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I should preface this with "I have yet to watch the whole MCU". That said, as of right now, I consider this the single best superhero movie I've ever seen.
The movie manages to mix political intrigue and modern-day concerns about "security vs. freedom" with super soldiers and spy thriller action in a pace-perfect blend of action and suspense. There are several twists in the movie and all of them are spaced out well enough that it forms a cohesive plot and keeps you engaged as a viewer. The overarching theme also works very well in setting up the major twist of the movie as it comes across as a sensible and realistic reality in which the main antagonists could operate within our own world.
Captain America represents the last bastion of Black and White Morality in a world that can only see in bad and not-so-bad and it turns out he was on the right side of history all along, with much of his character development being his realization that he can still fight for the values he grew up on even in a society like ours. The action in The Winter Soldier is less straightforward than the average superhero adventure without completely changing the direction, like Iron Man 3 did with Tony out of the suit. Instead the action is conveyed much more like a modern television drama, with plenty of gunfire and explosions but accentuated with a Vibranium shield for good measure. The characters are mostly familiar faces with a Big Bad who makes sense but is also unconventional for the genre. The film's outcome sets a massive status quo change for the MCU and exudes an "enemies everywhere" vibe that can even turn someone as powerful as Captain America into a man on the lam.
I highly recommend watching this movie, even if its key twist is spoiled for you, as the whole package is a timeless entry in the genre.
Let's get this out of the way, Winter Soldier is a good movie. It's got a great cast, talented directors, exciting action, and at least one twist guaranteed to knock you to the floor. It is most definitely a good film. But it's not one I would call great, and it's definitely not the best MCU film by any metric. No, The Winter Soldier is a flawed film that, while certainly a shot in the arm for the MCU after the rough start of Phase 2, nevertheless doesn't quite have the goods it thinks it does.
The ultimate problem is this: the filmmakers saw themselves as reinventing Cap to fit a modern era where the good guys aren't always obvious, and governments aren't always trustworthy. Why is this a problem? Because it's not really a reinvention. Cap followed orders in WW 2 because it was clear that the Nazis and HYDRA were the bad guys, and his superiors had their men's best interests at heart most of the time. But he was perfectly willing to question his leaders and even defy them if he felt the situation demanded it. His very first mission was an unsanctioned rescue op. And then there's the other problem: the comics. Cap breaking from the government was old hat to anyone who was familiar with the comics by this point, so seeing him go against them here isn't really anything shocking. Steve Rogers doesn't stand for the military or the government, he stands for truth and justice. It's what he's always stood for, even when the going got tough.
So all this film really does is showcase that. And while it is a well-done story of Cap fighting for what's right even when all his old institutions fail, it's not as subversive as it thinks it is. And then there's the other big issue: for a political thriller that tries not to paint things in pure black and white, making HYDRA the main villain ultimately undoes all of the nuance the film is going for. HYDRA was depicted as a completely evil organization in the last Cap film, and this one doesn't do a good job of shedding that depiction at all. In fact, aside from a token justification at the end of the film, it doesn't even really try. So all that's left is the stuff with Cap, and of course, the title character.
The titular Winter Soldier is the easiest example of why this movie works better for those who don't know the comics. Anyone who does will automatically know he's a brainwashed Bucky, even though that's supposed to be a major twist. True, the HYDRA twist is the bigger one, but this is still a major one.
So to conclude, I don't think this was a bad movie, but it's obvious that the people involved just weren't as subversive as they'd hoped. Anyone who knows Cap knows what he'll do in this movie, and the politics are swept to the side because of the Nazi roots. It's a good thriller, but by no means great.
For much of 2013 and early 2014, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was doing well financially but needed something to bolster fan faith in it. Iron Man 3 was polarizing, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD had a slow start and Thor: The Dark World was decent at best. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the perfect remedy for that.
Not only does TWS move the overall Cinematic Universe plot forward in a shocking way, but it introduces great new characters (Marvel, PLEASE listen to Anthony Mackie and put the Falcon in Avengers 2) and improves the ones we already had. What they did with Arnim Zola was not only a brilliant and practical adaptation of how he looks in the comics, but it's a rare case of being something only a film could pull off.
My only big complaint is that Agent 13 was pretty much unnecessary and her role could have been folded into Maria Hill's presence (good to see her again too; her presence sort of makes this "Secret Avengers: The Movie"). The Winter Soldier also could have done a bit more, but I'm just impressed that they made him look exactly like he does in the comics. Nicely done, costuming department.
In short: go see it. The MCU really does still have that magic; here's hoping they can keep up the momentum through Guardians of the Galaxy.
Let's start with the dumb:
Really the list goes on and on, so onto the boring. The movie is in excess of two hours so all those explosions and guns lose their lustre after a while. Most of the fight scenes are filmed with good old shaky cam, a practice that is praised by pretty much no one. What disappoints the most is that the trailers show the Universal I mean Winter Soldier as being so unstoppable that he's beating around Captain America like a rag doll. Unfortunately Captain America is so steroid-induced that he doesn't lose, which lowers the stakes and adds to the boredom.
