Monday, April 7, 2014

When Captain America Throws His Mighty Shield...: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014)

The new Marvel film features plenty of action, special effects, and cinematic dazzle.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is comfortable in his role as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s go-to guy, teaming with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to take care of missions around the globe that don't require ALL of the Avengers. He is still trying to get used to today's society, visiting old flames, and writing down everyone's suggestions for what he "must" do, see, or listen to (music wise, in a nice scene with Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon).

After rescuing some hostages from a hijacked ship in the Indian Ocean, Rogers is exposed to the political realities of working for the massive covert unit. Everyone seems to have a secret agenda, which collides with Rogers' beliefs. The unit's commander, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) answers to Secretary Pierce (Robert Redford, bringing a huge sack of gravitas to a comic book film) -pierce...shield...get it? You know Pierce is going to be a major thorn in everyone's side. Back room dealings force Rogers to face an elite assassin who resurrects an enemy Captain America assumed was long dead. Rogers quickly learns, and is told by Fury, that you cannot trust anyone.

What I liked about the film, much like last year's other good sequel "Thor: The Dark World," is that this is a stand alone story for Captain America only. Evans is a great hero, at ease in his role. Redford seems to have thrown all caution to the wind, chewing up a supporting role, as opposed to what I thought was a cameo when I saw the preview. Evans and Johansson have an easy chemistry, I wish they would do something else together not involving saving the world. The Russos' direction tends to vary. The best action sequence is a good old fashioned car chase in Washington, D.C. At worse, some of the flying sequences involving the new hero, Falcon, are blurred and confusing, much like the first "Transformers" flick. I say "the first," because the frustration forced me to not follow up the sequels. I wish some directors would find that happy medium between nailing the camera to the floor, and shaking and swooping the scene to the point where you taste your popcorn coming back up. The screenplay presents a nice paranoid puzzle, but for every surprise, there is a scene where the writers' "big revelation" is about as shocking as a sunrise. The returning veterans angle is noble, but sometimes lurches along uncomfortably before the affected subjects jump right back into combat. It's also nice to see genre favorite Jenny Agutter on the big screen in these films. She still looks fantastic. Was there a musical score? I honestly don't remember it. I would also advise boning up on the first "Captain America" film, the story is referenced a lot here.

As the public awaits the next Avengers film, these "Phase Two" superhero movies like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will do just fine. Now, if only they could come up with a decent Hulk flick. (* * * *) out of five stars.