Saturday, April 26, 2014

Theatrical Review: Captain America- The Winter Soldier

Date: April 25, 2014
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Time: 2:20 pm

Party: 2 (my mom & I)

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Duration: 135 minutes

[old friends]
Steve Rogers/Captain America- Chris Evans
Natasha Romonoff/Black Widow- Scarlet Johansson
Nick Fury- Samuel L. Jackson
Maria Hill- Cobie Smulders
Peggy Carter- Hayley Atwell
Jasper Stilwell- Maximiliano Hernández
Dr. Zola- Toby Jones
[new faces]
Sam Wilson/Falcon- Anthony Mackie
Alexander Pierce- Robert Redford
Kate/Agent 13- Emily VanCamp
Brock Mumlow- Frank Grillo
[a new face that turns out to be an old friend]
The Winter Soldier- Sebastian Stan


I would have to guess that one of the trailers included the teaser for Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy"...
we got to the theater on time, but the movie had already started... I'm hoping we only missed a couple minutes.

The theater was pitch-back so we didn't even know which seats were open. When the lights came at the end of the movie, apparently we did have a lot of choices. Only five other people were in the theater.


The first "Captain America" and "Avengers"

The main reason I went out to see "Thor" and got "Captain America" on Blu-ray for Christmas was specifically to set the groundwork for "The  Avengers." I rewatched "The Incredible Hulk" (which I found kinda disappointing after enjoying it the first couple times) and given where my head was at in 2011, I saw "Iron-Man" numerous times and got to know that character (and obviously, Robert Downey Jr.) extremely well.

So I really shouldn't have been surprised that these other Marvel superhero origin stories won me over as much they did. In both cases, the mythologies and back stories were presented so well. The casting was spot-on and the designated directors (Kenneth Branaugh on "Thor" and Joe Johnson on "Captain America") made us really feel like we were in the mythical realm of Asgard and the iconic era of America & Europe in WWII.

And so far, I'm happy with the sequels.
Heck, I enjoyed "Thor: The Dark World" more than "Iron-Man 3"... which may be me saying that "Iron-Man 3" had more issues or it could be Thor just had the better sequel.
Although he wasn't its main highlight (that honor belonged to Loki & Darcy).
On that, I won't know for sure until I watch them again on Blu-ray/DVD (still waiting on that "Iron-Man" trilogy boxset!!)

In "Captain America," we learned how Steve Rogers gained his powers, how he got the nickname Captain America, and we went with him on the journey that led to the defeat of H.Y.D.R.A. and him winding up in the ocean.
Where his body was miraculously preserved for 70 years and reanimated in the 21st century.
I got the movie on Blu-ray without seeing it first, something I rarely do, but because it was Marvel, I knew it was worth it. Just didn't expect to find a very engaging, thrilling movie where the 2+ hours did not feel like 2+ hours.

Then in "The Avengers," we saw that Steve Rogers still maintains his ideals that the barrier between good and evil is clear and not the question authority. Thanks in part to Tony Stark's suspicions, he did some digging and found out that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s intentions weren't entirely noble either.
Oh yeah, and he took the helm in directing the Avengers on protecting New York from the invading Chitauri army. Some people are just born leaders and clearly, he's one of them.

Some Undetermined Amount of Time Later

While doing press for this movie, someone made a comment that, unlike the rest of the Avengers, Steve Rogers had no one to go back to. He's still very much on his own in the, still, unfamiliar realm that is America in the 21st century.

I came into the movie where Steve Rogers makes fast friends with former soldier, Sam Wilson. I believe the actor who played him, Anthony Mackie, was in "The Hurt Locker" with Jeremy Renner (aka Hawkeye in "The Avengers"), so this seemed like a fitting role for him. Through the dialogue, we see he's trying to make heads and tails of the world. The best advice Sam has for him: listen to a certain Marvin Gaye album ;)

Next thing you know, he's pulled into another S.H.I.E.L.D. mission with none other than Black Widow. The mission is to rescue a ship full of agents that were taken hostage. An amazing action sequence, from Steve Rogers jumping out of the plane without a parachute and just making short work of all the lackeys he comes across. Everything you can ask for in an action-packed Marvel movie. Heck, any action movie in general.

But when he sees Black Widow downloading computer data instead of taking part in the fight, he starts to feel that sense of doubt (still fresh from "The Avengers") come back. That suspicion of people not being upfront with him. He takes this frustration out on Director Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson back in all of his bad-ass badness.

Things start out pretty tame and I was feeling right at home, back in the Marvel universe. The banter between Steve & Black Widow was interesting, although somewhat repetitious, her trying to set him up with girls she knows. It's adorable, really.
We get a little of that and Steve revisiting his past, including an entire wing in the Smithsonian dedicated to him, and getting in touch with an elderly Peggy Carter, who may be bedridden with dementia as well. A touching but bittersweet scene.

