*sigh* Steve Rogers, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways….
Captain America is my favorite Avenger – hands down. I don’t care what anyone else says about him, or how much better-looking Thor is, or how much smarter and wittier Tony Stark is. I knew, waaay back when I first watched Captain America: The First Avenger (TFA) that I was gonna like Steve the best. (And I still do.) So when I heard that there was going to be a sequel to TFA… well, let’s say I fangirled a little. So, as always with a review, I’ll try to stay away from spoilers and caps-lock. 🙂
“After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrugue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off assailants sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy – the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).” (from the official website)
TWS wasn’t entirely about Steve adjusting to the modern world, like I thought it would be – it was more of a character-driven political thriller (with some neat car chases and fights with knives, guns, and fists). And I loved it!! It reminded me of Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, which were both action movies revolving around a conspiracy plot. Very neat. I also loved the new additions to the cast – the Falcon, Alexander Pierce, Agent 13, and especially the Winter Soldier himself (gahhhh) – and I enjoyed seeing the familiar faces from previous movies – Maria Hill and Nick Fury (who I liked a whole lot more in this movie than any of the other Marvel movies I’ve seen).
Steve Rogers, one of the best characters on the silver screen today, comes back in TWS as awesome as before. He’s been thrust into this completely new world and everything has changed around him, including certain standards for honesty and protection. It’s his unique and old-fashioned set of morals that has him rebelling against nearly everything S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing, thus making S.H.I.E.L.D. not trust him and consider him as a fugitive. Add to that the fact that, while trying to figure out what S.H.I.E.L.D. is really up to, he’s hit right in the face with something from his past.
Chris Evans. WOW. I always knew he’d be great for the part! In TFA, he portrayed both Skinny Steve and Post-Serum Steve to perfection. In TWS, he gives depth and life to Steve Rogers, while adding to his many skills and convictions. And when Steve gets slammed with this thing from the past, you can completely see the agony – the pure torture of not knowing how to handle it – on his sad face. (I cried many times throughout the entire movie, especially during a scene I can’t tell you about because spoilers.)
Natasha Romanoff is back as the conflicted and deceptive Black Widow in TWS, better than any other Marvel movie where she had previously appeared. Here, she’s confronted with facing her past versus saying lie after lie, and trying to figure out where she stands with S.H.I.E.L.D. In TWS, her character is deepened to the point that there is a lot known about her, but it feels like there’s still more – something she’s hiding. (Which, duh, it’s Natasha – she’s always hiding something.) However, at a point in the film, someone needs her to blow her covers – all of them – and she struggles with it, knowing that the choice she makes will effect her entire future.
As with Chris Evans, the casting directors really couldn’t have done any better than Scarlett Johansson for Natasha. She’s able to handle all of Natasha’s many layers – and able to do most of her action-y stunts. I loved the depth that Natasha had in TWS, and Scarlett pulled it all off like no one else could.
Sam Wilson – aka the Falcon – is one of the new characters that Marvel introduces in this film, literally in the first scene. (“On your left!”) He was a “pilot” on two tours in the army, and now he’s lying low after seeing his best friend, Riley, get killed. When Steve and Natasha need him to help them hide from people who are trying to kill them around every corner (did I mention that this movie is extremely intense?!), he asks if he can help them more… and tells them about what he really did overseas.
This was the first movie I’d seen Anthony Mackie in, and I liked him a lot! He made the Falcon be funny without being dumb. And he also delivered that wonderfully tragic line – “I don’t think he’s the kind of guy you save, he’s the guy you stop” – with perfection. I heard that he didn’t like his outfit – he liked the spandex better – but I liked it…. Too much spandex in superhero movies today. 🙂
The Winter Soldier. Whoa. Tippy-toes here, because this is where the spoilers abound. If you don’t know who the Winter Soldier is, don’t read the next two paragraphs. Are all the spoiler-free people gone? Okay, good. So Bucky’s back. This is where the directors made a stunningly good move. I watched one featurette where the Russo brothers, who directed the movie, said that their reason for choosing the comic book with the Winter Soldier storyline was because it had the most emotional impact. This is a huge factor in the success of the film – it wasn’t just an superhero film, it was, as Anthony Mackie put it, “a character-driven action film” with a dash of political thriller and a the Winter Soldier/Bucky twist that will make your heart stop beating. To say that I loved the Winter Soldier storyline is a bit of an understatement. Bucky was one of my favorite characters in TFA, and when I heard that he was back…as a bad guy…I knew I had to see the movie. It was so sad to see him not know who he was, then try, then – the saddest part – actually go through the brainwashing process. By the end of the movie, I was an emotional wreck. Here’s Steve, trying to decide whether or not to save his best friend, even after he’s caused so much destruction!
