soldier remains true to his comic counterpart and inspires many ideas that can contribute to the future of this franchise.
I like the fact that Sabastian Stan actually looked like The Winter Soldier. It looks as though he put some hours in the gym and he looks physically threatening enough for Evans. Another great moment is when The Winter Soldier encounters Steve Rogers and gets flashbacks of his past. This is very true to the comic as his close proximity to Steve and his return to home soil jogged his memories to return. You feel a bit sorry for him as Hydra erases his memory again.
Yes, Hydra is behind the ghost known as Winter Soldier. Arnim Zola was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D in order to give them access to Hydra’s technologies, but little did they now they were feeding a parasite. As his influence grew he managed to get Hydra growing with the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D., all the way up to the agency’s big boss Alexander Pierce. The head of S.H.I.E.L.D belongs to Hydra. Cut off one head, two more will take its place. From the get go comic followers will know that Brock Rumlow is Crossbones and Alexander Pierce’s right hand man. It does not take a genius to do the math and figure out who is behind the S.H.I.E.L.D infiltration. When they changed the story they did not include the Cold War aspects of The Winter Soldier, and the fact that he is cryogenically frozen between missions, hence him not being as old as he should be. Instead, he is the product of Hydra experimentation and has no link to Russian Soviet group Department X at all. He also ends up having no relationship with Black Widow beyond the fact that they crossed paths during a mission and he shot her. So the Red Star on the arm is kind of pointless now!
Arnim had the perfect plan and Hydra would have finally won. But for some reason he lures Captain America to an abandoned bunker. He has transfer his mind into databases that allows his algorithm to use peoples past in order to predict the future. He taught Hydra how to read Facebook and the internet as a whole. This is where he tells the whole plot and gloats about defeating Captain America, saying his presumed death was meaningless. What was meaningless was the fact that after travelling around to find out the contents on the flash disk, the villain tells the heroes his plan and gives them time to stop it. This was a bit of a slight downer. It would have been great to see Alexander Pierce put on the Red Skull mask, alluding to the masks mind control and mind transference which occurred in Brubaker’s comic. Had Redford become the modern Red Skull, it would have been great and thrown a twist into the mix, one that Zola had not explained, paving the way to another movie? But Marvel knows what they are doing with the cinematic universe, so viewers will just have to be patient and trust in Marvel.
The great thing about this movie is that Marvel has not gone and made it 100% kiddy friendly. People are shot, stabbed, burnt, squashed, assassinated; all things that kids should close their eyes for. The only way they managed to sneak in at a lower age restriction would be the lack of blood. Sure our heroes and their enemies get cuts and bruises but not once do you see pools of blood spewing from their open wounds. But in no way does this steal from the movie. It is a minor sacrifice. If my count was correct; there were even two cuss words!
Captain America is a tactical espionage film that feels like a James Bond on super hero steroids…rather ironic. It introduces an element of realism to the superhero genre, even when compared to its predecessor this film is not one that contains advanced cosmic Hydra weaponry. Here people are using normal bullets, yet the threat is just as high. Jokes are few. It is not a laugh a minute experience, but the humour is there when it is needed. Although this is definitely an action film at the core, it offers a great story that deals with modern threats and the ethics of behind being a true hero. It features many important contributors to the Marvel Cinematic Universe amidst other little quips that Disney managed to sneak in (Take a close look at Captain America’s to do list).
Be sure to stay for both post credit scenes! As one introduces Hydra’s Baron Strucker and the fact that he has Loki’s staff from the Avengers film! Baron also has another two rather interesting items, or should I say captives, that he wishes to make use of; the twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, both who display their abilities for the first time in the cinematic universe. But this is not all, as in Thor: The Dark World there is a second post credits scene. The second shows The Winter Soldier return to a museum in order to look at a plaque of his past, hoping to find out who he is.
This movie definitely offers something new to the genre whilst boasting some of the craziest action sequences and visuals you have ever seen. Whether you are a follower of the comic or just a regular movie goer, prepare to be entertained and inspired!