April 09, 2014 by Sankha Wanigasekara
Marvel truly has the Midas touch. While their DC rivals struggle to gain public approbation over even casting decisions, Marvel Studios continues to release one blockbuster epic after another. This time, they’ve released an entertaining thriller by the name of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
After a 70-year deep freeze in a post-Avengers world, Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) struggles to adjust to the present day, which is understandable given the great deal that can happen within seven decades. Yet, while he catches up on a to-do list that includes listening to albums released by Marvin Gaye and Nirvana, he continues to satisfy his commitments to the United States. For example, in the opening sequence, Rogers (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Algerian pirates. Starting from this very intense scene and continuing until the very end, the choreography of the fighting sequences must be lauded. Every throw and flourish of our superhero’s indestructible shield, along with his routine kicks and punches, emphasize the sheer strength of this superhuman. Even the Captain’s movements, as he jumps and leaps from one location to another at lightning speeds, resemble the unique form and robust style of the Parkour training discipline. All the fight scenes have the Captain harnessing his superhuman abilities in different ways, which keeps the action lively and fresh.
The movie doesn’t dwell on the troubles pirates create in the open oceans. Rather, the focal point of the movie stems from right under Captain America’s nose, with the very organization that he serves on a daily basis, S.H.I.E.L.D. A subversive force attempts to dismantle the organization from its very core and in the process take out the key members that pose a threat of thwarting those efforts, Rogers and company included.
A standout element of this particular installment of the Marvel arsenal is how closely the film echoes current events. Paranoia is a central element of the film, which is quite obvious, given that insiders are scheming and conniving to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D. This, through critical planning or mere coincidence, allows the audience to relate to the happenings of the movie given recent events ranging from NSA surveillance leaks to drone strikes authorized to vanquish the enemy no matter what the cost.
Despite the movie acting as a follow-up to “The Avengers,” it by no means ignores or neglects “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the film that established Chris Evans as the Captain. The predecessor holds a key to explaining the titular Winter Soldier, another human experiment that unfortunately is aligned with the side trying to bury Steve Rogers six feet under. This rival, notorious for shaping humanity’s past through his many assassinations, links right back to Rogers’ past as well. A word for the wise, then, would be to make sure to recap “The First Avenger” on Wikipedia, or better yet, watch the movie for those who are newbies. Besides the Winter Soldier, the movie will unearth several links to the preceding film with regard to science and technology, but most importantly through Rogers’ past connections.
Complete newcomers to the scene are Anthony Mackie playing Sam Wilson (or the Falcon) and Emily VanCamp playing Agent 13. While the former gets plenty of time to spread his wings (literally) after befriending Rogers on an early morning jogging session, it’s disappointing to note that the latter is present on screen for no more than 10 minutes; so much for gender equality on screen. Wilson’s interactions with the Captain draw the most laughs throughout the movie, proving yet again that Marvel hasn’t made any compromises when it comes to cracking jokes, despite the extremely serious material dealt with in the film.
The film also features plenty of screen time for Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Johansson’s Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, when in past movies such as “The Avengers” they were reduced to having mere background roles, thanks to heavyweights such as Iron Man and Thor. Fury manages to gain the spotlight in a highly elaborate chase scene where he fends off a fleet of vehicles using his armored SUV that comes with a built-in machine gun, of course. Johansson’s Romanoff gets promoted to being Rogers’ right hand (wo)man this time around, being effective as usual with her glacial demeanor for the purposes of action and humor.
Unsurprisingly, Marvel manages to keep the excitement at a high level throughout the movie and even into the final credits. It’s the elements of mystery and mistrust that keep the viewer engaged, though the astute and comic book savvy may know what’s right around the corner. In traditional fashion, the audience is rewarded with two end credit scenes that pave the way for the upcoming Avengers sequel and possibly beyond, given that Marvel head Kevin Feige has movies lined up until 2028. Yes, DC definitely has some catching up to do.