Marvel studios gets a lot of criticism from both critics and fans alike. From its lack of mature storytelling to its reliance upon past movies to tell new stories to the vitreal that stems from fans on the opposite side of the comic book spectrum. Some of these gripes are warranted, and others feel inspired by the pursuit of cultural discourse that we seem to desire more than most things these days. (I am at fault of that problem more than most) “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the few movies that almost everyone seems to agree on. Though it’s not a film that I grant four stars of approval, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is still one of the best Marvel movies and one of the best comic book movies of recent memory.
Unlike Marvel’s sextuple of films in phase one which focused more on the character building and the levity of this cinematic universe, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” introduces emotional conflict for our star-spangled captain. As Captain America (Chris Evans) finds himself searching for a path to follow in this new world. He was sent right back into action in “The Avengers,” but now he’s a soldier without a mission who finds himself questioning what the right thing to do is. While his character faces this internal conflict, S.H.I.E.L.D is under attack from itself as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself at the epicenter of a full-scale invasion from Hydra. S.H.I.E.L.D becomes compromised and is left with few members left to its regimen in Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), but there is an unexpected assassin opposing them known as the Winter Soldier (Sean Sebastian).
One of the privileges of providing reviews for films that have already gone through the circuits of theatrical releases and physical media conversions is the advantage of being able to discuss spoilers. Now I am not going to go into a full-blown analysis of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but I will give away the identity of its antagonist. Because, by now, you should either know who it is or you are so unfamiliar with this cinematic universe that you're still asking if this is a sequel to “The Avengers” or “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
No matter which side of the coin you arrive upon, I am going discuss the man behind the Winter Soldier which is Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were the co-writers behind “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and what a brilliant idea to pull from the Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s 2005 comic that dissects both the characters of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Captain America (Chris Evans).
The story provides a matured glimpse of a man who, as a soldier, wants to make the world a better place and is willing to fight the men that make him happy to do so. It's a symbol of nobility that is unmatched by most of Marvel’s heroes, and one that maintains the integrity of the character. This internal conflict that Steve (Chris Evans) faces is not the only reason “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a terrific film though, there is much more to this story than just our protagonist’s internal conflict. (But that does play a big role in the story’s resonance) “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” also challenges the themes of governmental surveillance and corruption, while providing depth to its characters like Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) reconciliation with the idea of trusting his friends and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) learning to embrace herself and shed her false identities.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” dives deep into what makes these characters tick, but the story can become a bit cliche at times as well as puzzling.
The story is based on the great 70’s spy thrillers like “Moonraker” or “Three Days of the Condor,” which starred Robert Redford ironically. Using this basis allows for an examination of that moral conundrum of corruption that Steve (Chris Evans) faced in the comics since it's character developed in the time of scandals such as Watergate. This spy-thriller story can become disjointed by the comic book canvas that it's told upon in which the idea of a computer with a conscience injected into it makes sense in the mind of a comic book fanatic, but not in the mind of a film lover. Moments like that and Frank Grillo surviving a building falling atop of him are a bit jagged due to the matured grit injected into both the filmmaking and the story.
Joe Russo and Anthony Russo are the two driving forces behind that grit. Using the Jason Bourne school of thought for their action, the Russo brothers manifest some enthralling action sequences that are given an essence of grit and moxie to them that feels more authentic than the action we’ve seen in the other Marvel movies. A style that seems to have carried over into other films like “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Black Panther.” The Russos made an impact with their helming of the emblem of patriotism, an impact that would not be as poignant without the performances of Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. Each of whom is brilliant, but Evans does a lot of work here. He brings his A-game emotionally and his A-game physically. If he didn’t already embody the character, he made sure there was no debate to be made over who can play this character best.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is an example of a franchise-changing with time. It, like few other Marvel entries, breathed new life into the franchise by expanding its margins. The vitreal that follows these movies may not always be satisfied, nor should it be because movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” and endlessly watchable, but Marvel realizes when they need to change their style in order to keep playing the game. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is exactly that. It’s a studio realizing that many have begun to see the chinks in the armor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after “The Avengers.” So, they stepped their game up by providing authenticity, emotional torment, and nuance to a character that seemed to be the most boring on paper, but has become one of Marvel Studios’ most pivotal characters. Another example of how Marvel remains to stay ahead of the curb, something I wish I could so desperately say for their competition. See? There's that urge for discourse again.