Saturday, May 2, 2015

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

To get hyped up for the Avengers 2 opening last night, I gave another viewing of two of the latest Marvel films in the days preceding it with the first Avengers movie and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I have already seen the Avengers a couple of times since buying the home video release, so that will not be what I will be covering here, but rest assured, it still holds up quite splendidly. This was my first time busting out The Winter Soldier (trailer) on BluRay however, and I am glad I got around to watching it again because the Captain America films are easily my favorite of all the Marvel Studios movies.

This takes place after the first Avengers film where Captain America, aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is heading up a squad of SHIELD operatives also featuring the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) on a routine infiltration mission. Not everything is on the level however as Black Widow and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have ulterior motives for their mission, and Cap’ accidentally stumbles upon some secrets he was not suppose to learn that leads to Fury, Rogers and Widow being on the run from a secret government conspiracy where seemingly EVERYONE IS CORRUPT!

It would not be a Marvel film without introducing some new heroes and villains. Anthony Mackie steals the show in his supporting role as Falcon. I love the opening scene of The Winter Soldier where Falcon and Rogers meet running around the Washington Memorial, and you cannot help but immediately latch onto Falcon’s organic charisma bursting off the screen. Of course there is the subtitle for the movie, The Winter Soldier, and this soldier (Sebastian Stan) happens to be the primary foil for Captain America here. The mastermind behind creating the Winter Soldier and the government conspiracy is Senator Pierce (Robert Redford), who is always one step behind Rogers, Fury, Widow and Falcon.

It is always a good thing to see Fury and Black Widow have dominant supporting roles in a Marvel film as I always welcome their presence. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of how they tweaked Widow’s character in some aspects here, as they amped up the TNA factor with her in this film, instead of having her be the awesome ass-kicker she was in Iron Man 2 and Avengers. It seemed a little too pandering to certain demographics and brought back some memories of the direction Wizard magazine was taking that got me out of reading that. Seriously, her act is so heavy handed here that Marvel practically apologized for it via a throwaway line from Rogers in Avengers 2 along the lines of “she was going through a flirty phase” and she was back to being the rightful ass-kicker she always was in Avengers 2 instead of being played up for sex appeal to teenage boys here.

The history of SHIELD is explored in this film, and I got a lot out of the scene where Cap’ and Black Widow inspect the very first SHIELD headquarters. The duo discovers an “algorithm” that is essentially an AI of the presence of former Cap’ foil, Zola (Toby Jones). It is kind of a cool moment, but I think the Marvel film/TV universe overrates this character by playing the mystique of Zola up a bit too much here and in his cameo in the Agents of SHIELD television series. He was a lovable dweeb in the first Captain America film, but after that I never really had another desire to see him again. However, the big discovery Zola reveals to Rogers and Widow helps set up the final act, where Falcon, Cap’ and Widow team up to take down the rogue SHIELD agents in a climatic final act full of big-budget, awesome special effects that you come to know and love out of Marvel movies.

There is a decent little smattering of extras on the BluRay. There is a quick-yet-entertaining gag reel, and there are a handful of deleted scenes, complete with director commentary from the Russo brothers. Anthony and Joe Russo team up with screenwriters Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely for audio commentary. I listened to the last third of their commentary, and found it interesting hearing how they had to keep the lore in check with the rest of the Marvel Universe and how they revealed a few ways they were able to work within the PG-13 parameters when the action heated up in the last act. I am always a sucker for lengthy behind-the-scenes extra features, and that was a shortcoming on this BluRay with only three features totaling up to 15 minutes. On the Front Line is a good 10 minute look dissecting the stunts and action choreography, while On Set with Anthony Mackie is a quick look at the flamboyant nature that Mackie brings to the Falcon character.

I may have nagged on a couple of issues I had with The Winter Soldier, but ultimately I am splitting hairs over yet another great comic book film from Marvel Studios. The First Avenger is a great origin story and is a perfect tribute to vintage, World War II era-Captain America, while The Winter Soldier perfectly evolves the character into a contemporary setting. I hope I did not dive into spoiler territory a little too much here for those who have not seen it, but rest assured I made sure to stay tight-lipped about the films’ biggest reveals. I have talked to other friends and peers who swear more by the Thor and Iron Man films, but the Captain America movies are still my favorite Marvel Studios films, and I am already counting down the days until the third Captain America film, Civil War hits next year.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

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