Saturday, April 5, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! JUST GET TO THE MID-CREDIT SEQUENCE!!!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 5 out of 5

If you are a dedicated reader of my blog (and yes, I have some loyal readers, jerks—although calling the doubters jerks makes me think I won’t make them loyal readers), then you are probably rolling your eyes and saying, “Oh look, the geek Reverend is once again giving a perfect score to another comic book adaptation. It’s almost like these are his favorite type of films.” Well, you hit the nail on the head there. I don’t hide or shy away from my geeky tendencies. I’ve been a loyal comic book reader my whole life, I consider playing video games all day long to be a day well spent, I pretty much only read books that are about Doctor Who, Star Wars, Discworld or were written by Neil Gaiman, and I’ve been a big fan of both DC and Marvel pretty much since I came into being (wow, read that last part the wrong way and it really sounds gross.) The point being, some people are horror nerds, some are action junkies, some get a hard-on for crime thrillers, and some blow their wad for art house/indie/boring films. Me, on the other hand, I go nuts for anything geeky and that will go over big at Comic-Con like free cake will go over at…well…pretty much anywhere (because who doesn’t love free cake?).

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
They're trying to think of who doesn't like free cake.  Good luck, suckers!

After being defrosted and after the incident in New York, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is trying to have a life as Captain America and doing work for S.H.I.E.L.D. (the awesome movie version of S.H.I.E.L.D. and not the boring, why is this show still on-air, TV version of S.H.I.E.L.D.). However, after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) lets Capt. in on the future of the “free world” and shows him that the organization is putting measures in place that will take away peoples’ freedoms by attempting to stop insurrections/uprisings/Black Friday-like riots before they start, Capt. starts to question the actions of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

                                          Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"So, you're telling me that no one will notice the stealing of
freedom as long as Toby Keith comes out with a song about
how great America is and then say if you're against these changes
you're a terrorist?"

However, things are far worse than what they appear as it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by a dangerous organization and a dangerous new villain; one who has a shared past with Captain America called the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and seems to be leading the charge for a violent change in regime. Now Capt. must partner with his Avengers teammate Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) and a new hero, the winged Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and together stop the threat…the only problem is they don’t know who the allies are and who is their enemy.

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"This guy is firing at me and saying he wants to kill me...I'm leaning towards the idea
he may be an enemy."

Yes, I absolutely loved The Winter Soldier! In fact, I’m just loving every second of what Marvel Studios is doing with this shared cinematic universe. Every film that comes out not only is building on it predecessors but constantly taking the universe in new and exciting directions. The momentum has yet to slow down for me and the films have yet to be boring. Even in this new Captain America adventure (based on the awesome Winter Soldier story by Ed Brubaker from the comics) it goes into new territory as the film is not only a superhero movie where you see Capt. kick ass and toss his shield but it’s a political thriller with loads of commentary on our current post 9/11 society. Yes, there are a lot of cool explosions and kick-ass fight scenes (the scenes between Capt. and the Winter Soldier are particularly awesome) but the film also has a lot of intrigue with its use of politics and scheming in the story. The film was more than “just another comic book movie.” It was a political thriller filled with intrigue.

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Not to get off subject here but I've never realize how flawless Chris Evans bone
structure is.

Every since Iron Man first hit the screens, it seemed that Marvel Studios truly knew what they were doing with the casting department and that sense continues—especially with this film’s heroes. While I originally laughed at the idea that Johnny Storm and the guy from Not Another Teen Movie was going to be Captain America, Chris Evans proved me wrong in The First Avenger and continues to be the man meant to wield the shield. He really captures Capt.’s sense of right and wrong, his strong sense of morals but also his sense of loneliness and a man who is lost from his own time and still struggling to play catch up. It’s going to be sad to see Evans leave the MCU when his contract is up but, as this film shows, it’s possible for Capt.’s long-time friend and brainwashed enemy; Bucky, to take over like he did in the comics.

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
This movie is great but the impromptu break dance scene from Batroc the Leaper
really made the film.

It was also nice to see Black Widow play a larger part in a Marvel movie and really proves that the character has what it takes to have her own film. While Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as Widow in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, she really takes the character to new lengths as an ass-kicking hero but as a character with a shady dark past that needs to be explored in more than just the comic forms but in movie forms as well. While it’s still annoying that it seems, deep down the filmmakers just see her as a sex symbol first rather than a tough-as-nails spy, this movie did feel like they are trying to move away from that dynamic and make her less about the skin-tight outfit and more about the complexities of her persona…and the fact she won’t hesitate to shoot a motherfucker in the face.