I loved Sebastian Stan as Bucky from TFA – such a good friend to Steve, and so pathetic-looking, yet so strong by the middle of the movie, you can’t help but love him! I was really interested in seeing how he would do as a villain and… wow. He was amazing! Although the film didn’t allow too much time with the Winter Soldier, all of the parts he was in were phenomenal – especially the scene where Steve realizes who the Winter Soldier is, then another scene towards the end. (And I’ll take a minute here to say that there are two end-credits scenes in TWS – one after the cast in the beginning of the credits, and one after the entire credits. The one after the entire credits was my favorite, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried. Hard.)
(EDIT: Haha, forgot about Pierce. And it wasn’t because he’s a forgettable character – he was pretty intense!) Alexander Pierce is the head of the World Security Council and also part of S.H.I.E.L.D. (though I can’t remember how). On the surface, he’s a very nice guy. However, underneath is a depth that very few people know about. He also has connections that run deeper than anyone else in S.H.I.E.L.D.
This was my first movie with Robert Redford… and I liked him! He pulled off Pierce in a way that I don’t know if many other actors could. (And that’s all I can say because spoilers.)
And I loved all of the minor characters, too! Colbie Smulder’s appearance as Maria Hill was more drawn-out than it was in The Avengers, which I loved because I already liked Hill. (A lot.) And Nick Fury was a lot better in this movie, too. I never really liked him, but I felt like TWS gave me a chance to understand him better… which is always great. I also loved seeing Neighbor/Agent 13/Sharon Carter for the first time. Can’t wait to see more of her!
As always with action movies, TWS had it’s share of violence, intensity, and language. Nothing too objectionable, though. There are a few fistfights – especially one at the end – where a lot of blood is shown. For the most part, though, the camera is moving so fast that they don’t linger on the bloodshed, but you do get the gist of what’s happening. The language wasn’t too bad – a few ‘d-words,’ a few usages of ‘h-e-double-hockey-sticks,’ and one ‘son of a b****’. Some of it, however, was covered by the explosions and muttered under the breath, and they all pass by so quickly that it just goes in one ear and out the other.
The Bottom Line
WOW. CA:TFA is one of my favorite movies of all time and this one is even better in some ways! I might even say it’s better than The Avengers, but that’s just because I like action with a purpose and deep plotlines that have substance. In Man of Steel – which I was so undecided about I couldn’t even review it – there’s a long action sequence at the end where Clark is battling Zod… and he basically destroys all of Metropolis (or whatever the city’s called) in the process. It’s pretty bad. I hated that part because it doesn’t bother to go into the individual lives of people – like in The Avengers – and explain how that impacted specific, individual people, or what happened afterward. TWS, on the other hand, didn’t have any violence that didn’t have a purpose – and Steve made sure of that (because he’s awesome like that).
Another thing I loved about this movie was how real it felt. Let me take a minute here to mention that most of the actors did most of their own stunts, making the movie seem more real than movies I’ve seen before where there were stunt doubles. Also, the majority of the action sequences were real, which was a major addition to how genuine the movie felt. I loved that. Sebastian Stan even practiced with a plastic knife while they weren’t filming so that his moves would feel more fluid and natural. Also, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson wrote the dialogue most of the scenes they were in together, which I find very neat.
Okay, so the bottom line is that I loved it. It’s the first movie I’m going to see in the theater twice – leaving to see it with my siblings in about an hour! I’d recommend it to anyone who loves Marvel movies, Steve Rogers, or action-packed, character-driven political thrillers.