These last three Marvel films, the ones set within the Avengers continuity anyway, haven’t been much to cheer for and that’s a misfortunate. Iron Man 3 I liked very little, Thor: The Dark World I liked somewhat, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier I’m not even sure I liked at all. It’s up to the movie with the talking raccoon and the tree man to win me back over now.
Even if I certainly adored bits of Winter Soldier, directed by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, my response is ultimately negative. It may have the visuals and the music (the villain’s got quite the eerie theme in this), but does it have, well, the rest?
We join Chris Evans, doing a decent job once more, as Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America as he now spends most of his time getting used to life in the modern world and sometimes doing missions for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Scarlett Johansson as Agent Natasha Romanoff, known better as Black Widow. The two are like a buddy cop team and I’d pay to watch that team-up more often. During one mission, however, Rogers notices Romanoff working on a side-mission, collecting data on a USB dongle for their supervisor Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). This data turns out to be linked to the old Nazi organization HYDRA, which we saw in the first Captain America under the management of Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). It appears they’re still out there and they are far from finished with their sinister plans.
What follows is the uncovering of some convoluted conspiracy involving both the HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. organizations, something I believe feels randomly out-of-the-blue for the S.H.I.E.L.D. that we’ve seen in the past couple flicks, and Fury handing Captain America the mysterious USB dongle, which contains sensitive information that could jeapordize the fate of S.H.I.E.L.D itself! Captain America gets the brillaint idea of hiding this incredibly important USB behind a bunch of gums inside a vending machine. Bravo, hero. I’m sure no one will buy that type of gum all day and even if they do I’m sure they’re just gonna deduce that they one that looks like an important plot device is just a new and unusually crunchy flavor.
I know we’re not supposed to take these films as seriously as say, The Dark Knight Rises, but that’s no excuse to be flat-out stupid.
There are more characters worth of note here, some newcomers and some returning from previous Marvel adventures. There is Anthony Mackie as Rogers’ new BFF Sam Wilson who sometimes dons the wings of “The Falcon”, Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, Frank Grillo as some bad guy type soldier ‘n stuff, and none other than Robert Redford as the evil mastermind behind the film’s events. Not many of these are anything memorable and I sadly went for a tinkle break when there was not only the film’s Stan Lee cameo, but also a cameo from Danny Pudi of Community fame. Oh well, at least I got to see Alan Dale from Lost as one of the council members Fury answers to, I guess.
The one character I will say for sure that I heartedly enjoyed in Winter Soldier was the titular Winter Soldier himself. I will not say who plays him (not that I doubt that you can figure out the twist) but I will say that he proves to be a worthy adversary of our patriotic walking bullseye. The scene where he effortlessly snatches Cap’s trademark shield, a weapon only the Cap knows how to master, in mid-air is a great moment in the trailer and just as great when it happens in the film. And then there’s that implausible 40’s-looking-yet-futuristically-advanced HYDRA computer that Captain America and Black Widow stumble upon. It feels like something out of Iron Sky and it speaks in the voice of Toby Jones‘ character from the last movie, Dr. Arnim Zola. Everything involving that computer was stupid enough to be entertaining.
There is some okay comedy in the film but this okay-ness is occasional. Joss Whedon wasn’t involved in this one but the writing makes it come off as though the film wishes that he was. This is excluding the very good post-credit sequence, which he apparently directed. It’s nice to see a post-credit scene that I actually got in spite of not being big on the whole Avengers mythology and it being a reference to something we haven’t seen in the movies yet.
Can I say that I was a fan of this one? Not exactly. It got things right, unquestionably so, but the camera work is often nauseating, the characters barely leave any marks, the script is nonsensical and the action is too over-the-top preposterous, even by the standards of the comic book movie, for me to be genuinely worried for the sake of any character involved. Also, the 3D was pointless as ever. It didn’t help that my glasses failed to function properly.
EDIT: I am going to leave my low rating intact, but having heard nearly nothing but good things about this movie from critics that aren’t me, I will consider giving it a second chance. As Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 have gotten worse to me over time, perhaps this one will get better?