What would you do if you woke up after being frozen since World War II? Why, fight another war, of course!
Not that Steve Rodgers wants to fight another war, you understand. The world just can’t seem to keep from blowing itself up without him. That’s not really a euphemism, either.
When I went into the theater, I was jittery. More jittery than I’ve been for a movie in a long, long time. I love Captain America. He’s one of the best heroes in comics. I was greatly disappointed in the first movie (I went to watch Cap beat up the bad guys, not play circus clown to cranky drunk soldiers), but from what I had seen of this one, I had very high hopes for it. Especially since people were saying it was even better than the Avengers. I’m not willing to say it was better than The Avengers. But it’s definitely the best standalone Marvel film to date (that is, non-superhero team movies).
So here’s the basic idea. Some fake cops try to blow up Nick Fury, Fury tells Rodgers that SHIELD has been infiltrated, and there’s an immortal-ish dude from Cap’s time period with a metal arm killing everyone important.
Yep, that about sums it up.
It sounds like a pretty simple plot. The film doesn’t try to come up with some complicated string of interconnected events. Granted, I’m making it sound simpler than it is to avoid spoilers, but it’s still pretty basic. That doesn’t make it any less awesome.
The opening ten minutes are a good example of the movie’s awesomeness. After a brief meeting with Sam (who will become Falcon), the Black Widow picks Cap up for a mission. They infiltrate a ship (as in a boat. Not Serenity, not the Millennium Falcon. They do still have boats on water, you know) that’s holding hostages. The Captain takes out nearly every bad guy, mostly by running really fast and kicking guys into the side of the ship’s metal structure. Followed, of course, by a legit hand-to-hand battle (that the Cap wins). This film has some of the most unique fighting style I’ve ever seen, and even more importantly, it’s the most realistic expression of superhuman strength yet.
It’s also a fun movie, with typical Marvel comical elements. Such as Black Widow constantly trying to set Cap up with a date or his hilarious ignorance of many aspects of the modern world. It’s only fun and games for so long though.
That takes us to the Winter Soldier. He’s no pushover. In one of the big battles, I was sitting here thinking “Come on. Two avengers plus Falcon against one baddie. He’s gone.” Nope. The film doesn’t disappoint. There was one point in the movie where a small voice in the back of my head asked “Surely they aren’t going to kill Cap, are they?” I knew they wouldn’t, but for a moment, I wasn’t so sure I was right. Those are the kinds of moments that make a great film.
So the movie has a lot of explosions, fighting, and military action (this is Captain America, after all; not Spider-Man). That’s not all it has, though. It asks a lot of tough questions. Much of the film’s plot surrounds a military program which allows the government (SHIELD, that is) to use surveillance suspiciously similar to that which has made headlines around the country in the past year to determine possible future threats and eliminate them before the crime happens through what is basically a drone on steroids (again, ring any bells for headlines in the past year or two?). Cap doesn’t like this. He admits that he and his comrades did things that sometimes cost them sleep for freedom. As he points out to Fury, “This isn’t freedom.”
Political message, much?
As the film goes on, however, the politics fade off the screen and give way to more black-and-white battles. It becomes more a question of what the heroes are willing to do, what price they are willing to pay, in order to secure the lives that are at stake in the present, as well as the future. The Black Widow in particular makes some very noble personal sacrifices, and Cap nearly lets himself get beaten to death for it. It seems that Cap’s nobility is rubbing off on everyone else, who appear to have absorbed some of the humility of Captain America’s persona, one of the chief attributes that Christ gives his followers in Matthew 5.
The only qualm about this for fans of superhero movies is that the movie becomes less about The Winter Soldier and more about these ideological differences and personal sacrifices. We have to keep in mind that this is Captain America. It’s not about superpowers and flashy costumes. It’s an action movie with some soft nerdy elements. I’m okay with that, though. Because Cap is awesome.
Now, let’s talk some about the minor characters. Or the only minor character that matters anyway. I nearly did a backflip when I heard about Falcon being in this movie. That said, I was afraid that he would barely be in it. He isn’t in the early part of the film a whole lot, but when he is, he’s amazing. The flying is done extremely well, the suit is awesome, and the character was represented perfectly. In case you couldn’t tell already, I. Love. This. Guy. Best line in the movie comes from Falcon, about Cap:
“I do what he does. Only slower.”
So see this movie, guys. There’s tons of explosions, there’s cool superheroes (even though Cap is the only one that technically counts, I’m counting Black Widow and Falcon, too), and there’s a lot of depth here, too. I can’t end this without talking about the character of Captain America. We live in an age where guys like The Punisher and Deadpool who are cool but not necessarily ethical or moral are the ideal. Even among more traditional heroes, Iron Man was the choice hero, and he was the ideal before the character development made him a more moral character. Cap isn’t like that. He’s humble. Brave. Selfless. Noble. He’s exactly who our children, as well as adults, should be looking up to.
And we should support him.
Forget that he’s fictional. Just roll with it.
This review was also posted on Let There Be Movies.