by J.D. Cook
The second Captain America is an astounding improvement over the first entry. The first film had glimmers of greatness before floundering in its last act. This film keeps the pedal on the gas through the entire ride and just gets better until its climatic end. It’s also got an insightful commentary hidden just under the surface of its Super Hero adventure.
While this story is titled, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that title is a bit of a misnomer. Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Winter Soldier (Stan Sebastian) are only players in a much bigger story. The truth is this film is really more focused on Shield. The organization has loomed large over the Marvel Cinematic Universe, since its birth in Iron Man. So it was natural that its foundation and expansion would be detailed at some point. This film does just that, as well as covering its rather shocking fall.
The film picks up with Captain America working for Shield but growing uncomfortable with their willingness to expand their control and surveillance of the world. Eventually things reach a boiling point when Shield head honcho Alexander Pierce (played by the astoundingly awesome Robert Redford) has his plans interfered with by the good Captain leading to an all-out war within Shield. Pierce is a fantastic part of the film as the Directors never go out of their way to make him a mustache twirling villain. He feels all too real as he deploys three large automated heli-carriers to eliminate threats around the world in an effort to protect it. Don’t those sound a bit like the real life unmanned drones already patrolling the world for similar reasons? On that same note, Shield has invested a huge amount of resources into monitoring the populace in a similar manner as was revealed by Edward Snowden. I don’t think it’s surprising then that the film ends with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) revealing all of Shield’s secrets over the internet. What’s great about Shield in the narrative is that the organization is a stand in for every government and no government at the same time. This allows the writers to freely craft a politically intriguing story without resorting to the cliche ‘U.S. government is evil narrative’ that so many films used during the Bush administration.
Alright moving away from the commentary and into the comic book essence of this film! The Winter Soldier really is a small part of this film but he is used effectively and his revelation as Bucky Barnes comes surprisingly late in the film. That said it is quite powerful when Cap faces him whilst knowing his identity in the film’s climax. The most exciting comic book reference of the film for me was the mention of Steven Strange. Those who know comics were surely as excited by this as me because it means a Dr. Strange film is not far off! Then there was the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who was done extremely well as Cap’s loyal partner. I also have to note how cool it was to see Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) return as a 70’s style computer. This was a really effective translation of his extremely odd comic aesthetic into a more realistic form without sacrificing too much. Lastly the audience was treated to a perfect Nick Fury (The Samuel L. Jackson) who faked his own death in true super spy style. I think the story itself borrowed as much from the opening of the comic event Civil War as the Winter Soldier arc.
One of my least favorite parts of Captain America: The First Avenger was that Hydra was portrayed as a huge evil army that splintered from the Nazi’s. They really came off more like the G.I. Joe’s adversaries Cobra, who may or may not have been inspired by Hydra or vice versa. In the comics Hydra is usually much closer to how they are portrayed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They are a true terrorist organization that bides its time in hiding, infiltrating and waiting to strike. Although they do dress kind of conspicuously in green and yellow when they do attack in force in the comics.
Alright time to try and wrap this review up!
I can’t wait to see how the events of this film impact Agents of Shield; can the show even still be called that after the events of this film since Shield is gone? After watching this film I really appreciate the show more because it has really developed Shield and the characters within who became important in this film like Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez)…that Hydra rat! This film really sealed itself at a high place in my book when Captain America rallied the good agents of Shield with his speech near the films end. This was a movie that didn’t paint Shield and it’s militaristic hierarchy as evil sheep like X-Men: First Class did when Russian and American soldiers agreed to mindlessly destroy a Cuban beach. Instead Shield became a war zone as those loyal to freedom fought the Hydra agents within the organization. Where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go from here?
Well the world needs heroes and last I heard Tony Stark had a pretty cool tower for a nifty group called the Avengers. While I’m on that subject I guess I should point out that Ultron’s motive has always been eliminating humanity because his computations lead him to believe that we are a fundamentally flawed bunch. What exactly was Zola’s algorithm designed to do? Judge humanity to decide who needed elimination! I posit that Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave us the birth of Ultron in the background of all its internal Shield conflicts. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together with Baron Von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in the Avengers: Age of Ultron!
Past Comic Book Commentaries
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