Captain America: the Winter Soldier

April 3rd 2014. Dozens of people waiting in a large dark amphitheater, most having been there for over an hour, watching cinematic news that most of them don’t care about. Three colors dominate the room, in subdued hues brought on from low light and pale glow from the enormous screen:  red, white, and blue. A man enters his arm armored in layers of duct tape, his companion, wings made of the same. Heroes bearing plastic shields and elastic band masks, all talking excitedly about the icon they have come here to see. Now other heroes are paraded across the screen, ones we watch with keen interest as they are also cinematic Marvel’s, but still we are not satisfied. Not until the lights grow dim and we see…Steven Rogers jogging?

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If you were as anxious to see Marvel’s Captain America: the Winter Soldier as I was, you may have attended the first showing available, the proverbial midnight showing. Chances are if you did, you experienced something a lot like that this last evening. For fans of Marvel’s spectacularly crafted cinemaverse, this may have actually become the norm for when each new installment in the universe is released.

So without further adieu, here is my first ever, spoiler free review of Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

While the feel of the movie is significantly different from the pulp comic period feel of the first Captain America movie, I was pleased to find that the movie had not taken some bizarre gritty twist. As always, the Marvel cinemaverse remains colorful and believable, and with the well placed dialogue and relationships both carried into the movie and created within it, you still find yourself slipping into a movie that feels like an updated Rockwell Painting.

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This change doesn’t mean that the Captain isn’t in a modern movie. The very first thing I noticed about the action, is everything felt tighter and more efficient than the first movie.  Whether fighting hand to hand, stealthily taking a ship, or fighting a hover copter, Steven Rogers is in a form never before seen on the silver screen.

The subplot dealing with clashing values and the generational gap that leaves Mr. Rogers, to steal a phrase form Vonnegut, “Unstuck in time” is the most interesting in the movie. The longer it goes, the more of an effect those values have on the events unfolding around he and Shield. Add to that the “Trust No One” cliché of a typical spy story, and you’ve found a particularly interesting point of weakness for Captain America to be negotiating the political waters of covert war that he is in. One of the best elements of fear and suspense in the movie has to do with the playing on of one of America’s current political Scandals; the idea that the government is watching us.

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This is the first Marvel movie that has seemed truly comfortable referring to the other movies in the series. The amount of times Stark and his company come up, the introduction of a pre accident Crossbones, and the hint at characters like Stephen Strange being on Shield’s radar already make the world seem a little smaller and more connected.  Falcon makes for an excellent anchor for the morals and values Cap feels slipping away, which makes him kind of the spirit of the movie. Since, we are on the topic of new characters, lets talk about the Winter Soldier.

Throughout the majority of the movie, this character is little more than a boogey man. He shows up, he fights, someone dies or they get away, and we don’t hear from him again. In fact, even when he is on screen, we are hearing next to nothing, as he rarely speaks.  Now, those of us who know the spoiler from reading years of comics know his backstory and despite some cosmetic tweaking, it is left intact. Few characters could have been used to such devastating and dramatic effect. The moments when the two title characters tango, it is reminiscent of the fight between Black Widow and Hawkeye from the Avengers movie.  Only this time, actual super powers are involved. Once his identity is revealed, the true drama of the movie begins to unfold, and the issues involving Captain America’s past and present take on new and twisted faces.

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There were huge blocks of time where I was literally on the edge of my seat. The combat makes use of the shaky cam techniques we are used to from movies like Batman Begins, but it is done with caution and moderation to the point where it enhances the dramatic nature of every punch, kick, gunshot, explosion, and flying shield to the face. The visuals were as amazing as one would expect a Marvel movie to be, and the movie doesn’t fail to deliver on the epic scale we’ve grown accustomed to in each movie since the Avengers.

Despite wondering what this means for the next Avengers movie, or even for Agent’s of Shield, considering the dramatic impact of the end of the movie, I did find myself wondering at the tidbits we know come at the credit end of each Marvel movie. While I won’t spoil anything here, you will not be disappointed. Like every other part of this movie, these lead-ins exceeded expectations.

My rating: 5/5.

My final question is what spins off of this movie? Dr. Strange or a Winter Soldier solo movie? Perhaps something Thunderbolts related? What are your theories?