It becomes clear to me in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that Captain America isn’t substantial enough to run a movie on his own. He is the least of The Avengers. And he’s most likely to get overlooked walking down a busy street. The makers of this film realise this, and so they send in some help — in the form of Nick Fury and Black Widow — to boost his morale and make him look less lonely on the posters.
This is a solid film. Not solid in the way The Dark Knight was; solid in its visual effects and its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is fast becoming a goliath franchise in Hollywood. The demand for comic book movies has never been greater, which is odd considering the quality of the movies has been in steady decline since the end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. What we have here in The Winter Soldier is a narrative bridge between the events of the first Avengers movie and what is to eventually become the second, with a lot of running and shield-throwing and explosions thrown in the mix.
Just like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, this film takes up after the events of The Avengers. Not much is mentioned of this past, though, and this new story sort of retreats and holes itself back up in Captain America’s universe. For reasons unknown, Cap (Chris Evans) is working directly for SHIELD (the secret organisation burdened with a long and uninteresting name), and a botched rescue operation aboard one of SHIELD’s sea vessels leads everyone in the agency to suspect the other of betrayal.
There are a few new characters. One is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a CEO of sorts who at first is limited to holographic video calls with other CEOs but later needles his way into the thick of the plot. Another is an ex-soldier named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who joined the army, lost a friend, and is now jogging around Washington D.C.. He encounters Cap on one of his jogs, and before long he’s dug up a pair of rusty mechanical wings and has taken to the skies as Cap’s sidekick, Falcon. A third is the Winter Soldier, an agent of immense strength and speed, and one bionic arm. He speaks English and a foreign language. He has long hair and wears a ninja-esque mask to hide his lower face, and he’s really good at jumping off moving cars. What he really excels at is catching Cap’s shield with one hand and throwing it back with incredible weight.
And that’s what this movie has in abundance: Physical weight. The plot is heavy and damp with suspicions and cover-ups. Who’s the traitor? And why? Is this fella really dead? Can we trust him? Yada yada. You know the drill. In films where someone is suspected of betrayal, the entire story becomes dense with cautious looks and a lot of sneaking around. All the characters talk to one another as if their very next sentence could be their last. Even when they’re trying to be funny, the humour is sucked out by their grave undertones. Naturally, I cannot uncover too much about all this. It will upset Captain America fans. Although I doubt there will be many.
The visual effects in this picture are explosive, to put it bluntly. And there’re a lot more implausible stunts and inexplicable weapons. Captain America’s shield is a magnificent thing. It looks like an oversized hubcap, but it works like a boomerang and can somehow attach itself to his back with minimal effort. Several times it saves him — and a few others — from certain death by acting as a metallic airbag. I’m just gonna go ahead and say this: A number of the characters should have died twice over.
The Winter Soldier isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not exceptional either. It’s certainly a step up from its prequel, which was too preposterous and cheesy to be taken seriously as a piece of comic book cinema. The plot is good — as a connector. And the effects carry the movie. My biggest concern is Captain America himself. I care as much for him as I do for Thomas the Tank Engine. He gets a couple of movies because he’s the First Avenger. It’s a requirement. But there’s nothing more to him. Nothing for me to sink my teeth into. For all his skills, he is only a glorified soldier. The poor guy.
Best Moment | The elevator scene.
Worst Moment | Nothing in particular.