Thursday, May 8, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Solider

It felt a bit odd to be seeing a "summer blockbuster" movie long before it was summertime (even if it was unseasonably warm the day I saw it) and it looks like this summer is going to be another light one for me movie wise. There are a few that have caught my eye but not much so I'm glad that I at least enjoyed this film so it's off to a good start for me!

Captain America: The Winter Solider

Some time has past since The Avengers and Steve Rogers seems to be adjusting to life in 21st Century America and is still working with SHIELD as they take on the world's many threats. But life is in the details and it's those little things, both within and without his job, that keep him from fully enjoying life and it seems as if those details are about to become rather large problems.

One thing that struck me during the film was how they were able to make Captain America still very relevant to today's world and culture which I hadn't initially expected the franchise to pull off. "We are a culture of cynicism and snark!" some people might say, since clearly this is a "modern" attitude that didn't exist in the 40s, and yet this movie was eerily well-timed to come out shortly after, in real life, people were getting mad at the NSA for what turns out to have been years of spying on people and one of the big plot threads in this movie is SHIELD gaining the power to spy on every part of people's lives an eliminate them before they become a problem. This makes Steve's struggle in the movie about how much he should trust SHIELD rather easy to empathize with. He may have come from a time period where people claimed that things were more "black and white" (Nazis bad and Allies good, segregation in armed forced also not good) but that's certainly not a limiting factor here. I've seen a number of people comparing how "dark" this film gets for Cap and how it's so different from say the darkness in The Dark Knight. Hello, Tailor talks about that more over here (they have a number of fantastic posts that dig so much deeper into the movie than I do) and, while I haven't seen anything beyond a little bit of Batman Begins, I did really like how the movie let the setting and the character's actions dictate this darker-than-expected tone instead of trying to set a tone and then make the story match it.

I'd also like to echo a sentiment I've seen repeated around the internet about how, in another world, this movie would have easily been called Captain America and the Black Widow takes on the NSA and then fight a little bit the Winter Solider. I feel like Marvel is actually trying more to either grow support for a BW movie or at least establish her as much as they can so that she's not just "that less important superhero" in the franchise. I didn't like that her hair was straight instead of curly here but honestly that's my only problem with her and it's a completely silly one too, she was given almost as much focus as Cap (and more than the new superhero, which makes sense since she has an already established dynamic with Cap and a more important role in this particular story) and I really enjoyed seeing her define herself to herself as it became clear that something big was happening to their world. She was pretty fantastic and hey look, now we have a three person band of heros that has one white guy, one (white) woman, and a black guy, that's actually pretty impressive!

Finally, as alluded to earlier, as a non-comic reader I thought that the winter solider part of the movie was by far the weakest part and wondered at times why it was included. I wasn't surprised by it at all (because, discounting occam's razor, I had read years ago "well if the comics choose to do this they could make X happen!" so the title gave away everything for me) and I think it's telling that one of the strongest, and certainly most emotional, scene for that part of the movie is the post credits scene, the one at the very very end that everyone else in my theater left before it happened. I really wish that had been integrated into the film better and, since it wasn't, can only hope it pops back up at least briefly in the second Avengers film (since that'll be the next one Cap appears in) and then is really addressed in whenever a third Cap film comes out.

On a silly note regarding how the film looked, I was feeling pretty proud of myself when I was able to recognize a lot of the locations in the film but there were some shots which I though was of Alexandria, Virginia, masquerading as DC and was surprised to hear that it was actually Cleveland instead*. That just amused me, as did the fact that my work actually appeared in the film briefly but was, erm, not quite correct (and was not destroyed by the end of it which did make me a little sad, I now understand all the New Yorkers who are just amused when they see their office buildings destroyed in every big summer film). Oh and I really loved the style of the graphics used in the credits of the film, that was really wonderfully done and I think it's yet another example of how filmmakers now are making sure that even that very last bit of the movie looks great instead of just doing the scrolling credits of old.

*and the people on Pop Culture Happy Hour, which is based in DC were fooled too which makes me feel better. I actually really liked Linda Holmes' take on the movie, her rebuttal to the other's complaints starts at 9:25 and they spend the first 20-ish minutes discussing it as a whole.

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