Following the massive disappointment that is Thor: The Dark World and the massive sense of let down I felt on re-watching The Avengers it was going to take some work to get me back onside with Marvel Studios output.
Certainly Guardians of the Galaxy went someway to achieving that, but, with its irreverence and general lighthearted air, and the fact it exists mostly away from the main run of “the cinematic universe” there was still some work to be done.
Well, I’m very happy to say that, now I’ve caught up with Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray, I am back onboard (if still a bit nervous about another big mess of Avengers: Age Of Ultron on the horizon).
Anyway, down to business of Cap 2.
Starting off with Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) in fish out of water mode, it isn’t long before the plot kicks off. There’s not a lot more that can be said about the plot without hitting some fairly massive spoilers, so, onto what really wins this film over, its delivery.
Rather than feeling like another cookie-cutter big action adventure the action scenes (which are still numerous and huge) are interspersed with a story of double-crossing and espionage that harks back to a glossy version of paranoia-rich 1970s cinema.
This part of the movie is centred around Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, the political leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, essentially Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) boss, and he does an excellent job in his role and really helps give this side of the movie the uncertain feeling that it seems the directors were going for.
The other side of the movie deals with the titular Winter Soldier (a long-standing on-off foe for Cap in the comic books, here played by Sebastian Stan). While he maybe doesn’t appear enough to warrant the sub-title of the whole film, this aspect, combined with the espionage angle, helps to make the character of Captain America (Chris Evans), who can be bland and clean-cut, into something more interesting, conflicted and questioning.
This combination of styles works very well, along with the inclusion of other characters like The Falcon, Black Widow and Fury and the American city setting, to actually make this movie feel like many of the Captain America comic books I’ve read where grand schemes mix with typical comic book action. Captain America: The Winter Soldier actually holds the plot together better than many of the comics as the film, by its nature, has something of an air of climax that is often lost in the monthly instalments.
While the final part of the film does head into the standard territory of a huge action set piece, the hand-held feel and the focus on the story within these scenes makes them far more engaging than the enormous but characterless battles seen in The Avengers, Thor 2 and even parts of Guardians.
In the end, where Captain America: The Winter Soldier really works is in adding a sense of drama and (relative) unpredictability back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe while also bringing it back down to earth – though I remain skeptical as to how this movie will fit in with Avengers 2.