It’s time again for one of Marvel’s latest super-powered blockbusters, the next phase in their diabolical scheme for global cinematic domination. They are the shadowy organisation that will not rest until everything has Marvel prefixed to its title, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Marvel’s Mrs Brown’s Boys.
If only someone would save us from this ongoing onslaught of comic book characters!!! Anyone? No!? Good! Because I for one welcome them, especially if they keep making them as engaging and exciting as this Captain America sequel. (Note: excitement not reflected in image below).
Growing up as a nerdy comic book fan, I dreamt of the day I’d see good quality comic book adaptations, but all I got was Batman & Robin or shoddy B-movie versions (see Extras) without the scope and budget that the characters deserved, as without good special effects and well designed costumes they ended up looking like CCTV footage of a drunken fist-fight on Halloween night, in Swanage. Studio execs finally caught up with their audiences and Hollywood began to realise that even in times of financial uncertainty comic book movies would have a loyal audience, as they’re the kind of people who would queue up for hours at Comic-Con for a five second clip of Seth Rogen wearing spandex, all resulting in a maligned medium (comic books) somehow becoming the mainstay of modern blockbuster cinema.
That reign continues with Captain America: The Winter Soldier a film that is better than any Captain America sequel has any right to be. If you’d told my 16 year old self that a Captain America sequel would be as fun and action packed as this I would have had a nerd-gasm, puked all over myself and still have sat through the entire feature.
The main problem with the character of Captain America (for modern audiences at least) is that he’s always been, and now literally is, a relic of a bygone age. Like Superman he represents traditional values from the era in which he was created (the thirties and forties) and therefore can come across as quite two dimensional when compared to other more exciting, complicated (‘darker’) comic book characters like Batman or Wolverine.
Taking that on-board the writers at Marvel have taken his all-American reputation and cleverly inverted it, challenging his ideas of leadership and nation, throwing his beliefs into disarray as he gets caught up in a government conspiracy. Drowning in this mire of moral ambiguity, he goes from being the do-gooder to becoming the fugitive. Another clever move is pairing him up with Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow for most of the movie, yet another character from the Avenger’s movie that could be described as two dimensional (sexy lady beats people up) so Marvel gets to flesh out two characters for the price of one in an onscreen relationship that actually works pretty well.
After a talkie opening, which establishes our characters, we get into some intense action sequences, signalling that this sequel is doing the default film follow-up thing of turning the dimmer down to darker. Some scenes look like actual assault team footage, showing us how the Obama administration’s foreign policy has somehow slowly seeped into blockbuster movie-making (Super-hero Dark Thirty? Anyone? No? Well OK then). We find in this latest film that Captain America has almost become a henchman for government agency SHIELD, just a sanctioned super soldier who is sent in to do politician’s bidding.
This all results in some very good close quarters fight scenes, with lots of intricate shoot outs making it all look as if John Woo had directed a comic book movie. The highlight being a great fight in a lift (you can’t get more close quarters than that, well maybe a toilet cubicle, but they can save that for the third movie) it contains more fist fights than an Oasis reunion, with even Jenny Agutter getting a chance to kick some ass at one point.
Throughout the first half of the film, it hardly puts a foot wrong with some stunning visual effects and compelling action sequences, but as is the way with most Marvel movies the story starts getting all caught up and complicated with various story advancing macguffins (before it was tesseracts and aether, this time its all about algorithms or something) which of course is just an excuse for things to lead to a big smashy smash at the end, culminating in a big thing crashing into a city as seen in every other blockbuster in recent years.
There’s enough conspiratorial goings on though to keep you interested, with a palpable presence of paranoia and suspense which results in more twists and turns than a Monaco edition of Scalextric, although this might make it all a bit overly complicated for little ones.
There are new and old faces returning to the franchise, such as Samuel L Jackson being contractually obliging as Nick Fury who is actually given something to do with his own action sequences. Robert Redford appearing as an impossibly slick, sweet talking politician type, who I imagine when being asked to do the film he may have responded, aliddle sumthing, like diss…
MOVIE MAN: Hello Mr Redford, would you like to be in the sequel to Captain America?
REDFORD: I’m a serious actor, I’m not really interested in doing comic book films.
MOVIE MAN: But its all like 70’s and conspiracy-y and stuff!?
REDFORD: I’ll do it!
The characters eventually come together to muse over the movies great mystery of ‘Who is the Winter Soldier?’ (an enigma which is hardly perplexing if you’re paying any attention) all this while big twists are revealed and main characters killed off along the way. Not that it matters, as death means nothing in this Marvel universe and in no time at all your character will be back on their feet with their own spin-off show or re-imagined movie franchise, as Marvel slowly starts to run out of known characters that audiences actually recognise (come on, be honest, forthcoming Marvel releases include Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, had anybody actually heard of them before!?).
Despite its overblown ending and unsatisfying resolution as Marvel continues to stretch out story lines across its movies, the serious sequelness still ends up being a lot of fun, a harmless piece of escapism (even with the dark governmental foreign policy stuff) but its also quite forgettable. It’s definitely the best Captain America movie ever made, it’s just not the best Marvel movie so far.
RATING: 32 Marvel movie franchises out of 44
I remember staying up late to record the 1990 version of Captain America, imagine my disappointment:
Trailer for Marvel’s next release X-Men: Days of Future Past
Guardians of the Galaxy