By Adam Sturrock
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford
To be quite honest, I wasn’t particularly keen to watch this film. On top of the now formulaic Marvel recipe for success, out of all of the Marvel superheroes, Captain America (Evans) was my least favourite. Maybe it was the do-good boyscout attitude he had or the fact he wasn’t immediately charismatic compared to Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man. Maybe it was because his weapon was a shield; I would much rather using a hammer than a weapon largely used for defensive purposes. Possibly one of his only redeeming features was his selflessness and his patriotism, practically every time he ran into combat he might as well have been shouting “‘MERICA” with each civillian saved and Nazi kicked in the face. After watching this sequel, maybe I may have had a change of heart and if you felt the same as I do, maybe you might be swayed in the same way.
First off, I will like to address the overall direction of the film. Marvel has gone political; 70s conspiracy style and it is so refreshing to see this. In each of the previous films, the main hero would basically be directed to destroy slightly dubious henchmen and their boss by the ever-so shady organisation S.H.I.E.L.D, led by pirate-esque looking Nick Fury ( Jackson). For once, we get to prod and probe the origins of the now all encompassing organisation and why its boss, Alexander Pierce (expertly played by Redford) is enamored with a stolen memory stick. Rather than bombs and explosions enveloping the plot (while there are plenty of CGI effects if that takes your fancy) it largely takes on topics such as national security, civil liberty and the post-Snowden paranoia of where do we draw the line between protection and fear mongering?
Without breaching much of the plot, S.H.I.E.L.D is freaking shady and the organization very quickly fragments into two factions, the Steve Rogers side (obviously the good guys) and the Pierce side (douchebags), but with very little suggestion as to whose allegiance people belong, Captain America has to trust very few with his secrets. This element certainly invigorates the franchise, almost adding a Bourne element to the mix.
In each “faction” new players are added to liven it up, Sam Wilson (Mackie) is a welcome addition to the mix as winged crusader, Falcon, although he is largely overshadowed by the returning, sassy Natasha Romanov (Johansson) who is the foil to the often slightly stiff Rogers – just give her a feature film already. The title villain, “the Winter Soldier” is mostly under-utilized, he is essentially the terminator minus the accent, a gun for hire with a strong connection to Rogers. Even when the big reveal appears (if you haven’t figured it out from watching the first film) the impact is dull and slightly underwhelming. This being a Marvel film, the large cast of characters rarely ever seem in dire threat of dying in fear of damaging the next Avengers film so the stakes in the plot are a little bit dull.
Overall however, this is an excellent continuation of the franchise and even a great stand alone film that could bring in neutral fans. The sequel manages to kick the film from flagging comic book adaptation to relevancy in today’s era. Not bad.