Then some 15-20 minutes into the movie, all hell breaks loose and it just does not let up.
In the trailers, we saw a clip of Nick Fury getting attacked by the titular villain, a confrontation we're led to believe he won't walk away from... no matter how much of a bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson is. He has enough time to communicate to Steve not to trust anyone before he falls out of the picture.

That first scene of the movie on action-packed steroids was fine, although it ran maybe a minute or two too long. But one too many scenes like that in a row, I was mentally fatigued.
Not to mention it felt like they were drawing too much influence from reality, where people have been concerned about the NSA and the American government spying on us and tapping our phones...

I go to movies for an escape, not to be constantly confronted with the realities we go to movies to get away from. To forget.
This was a blockbuster in every sense of the word. It cost a lot to make and so far, has made over $200 million. But that also comes with a lot of fireworks, a lot of action, a lot of gun fire and too many explosions.

The good thing about this being part of, not just a franchise, but an entire universe... there are certain people you don't need to worry about. Both Chris Evans and Scarlet Johansson have committed to another "Avengers" film, so we know they won't get killed despite everything that breaks loose. A lot of the movie is about them working together, trying to avoid entanglement with the enemy and unraveling the mystery of why they're being targeted.

I actually don't want to give too much away, but let's just say HYDRA is still very much alive and even more terrifying than ever. Not just in an upfront approach, but psychologically.
Now that's something to develop PTSD about... I'm so sorry, Tony Stark, that's my last jab at your most recent movie, I promise.

This movie felt like it was about a lot of extremes as well as a lot of gray area. Not knowing who to trust and it becomes clear there are a lot of unfriendlies out there. But it does help to have someone like Black Widow as an ally, someone who know about staying off the gird and knowing how to kick ass.
People have wondered about the possibilities of them getting together and such... I do see some chemistry there (helped by the fact these two have done a few movies together, not just in the Marvel universe)... but those people are also forgetting that Black Widow and Hawkeye have somewhat of a thing for each other.

Still looking for a movie that shows how the two of them got to know each other and came to have the relationship with each other that they do. That's something I'd really love to see.

They gain a few more allies along the way including S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill (who we first met in "The Avengers") and Sam Wilson, who has a few more tricks up his sleeve as Falcon. The dude has metallic wings that come out of his backpack. So cool! I hope to see more of this character because he added a lot to the story for me.

During one confrontation, Steve finally sees The Winter Solider face to face and recognizes him as his childhood friend, Bucky, who we saw fall to his death in the previous "Captain America" movie. It would seem that HYDRA saved him from the wreckage and gave him new life. Like Hawkeye said in "Avengers," he was unmade, so he had no recollection of his past with Steve until some time after their fight. Something that HYDRA had to eradicate for the final action sequence because the truth made him "unstable."

HYRDA's elaborate plan was using Project Insight to launch a full on attack on millions of people on their list... all for the benefit of millions more. Again, a little too creepy for my tastes. And our good guys do come through, it just took an awful long time.
It seemed like throughout the fight sequences, dirty moves were being pulled left and right that I couldn't help screaming at the movie, saying how it was not right. One of them involved the dismantling of Falcon's flight-ability. On the plus side, Sam Wilson can still fight the good fight on the ground. Way to give a nod to our veterans.

We have twists and turns, none of which I'll really go into, but it keeps you on your toes.  Again, those touches were things I loved seeing in the other Marvel movies. Just that certain brand, that je ne sais qua that makes this franchise work as a whole.
We also get a funny token Stan Lee cameo. We see him in a quick scene in the Smithsonian ;)


"Iron-Man 3" may have its issues,
but having Robert Downey Jr. as the lead, showing Tony Stark exhibit a wide range of emotion and ingenuity when he's confronting many of his conflicts (internal & external), that helped keep me engaged in the movie for the long haul. Just had to stick with him until the bitter end, even if it meant an overlong third act and an annoying villain who REFUSED to die.

Nothing against the cast of this "Captain America" sequel. The good guys are all fantastic and the villains were written pretty well for the most part. But in my view, all of them couldn't rescue this movie from its all-too-real overtones. It was hard to really enjoy for a good chunk of it, especially when the lighter funny moments and the lulls in the action were few and far between.
I'm just not a fan of political thrillers and this felt like it was more that than a superhero movie.

Grade: B+

...hopefully my next theatrical experience will be within the next couple weeks. Depending on if it's playing locally, I have my eye on the Jon Favreau written/directed film "Chef" that stars him, Scarlet Johansson, and given that he's the last person listed on the movie poster, I'm led to assume Robert Downey Jr. in a supporting role.

He has this movie lined up as well as a drama called "The Judge." Both I believe he helped produce (especially "The Judge," which is a Team Downey production he & his wife worked on).

And now that I've seen this, I can finally catch up on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. without worrying about any spoilers related to this movie.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Nice review Jackie. Very serious, but still fun and exciting when it wants to focus on that aspect, rather than the crammed-up plot itself.