                         Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
But seriously, why did they have her stand like that in the poster?

One thing I was really excited for was the inclusion of Falcon. I’ve always enjoyed the character and friend of Captain America that is Sam Wilson and getting to see the high-flyer brought to the screen was going to be very exciting. The production didn’t disappoint with this aspect as they brought the character from the comics to the screen effortlessly and very faithfully (although without his telekinetic link to his bird Redwing). Thanks to previous establishments in the universe, Falcon instantly felt like he belonged and the way they were able to translate the character and the suit he wore fits with the overall tone of the universe—this also helped by not having to really do much to authenticate his flightsuit as that technology is already believable thanks to previous films, so it meant getting to his high-flying action quicker. It also helps that Anthony Mackie was just excellent as Sam Wilson and if he is not in The Avengers 2 and more MCU films, I will be very sore with Disney and Marvel Studios, very sore indeed.

                                                                          Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Seriously, he better be in The Avengers 2.

Then there’s the villains in this film…you have Sebastian Stan returning to the series as the infamous Winter Soldier and he was just a spectacle to watch. The shared past his character has with Capt. makes the character sympathetic but, at the same time, everything about the Winter Soldier is terrifying. He’s just like Capt. (except for the metal arm) but he is the opposite. He’s strong, tough and an excellent fighter but rather than stand up for what is good and do what is right in the face of adversity, the Winter Soldier is just a brainwashed super soldier who is out to complete the mission he was instructed to do and he won't stop until it's done. He has all of Capt.’s strengths and he has it without the man’s conscience. When you think about, that’s a hard character to play because you have to be a cold, ruthless assassin but when your character use to be the hero’s best friend (and, no, I don’t consider talking about the Winter Soldier and Bucky being the same person to be a spoiler. Fuck yo’ spoilers), you also have to be a tad relateable and that’s a hard role to portray. You have to be evil, threatening, cool (in a bad guy way) but also sympathetic and Sebastian Stan really pulled it off.

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
"Mmmf hrmmff drffrf."

There are also the returning faces like Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson and they were great but two new faces to the franchise were scene stealers, in my opinion. First off, I really enjoyed Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow (Crossbones from the comics). While he may have only been a henchman for the main villainous organization in the film, I really liked Grillo’s portrayal of Rumlow. However, I have to say one of the strongest new faces to the MCU had to have been Robert Redford as the ambiguous senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce. While the character is drastically different from his comic counterpart, Redford really made the character intriguing (of course, Redford giving a great performance and making a character captivating to watch isn’t anything new. The man was The Sundance Kid, for crying out loud!). Redford really grabbed the political tone of the film by the balls and commanded attention…even though he was soft-spoken and very subdued the entire time. A majority of the shadiness of the film came from this character and was crafted and molded perfectly by Redford’s performance.

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Is he good?  Is he bad?  Who cares, it's Robert "Fucking" Redford in a Marvel movie!

From beginning to end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is interesting, exciting and filled with a great cast. The movie was so good that it literally took three directors to contain and control the awesomeness that it was. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo handled the actual film and really balanced the heavy themes and commentary with edge-of-your-seat action and even some light-hearted comedy thrown in here and there along the way. This is really an impressive feat and even more so when you realize these two have directed episodes of Community and the film You, Me and Dupree. Then, to makes things even more awesome on the awesome scale of all things awesome, Joss Whedon stepped in to direct the trademark mid-credit sequence…a sequence that made me squeal with delight and continues the tradition of setting up the next MCU film, meanwhile setting up my expectations to explosive levels and, at the same time, destroying my ability to wait patiently for the next film. 

                                                                           Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Even Capt. is smart enough to not do a "Going down?" quip.

                                          Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Winter Soldier has a future as a street magician.
Yes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is another Marvel film—or comic book adaptation, in general—that has attained my perfect score…but, in my opinion (and that’s all these reviews are), it was worth it. I liked the political lean the story took, I liked the cast, I liked the portrayal of the Winter Soldier, and the action scenes were incredibly exciting—especially the fights between Capt. and Bucky. While their fights are fast, brutal and beautifully choreographed, there was also an added dramatic and emotional element to them and directors Anthony and Joe Russo really captured that. It’s rare when a sequel outdoes the previous film but I truly believe that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was better than The First Avenger…and that says a lot because I thought that one was awesome, too!

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