Still coming to terms with the modern day and the aftermath of The Avengers, Steve Rogers finds himself in the middle of political warfare at S.H.I.E.L.D. that sees him become their enemy. And things are only made worse when a ghost from the past comes back to haunt him.
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Staring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo
Run Time: 136 Minutes
Release Date: April 4 (US)/Out Now (Europe)
Many forget that Captain America is actually Marvel’s flagship hero. Much like at DC Comics, where Superman has been replaced by Batman’s Nolan-inspired big-screen antics, Cap’s position in the comics is regrettably forgotten due to the phenomenal motion picture success of Iron Man. Claims in some quarters place Cap as the dullest member of the superhero group, something certainly not helped in The Avengers. Iron Man got the one-liners, Hulk got the memorable major action pieces, and Thor got the plot advancements. Admittedly due to various scenes being left on the cutting room floor, Cap was left looking a little plain and bare once the events of New York came to an end.
Pleasingly, then, The Winter Soldier goes a long way to correcting those claims. Steve Rogers still has those patriotic, want-to-do-right feelings – understandably – but over the course of the film the realisation hits home that the world isn’t the same place as it was before his 70-year nap, and his attitude has to change to fit it. Chris Evans has firmly settled into the role now, and is excellent as well as likable here. He doesn’t do it all alone though, with Marvel again realising the value in teamwork. Scarlett Johansson gets her biggest Marvel on-screen part to date, slipping effortlessly into the supporting role and finally establishing Black Widow as a legitimate part of the superhero group. Her lack of ‘superhero power’ has always left her on the outside looking on in the perceptions of the viewing public, and this feels like Marvel know that had to change with Avengers: Age of Ultron looming on the horizon. Thankfully it succeeds, with a natural chemistry between Evans and Johannson quickly blossoming. The addition of Anthony Mackie’s Falcon works as well, introducing Marvel’s first black superhero in the Cinematic Universe. Mackie’s Sam Wilson gets a lot of the one-liners sprinkled into the script, and if this is his audition for 2015’s Avengers sequel, he may have passed. Either that, or he will become the Cap equivalent of Iron Man’s War Machine.
The addition of Robert Redford, a major coup for Marvel, solidifies the film’s political thriller angle, with not many better in that genre than Redford, whose turn as Alexander Pierce gives Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury something to finally get his teeth into. An intriguing backstory is often teased, though we never get as deeper insight into it as we could have. Jackson in particular seems to revel in having a genuine story here, something more to do than just show up at the end of films or fire a gun at a rogue plane on a Hellicarrier. Those wanting a Nick Fury solo film may have a long time to wait (if it indeed ever comes), so it was good to see Fury have his own thing to do here, and his future is certainly opened up by this film’s final act events.
As for the movie’s titular character, I won’t spoil things for those that are not aware of the character’s identity. Though Marvel must have known that anyone with more than a passing interest in this film will already be aware who The Winter Soldier is. It is surprising then, that when the big reveal does come, it is played as a moment that should be surprising and astounding, yet falls a little flat. Of course, there is more of this story to tell, and the opening moves of this long-lasting chess game are well played.
There of course are the usual sprinklings of Marvel fanboy teases and they again come to the surface here, with a couple of nice nods to the previous Cap outing, and also a potentially door-opening mention of a famous Marvel character not yet seen. As usual though, these do not detract from the main picture itself. The Winter Soldier has it’s own story to tell, and it succeeds with some ease. If there is one criticism to be made, and there invariably is, it’s the almost-formulaic final act. Much like in The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and The First Avenger, the last-act takes place up in the air surrounded by explosions. It looks nice enough of course, but it’s getting a little samey and lacking originality.
It doesn’t detract from the movie though, which all-in-all is a very good superhero outing in a not-so-superhero setting. With the majority of the film’s big battles taking place inside a S.H.I.E.L.D. boardroom, it increased the risk of Cap’s heroics being left in the shadow. Not so, thankfully, with a revitalised Captain America ready to fight another day, and leaving us all again looking forward to another sequel.