Captain America has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D. for a while now. He has mostly adjusted to life in the present, accepted that his friends and comrades are dead. And then, his world gets turned upside down when international terrorist organization Hydra strikes and then there’s a legendary assassin known only as The Winter Soldier .
The question everyone is asking themselves at this point is: Is this better than The Avengers?
The answer: Yes.
Basically, if there’s one movie you should go see this season, it’s the latest Captain America. Because it does everything right The Avengers did right and then some. Marvel has found their groove. They’ve found their audience and they’ve found the middle road between pandering to that audience
while keeping the mainstream audience equally entertained.
So now, on to the review. Be warned, it might contain some spoilers. You can read the next two paragraphs without spoilers if you’ve seen the four-minute preview-fightscene.
Steve Rogers has become a valuable asset to S.H.I.E.L.D. A man out of time, Steve Rogers has to not only rebuild his life but also fight threats he doesn’t fully comprehend. He follows orders. However, he’s not a mindless soldier. He trusts S.H.I.E.L.D. and the judgment of Nick Fury. He has doubts here and there, but overall, he’s convinced he’s fighting the good fight. He firmly believes he’s one of the good guys, fighting for the side of good and against all that is evil in the world. However, that faith is shaken when Captain America goes on a mission where a bunch of French pirates has hijacked a S.H.I.E.L.D.-ship. That gang is led by Batroc the Leaper, the martial artist from the comics. In the comics, he comes across as a bit of a joke . However, this has its reasons which were outlined in a brilliant one-shot from a few years ago. Basically, it’s the thrill to fight the world’s best human being that drives him, that makes him get up after his bones were broken by Captain America and after he was incarcerated for the millionth time.
This comes across very well. Batroc is a throwaway villain. He is of no consequence to the movie at large. But he certainly isn’t a joke. He’s capable, he’s menacing and he’s one hell of a fighter. And this is a minor character. In the first five minutes of the movie. So guess what you’re in for during the rest of the movie. You know what you’re in for? Shield-slinging. That thing when Captain America throws his shield around and it keeps coming back to him and it hits people that you didn’t see in the first movie. You get to see Black Widow and her stingers. The Winter Soldier and his arm and The Falcon and his amazing arsenal.
But more than action, this movie revels in its portrayal of characters. All of them. There’s a great many characters, I tell you. You have Captain America, The Black Widow, Nick Fury, The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter, Crossbones and Robert Redford’s Pierce as the main cast. And apart from Sharon Carter, they all get their heroic moments, their moment in the spotlight. These moments are very different from character to character. The Winter Soldier’s is on the roof and on the street. The man is a machine. He is quiet, calm and you will really believe this man is a legendary assassin – virtually unstoppable. Because he is that good. The Falcon’s is during the assault on the Helicarrier, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s massive flying fortress. He’s fast, insanely agile and fiercely determined. Steve Rogers is a hero, an inspiration and he embodies hope. He is also a man, not a super-powered being. He’s just a bit stronger, a bit faster and a bit more enduring than any other human being. This is why during fight-scenes, he gets thrown around like a ragdoll, he’s not invulnerable and he feels pain just like the rest of us. But stopping is never an option. All this and more is shown clearly in the movie. Writers, actors, and director have gone to great lengths to get this across in various ways. They even go into detail and add great differences between soldiers and spies.
The strongest character in this movie is arguably Sam Wilson aka. The Falcon. He’s a veteran with a secret. And when Captain America comes a-knocking, he is ready and willing to jump back into action. He’s a man who may not know the stakes, but he knows: When a person he trusts intimately, a person who he looks up to, comes asking for help, he doesn’t hesitate. He might not like getting back into uniform, but he knows he must fight on. He has a mission, he has a task, he has the means. And he’s the only one to get the job done, then so be it. In a way, Sam Wilson embodies the spirit of a hero. He doesn’t do it because he feels a moral obligation to do it. Of course, it’s clear where his loyalties lie, but that’s not why he does it. He does it because there’s nobody else to do it. He does it because he can and others can’t. And he’s a smartass.
On the story front, the movie is far above The Avengers. Whereas Loki’s plan was blatantly obvious and kind of flawed – because depending on how you look at it, Loki’s army of aliens whose only goal it is to destroy the world was maybe not the greatest tool to take over the very world they want to destroy – Hydra’s plan in this one is much more insidious. Basically, the plan is that humans are dumb sheep and they are being scared so much that they give up their freedom for security in the form of gigantic guns pointed in their faces at any given time. Naturally, this massive firepower would also be used to prevent terrorist strikes and take out criminals before they become criminals.
How do they expect this to work? Hydra has devised what is referred to as The Algorithm. It’s a computer program that will correlate all data on a person – medical records, social security number, PayPal-Account, Facebook posts, credit card history and everything else you can think of – and then decide whether or not this person is a threat. This is actually not the movie’s main threat. Well, in the long run it is. Because the message is clear. It’s not just “Everyone sees everything you do” but “We know you. And we are not hesitating to use all this knowledge against you if it pleases us”. This is a strong commentary, seeing as it’s kind of a recurring topic on this site. We’ve talked about Dave Eggers’ The Circle and the rebooted Robocop before and tomorrow, we’ll meet to discuss Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. And this is, by far, the best treatment of the subject. It’s neither dogmatic nor handwaving it away. It’s a clear and direct threat, but the movie stops before labelling it as good or bad.
The more direct threats are also the movie’s one weakness when it comes to the plot: Three massive seemingly automated Helicarriers carrying the big guns. To stop them, Captain America and his ragtag group made up of a few S.H.I.E.L.D.-agents, The Black Widow and The Falcon, must get on each and every one of those Helicarriers – two out of three won’t do – and place a chip into a computer before the massive flying fortresses have reached a certain height. This is cinema-schlock. That plot-part has been done for the past hundred years, more often than not with bombs. Get to point of massive danger, disarm evil thing, save world. Luckily, it’s one hell of a ride to get there. Especially The Falcon’s scenes stand out here. His clever use of his wings, opening and contracting them and flying dangerously close to all the things makes this one exciting timebomb-plot.
So should you go see it? Do you even need to ask? Yes. Go see it, buy a soda and a big bag of popcorn and enjoy the show. The movie’s a bit on the long end with a runtime of just over two hours, but it never gets boring.
Captain America – The Winter Soldier will start in Swiss cinemas come next Thursday. Here’s a trailer.