Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

**1/2 out of ****

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is pretty enjoyable and continues Marvel’s lineup of films that fall short of superhero movie greatness until we get another Avengers movie. This movie is what it is and I enjoyed myself when watching it, but do we really have to wait for Joss Whedon every time a character needs closure to an internal struggle?

In this film, we get to catch up with Chris Evans playing Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) again, staying busy with S.H.I.E.L.D. operations as he continues in his adjustment with the modern world. A big chunk of material featuring this hero from the forties trying to find his place in the twenty-first century, was cut from The Avengers for time. Writers Ed Brubaker, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely were smart enough to re-create that kind of content in this movie, catching up on the Cap’s personal life and his struggle to get behind today’s America.

It starts off great, as Rogers takes a morning super-run in scenic DC, passing joggers multiple times with his unending energy and strength. He befriends Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackie (good casting), a fellow soldier who bonds with Rodgers on the difficulties of coming home from a war. Later he will be an important ally to our hero.

After a mission with mysterious results and the revelation of a new spy aircraft weaponry program, Rogers’ distrust of his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. members grows. Even Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) seem questionable. Meanwhile, Fury is ambushed by a mysterious assassin and leaves behind a clue for Rogers, who suspecting corruption in the organization goes on the run to find answers. The film essentially becomes a comic book espionage thriller. It is only fitting that Robert Redford is in the movie as a high-ranking official.

The film’s setup and character development follow all the responsibilities of a good sequel. It is only when the story and obstacles develop that it starts to feel unfocused and uninteresting. The main antagonists of the story are pretty bland. I also think that it’s corny whenever a villain – yes even a villain to Captain America- is creating mayhem because they intend to “destroy freedom.”

Brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo who have directed episodes of Community and 30 Rock may be unlikely choices to have made this film, but their work is decent. Still, this is a movie made by committee. The action is very expensive looking. Some of it is exciting and some is headache inducing. Regardless, there’s a little too much of it. Every time I review a new action movie, I feel self-conscious. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m the wrong person to be talking about this stuff. Yes, an action movie without much action… wouldn’t be an action movie. It just seems as though only a few talented filmmakers out there know how to marry the action with the drama …or comedy –or whatever kind of action hybrid you’re dealing with.

Captain America will return and I guess that excuses these filmmakers of being responsible for what they’ve established, including tough questions about our country’s lack of innocence and the illusion of freedom. This review feels so incomplete but I really can’t go further into it without divulging spoilers. It’s certainly better than Thor: The Dark World and just about as good as Iron Man 3 but we all know that Age of Ultron is where the goods are. Unfortunately we won’t get that for another year.

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