Captain Steve Rogers is not a very complicated character. He always tries to do the right thing, full stop. But, that does not mean stories centered around him are any less dramatic, interesting or complex than for example the anti-hero Tony Stark’s adventures. That, however, is not to say that every Captain America story actually is any of those things, but the point still stands. The world around Steve Rogers is all in shades of grey, so who can Captain America trust to help him choose the right thing? The baddies no longer wear easily identifiable insignias.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows that SHIELD might not be the bulwark of protection and justice they all like to think. Steve comes into the possession of a piece of mysterious software that might change the face of humanity forever. At the same time, he must fight enemies from within SHIELD, and of course the Winter Soldier, whom I assume everyone already knows who is.
I think – or I hope – we are at a point in the superhero movie genre when not every story needs to be a hero’s journey, or a personal introspection interspersed with punching and explosions. That might seem hypocritical of me. I know I’ve often complained about the lack of character development, but there is a difference between establishing a developed character, and every movie needing to somehow change him or her significantly during the course of the film. Not every leading character needs a Tony Stark “I am Iron Man” realisation.
From the above you can probably guess that Captain America does not do much else except be Captain America in this movie. I thought that would annoy me, but instead it made me realise how glad I am that we have such a varied gallery of superheroes to choose from. Most of this contentment stems from Chris Evans nailing the character yet again. His face screams his emotions in a way only the Captain would in this cynical world – he is a terrible liar after all. Couple that with the master spies all around him, and you really feel how much of a fish out of water he is. Luckily, this handicap doesn’t mean he’s going to sit anything out, and the movie manages to showcase the Captain’s great tactical mind as well. Just like in The Avengers the Captain might be a soldier, but he also questions orders.
The action in this film is gut-punching. The sound-design and visual effects made me flinch several times. The movie is actually best when it’s just one-on-one. When Agent Romanov takes out half a dozen mercenaries in a cramped space, I winced several times. The big set-pieces feel a bit too computer generated. Beautifully computer generated of course, but there is a repeat of the first Captain America‘s third act problem. The first two acts are great: the set-up is awesome and fun, and when we get into the action it’s all on the ground and hard hitting. Then the big third act arrives, and it’s in the air, again, and it just doesn’t quite measure up.
Notice I’ve yet to talk about the other title character of this movie, the Winter Soldier. He’s separated by only a colon in the title, and yet he’s not that much of a big deal in the movie. The scenes we get between him and the Cap are great. I was biting my nails waiting for the Captain to realise who he was. Marvel has a good villain shortage problem, as most fans know, so I was surprised by how little they made use of the Winter Soldier. In fact most of his story seems to have been saved for the next movie, which was frustrating.
Despite the title being slightly misleading, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a good movie. It has beautiful action, a lead character you can just sit back and like without any inner demons, and the plot is pretty damn insane when you think about the consequences. I won’t spoil anything, but I will be very interested to watch the rest of Agents of SHIELD to find out how this is going to affect the series. There are a few plot-holes, like every superhero movie, but nothing like in the last Marvel film I saw, Thor 2. In fact, I like this sequel much better (forgive me, Loki). It suffers slightly from overheating in the third act, but it doesn’t try to be anything else than a good time, so most of that is forgiven.
Dice roll: 5