John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Captain America: Winter Soldier

Genre: Action and Adventure

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily Van Camp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: April 4th, 2014

Despite its noble intentions, treat I was disappointed in Captain America: The First Avenger, which burst into theaters in 2011— long before Marvel had finished its first phase of big-budget Avengers films. The movie suffered from a lifelessness that has barely touched Marvel’s other recent pictures. Fortunately, though, its sequel–Captain America: Winter Soldier–smoothly rises above its predecessor and shows what a great superhero movie can look like, even standing solidly above The Avengers.

At the end of its predecessor, World War II super soldier and icon Captain America (Chris Evans) was thrust into the future by the intelligence agency SHIELD and he landed unknowingly in the present day. His confusion about this time jump featured prominently in The Avengers (2012) and now in this sequel, Captain America is more accustomed to this world although he still harkens back to the past – a past that comes back to haunt him.

A few minutes into the feature, Captain America is introduced to a new world of technology and surveillance at SHIELD only to question its unlimited capabilities. “This isn’t freedom,” he says, “this is fear.” But as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) argues, this military power is necessary to keep terrorists and evildoers at bay.

Interestingly enough, directors Anthony and Joe Russo show the captain overwhelmed in this new world by constantly placing him on movable devices. The elevator he rides on speedily hustles from one location to another while Captain America is transported quickly through the hangar that houses many of SHIELD’s most powerful weapons. It’s as if they were showing how quickly the world must move to accommodate the new threats we face and that Captain America— who thrives as an old-fashioned (though technologically advanced) soldier— is a man of the past.

“If you’re gonna fight a war, you gotta wear a uniform,” an old-fashioned sentiment mouthed by Captain America. And wear it proudly, he does.

After tragedy hits, Captain America is forced to confront a traitor at SHIELD and he does it, believing that his old-fashioned form of patriotism will be enough to overcome his new enemies. He teams up with his Avengers ally Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a seemingly-normal soldier who struggles to keep up with the Captain’s advanced speed and performance. The trio make a quirky team and work great together, creating an onscreen camaraderie that would be hard to duplicate.

Adding gravitas to the proceedings is Oscar winner Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, a conflicted SHIELD leader who is  caught up in the new world’s technology and power.

One of the greatest weaknesses of the otherwise strong The Avengers was Loki, its lackluster villain— who seemed ill-suited to go up against the illustrious Avengers squad. Here, Captain America faces off against more powerful enemies and isn’t given the backing of SHIELD to do it making this a more reasonable fight to appreciate. Added to that is the cast’s chemistry and the welcome humor that helps keep this story grounded.

Even the themes this comic book film touches on are contemporary ones that seem oddly prescient considering the debates we’re currently engaged in about surveillance and the power we willingly give to our intelligence agencies. This is a great comic book film that thematically elevates the material and offers up a great story that comic book fans will love and others will likely appreciate.

Review by: John Hanlon