Note: There is a spoiler in the ninth paragraph, but I included it to make a point
For the most part, I’m willing to accept most things in the silly, cartoon-y world that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”—the sequel to the 2011 movie—and all the rest of these Marvel Avenger movies inhabit.
I’m willing to accept the seemingly infinite number of secret (sometimes underground) hideouts and safe houses the characters take refuge in and I’m willing to accept the plethora of cool convenient gadgets--such as a digitized version of the “Mission Impossible” face disguise—which the characters pull out at the last minute.
But what I have trouble accepting is that after Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” in 2012—in which Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and others finally joined forces to become an established superhero team in the cinematic universe—there would be another individual “Captain America” movie. I find it so amusing that for a film that’s mainly about teamwork Captain America doesn’t have his newfound teammates to rely on. This also goes for the other individual superhero movies that have come after “The Avengers,” like “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World.” And so, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is a passable piece of superhero entertainment but not much else. For what it’s worth, the movie is better than “Thor 2,” while also being deeper and not quite as hurried as the first “Captain America.”
I realize the source material is inherently patriotic and pro American but the tone of “Winter Soldier” feels especially patriotic and chiefly pro military. The movie actually gets off to a pretty good start, addressing the theme of reintegrating—on the part of veterans— back into society, something that can be difficult to do. In the case of our red white and blue shield throwing super soldier Steve Rogers (aka, Captain America, played by Chris Evans) it’s extremely difficult. You’ve heard of movie soldiers who don’t have a country—John Rambo—well, Rogers is a soldier without a time period. As you will remember from the 2011 film, he became the Captain during World War 2and after defeating an evil Nazi guy, he became frozen in the ice and unthawed in the present day so he could fight with the other Avengers in Whedon’s movie.
That’s got to be pretty tough, not being able to live your life in your own time period, having to adjust to a brand new one and in “Winter Soldier” Roger’s hasn’t been able to fully shake his past. There’s an endearing scene between him and his now elderly love interest from the first movie and another scene where he goes to a Captain America exhibit at a museum. There’s nothing left of his old life except for a museum exhibit. Again this is all interesting stuff to address and a natural way to deepen this character. Though, it would work even better had this movie come before “The Avengers.”
But before too long Rogers gets double-crossed by the government organization S.H.E.L.D--which initiated the Avengers program--and “The Winter Soldier” turns into another fugitive/on the run action movie involving a flash drive, (there’s always a flash drive of some sort) an evil German organization (no, not Nazis) and another super soldier called The Winter Soldier, who’s connected to Roger’s past. It’s Captain America and fellow S.H.E.L.D member Natasha Romanoff (sexy and snarky Scarlett Johansson) against the world, too bad there isn’t a team of superheroes they can call on. Oh wait! There is! It’s called the Avengers. The S.H.E.I.L.D organization is being compromised and one of the main Avenger’s is being hunted--in Washington D.C no less--and Iron Man, Thor, or The Hulk are nowhere to be found. Are they all on vacation or something? Sadly the answer to this question simply comes down to: because “ The Avengers: Age of Ultron” is currently in production and we can’t have all of the Avengers together in a movie that isn’t an official “Avengers” team movie. Sorry Steve and Natasha, looks like you’ve got to clear your name and stop those gigantic flying warships from destroying the capital on your own.
This is my main problem with this ever growing, intertwining, overlapping super-hero world. Since The Avengers have already come together and formed a unified team, these subsequent individual movies feel sort of pointless now and somewhat undermine the spirit of teamwork this franchise so strongly promotes.
I suppose all this makes me sound like a grouch and I’m supposed to talk about how sweet the action scenes are in “Winter Soldier.” Well they are, more or less. The rest of the movie provides entertaining bits here and there and I did like the playful, chummy relationship between Natasha and Steve but overall there aren’t many real major surprises, simply because this never ending franchise and its “think three or four movies ahead” tactic has mostly eliminated that element.
Take for example S.H.E.I.L.D leader Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) supposed death that sets the rest of the movie’s events into motion. If Fury had stayed dead, that would be interesting, that would be something shocking, but no! Nick Fury can’t get killed off because he has to appear in future movies. Jackson, to his credit, does a fine job in the role but there are already so many characters in this universe, with even more being introduced in every new movie that I think we can afford to kill off some of them.
As I write this review, “Captain America 3” has already been announced, which tells you how much the studio cares about this one. The franchise has practically become a TV show; sure pleasures can be found in individual episodes but it’s the overall series that matters. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is a mildly entertaining big budget episode in this massive budgeted TV series. Fans and general audiences will love this movie I’m sure, which is perfectly O.K in my book, but by the time “Avengers 2” and whatever the hell else comes next, I imagine this movie—like so many of the others-- will be mostly forgotten.