Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13)

9 Stars

Our hero, believe it or not, is a symbol.

It’s not what you’re thinking.

The Captain’s a metaphor for America.

Look down. Did I fake you out of your shoes?

It seems a simple conclusion to arrive at, but ogle this concept through a different lens.

Captain America encapsulates a philosophical notion; a mindset transcending time, war and politics. He is twentieth century patriotism. In the face of any enemy, be it systematically internal or external, while others may waver Captain America perseveres.

A hefty portion of this concept lies in his commitment to the notion everybody may live free. But it’s something more than just freedom. It’s an incorruptible belief; a manner of ‘striving for righteousness’ that lives on through the death of many American soldiers.

Speaking of, should you see the second installment?

I rate Captain America: The Winter Soldier four and half, but to account for my proclivity toward comic books, you can give or take a bisected star.

Remember it’s a sequel to both The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger. Those who haven’t seen these earlier films may find this bothersome, but the majority probably won’t.

Never forget if you’re looking for things to complain about, you’ll find them.

It’s the same track I spin when any other comic book movie (Marvel or DC) comes out nowadays. If you’re willing to like it, and not overly critical, there’s no reason you’ll hate this film.

Logically, females with zero interest in superheroes should probably keep their distance. But even the pythons dangling from Chris Evans’s tank-topped shoulders can sway the naysayers.

It’s somewhere between twelve and nineteen minutes too long, so prepare for potential fidgeting around the two hour mark. And I’ve heard from NPR’s podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, the second scene after the closing credits is underwhelming. But I can speak for the mid-credits sequence, which didn’t bowl me over. Sure it’s slightly ominous, but the reference is outside my wheelhouse, so the reveal’s rendered inconsequential.

The scene’s directed by Joss Whedon and I like it; it just doesn’t get me looking forward to the next film.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is slated for release on May 1, 2015. Marvel will follow up two months later with Ant Man.

The use of negative space in the post credits sequence is smart, fun and intricate. Lend it five extra minutes if you appreciate this sort of thing.

The fight sequences are nothing short of spectacular. The use of different camera angles throughout the battleship in an early scene is elaborate and magnificent.

Overall, the narrative derives its strength from the movement of our hero through manufactured space. The shifting of the threats and the threatened assets often evokes the classic chess metaphor. On a more evolved scale of course; where time, height and game piece type become more varied and critical factors.

Things get really interesting when examining the intricacies of battle tactics and choreography. I won’t dive in too much, but simply consider the strengths and weaknesses of the main trio. Consider the setting of an elevator; the more bad guys filling it, less the chance Black Widow has of escape. She can probably take upwards of five or six, especially because short range and close quarters are optimal combat conditions for her superhumanity.

The same can’t be said for Falcon. At most he can handle two or three thugs trapped in a lift.

The depth to the settings is truly spectacular. The epic nature of it all is so fantastic, while maintaining a secure tether to realism.

So far CATWS contains the second-best Stan Lee cameo, after The Amazing Spider-Man.

I like how the Captain wears the old suit at the end. Solid costumes are a great touch.

A major criticism I can understand but don’t share personally: Several moments are reminiscent of plot devices from other films. For example, Black Widow utilizes a similar means of concealment as Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight) in Mission: Impossible. But that was released in ’96 so I give it a pass.

A similar example (spoiler alert) involves the fate of Brock Rumlow, the lead thug played by Frank Grillo. During a brief shot at the end, his broken body’s raised on a stretcher, in a similar state to that of Kruger (played by Sharlto Copley) in Elysium. There’s a major difference between their sustained injuries, but all bets point towards Brock rising again.

Another obvious connection mirrors a trend in superhero cinema: What I call, “The Citizen’s Call to Arms.” It’s the moment when the fate of ‘the good’ is partially placed in the hands of the regular humans. This notion’s explored in The Dark Knight and is part of the climactic sequence in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Robert Redford does a spectacular job acting as Agent Alexander Pierce, but it’s to no avail. The highest upside to his performance is his appearance and demeanor are completely different from that of his last role in All is Lost.

He’s easily the worst part of Captain A. His character isn’t all that compelling, and it’s a bit unclear what he wants and whom he poses a threat to. He’s not a detractor but there’s nothing exciting about him whatsoever.

Pierce isn’t particularly menacing and neither is Hydra as an overall villain. But that’s okay, it seems like an attempt to break convention; a good idea that sizzles out with Redford’s uneventful performance.

The other thing I don’t love is the glossing over of Falcon’s background. The reveal’s a delight, but further detail on his history (particularly his superhuman abilities) is highly desirable.

Major nuance derives from the supporting players. In the realm of sidekicks, Captain’s got two complicated, original and fully-fleshed-out allies.

Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson plays a great sidekick to Cap. He turns in a subtly fantastic performance.

And so does Black Widow as the other co-goody.

Oh me, oh my, I love me some Scarlett Johansson.

But Widow’s got me worried something fierce. She’s up to something fishy.

This movie’s final shortcoming is the lack of screen time for Natasha Romanoff. I’ll scream from the mountaintop until Avengers 4 we can always use more Black Widow, both in combat, and just as much outside of it.

And for Pete’s sake, I want Cap and Widow to fall in love like nobody’s business. Sure it could happen someday, in another movie, but it’s the fact that it also couldn’t that worries me.

To wrap up, Captain America: The Winter Solider is another solid entry in the esteemed superhero canon.

The one I can’t wait for?

The Hulk.

And he better be rocking purple slacks.

Thoughts, perchance?

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