The only thing that resonates well with this movie is trust issues. So don't trust the reviews saying this movie is good as they are either na´ve or just lying.
I have to confess that I used to have a pretty low opinion of the MCU. the only two movies i legitimately enjoyed were iron man 1 and the first captain america. After finding both avengers and iron man 3 to be lackluster, I mostly dismissed the MCU as bland, vapid and weightless action blockbusters and turned my back on it for years.
On a whim, hearing all the praise for TWS, and how it was the best MCU film thus far, I decided "why not" and gave it a shot.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it mostly lived up to the hype.
What makes this film so strong in comparison to the other MCU films is that it is engaging on multiple emotional and narrative levels.
The beginning of the film starts out by establishing a conspiracy at the highest levels of SHIELD, and creates an incredible sense of paranoia and tension that did not exist in any marvel film before or since. it is legitimately difficult to know who to trust, and the ensuing plot twist about the nature of the conspiracy is one of the few legitimately unexpected developments the MCU has had so far.
Of course, the feeling of paranoia eventually fades as we come to understand what the conspiracy is, but by that point the film has set up other emotional hooks. Mainly, the touching relationship between Captain America and the eponymous Winter Soldier; if you aren't familiar with the comics, it's yet another brilliant and powerful twist. If you are familiar with his identity beforehand, the film still works because Cap's reaction to the reveal and the drama that comes from still makes it a worthwhile plot element.
And of course, it goes without saying that almost every other character in the film (black widow, fury, falcon, etc) has a well-defined and useful role to play in the narrative, making the film feel very cohesive and tightly plotted.
The action scenes were also relatively well-coreographed, and went a long way towards selling me on Chris Evans being the super badass that captain america is supposed to be.
overall, it was not only a good superhero movie, but a legitimately decent political thriller. it has restored my faith that marvel studios can produce something legitimately worthwhile, and i look forward to civil war.
Lets get the obvious out of the way: Cast is amazing, action is great, plot is clever, and the captial-T Twist is huge and knocked my socks off. Without question, it's a great film, even if (like all of the MCU films) Act 3 is a bit wanting.
But, without spoiling, it feels like a film being torn in two directions: Half of it wants to be a political thriller, and the other half wants to be a Captain America film. The big twist both makes and breaks the film, because it renders the intended grayness of the political subtext rather moot, hamstringing the political thriller it's still trying to live up to. The titular Winter Soldier is wasted here, little better than a henchman with a minor subplot, and hopefully will get more focus in later films.
In one sentence: It's great, but it could have been better.
In the opening, this film tries so hard to be an edgy political commentary about security vs peace. The expectations I got was a clandestine civil war amongst SHILED as a more militant arm tried to take over from Nick Fury, to create a more aggressive and forceful SHEIELD. This was something interesting, and I got excited about the possibility of a sort of story where it's revealed that just because someone is against you doesn't mean he's evil. It was going to be, as far as I could tell, a sort of subtle film where good and evil got muddied up and Captain America had to try to decide between his mre peaceful methods, or more violent ones.
Nick Fury is not completely honest, and idealistic Captain America calls him out, but Fury responds with good, valid arguments! Intrigue within SHIELD which could mean a coup and the emergence of a more military SHIELD! Mysterious villains whose identities are unknown, who could be night Templars trying to create what they think is a better security agency! Assassination attempt on Fury by mysterious assassins posing as cops suggesting so much!
Then we got halfway though and WHOOPS! SORRY! IT'S NAZI WANNABES!
Any complexity went out the window, any political commentary went out the window and dear lord above did it get bad FAST. From cookie cutter bad guys with the complexity of a brick to action scenes that look as if they were directed by a subpar discount Michael Bay and polthole after plothole after plothole, the film quickly became predictable, boring, and stupid. I found myself more interested in my movie chocolates than the film, waiting for the snooze fest of a predictable and poorly written climax to be over so I could leave.
This film was given to good actors, a fantastic director, and CGI that would make a nerd cream his pants in awesome, but ultimately, the horrible script dragged it down into a mire making an ultimately boring and nonsensical film that I just didn't care about, and do not care to see again.
Go watch something else, and spare yourself the complete and utter drivel that is The Winter Soldier.
Everyone in my household liked this movie. My 3-year-old nephew and I were the outliers. What?! We took a 3-year-old?! Trust me, it's not as bad as it sounds.
My nephew is a precocious little dude. And he loves superhero movies. He's given his seal of approval to Spiderman, Iron Man, and the Avengers, The Hulk of course... but with this movie he was freaking bored out of his mind. So much so that we ended up sitting by ourselves making funny stories about the characters, where he squirmed around, and played with and lost my favorite earring after pretending it was Cap's Shield (yes, my earrings can reach epic proportions). He was not impressed by the film. I was a little shocked until I realized I felt the same way after we left. I was just kind of... meh about the whole affair.
Although I'm more of an Iron Man kinda girl, the story and the action weren't bad. It was about Cap and Black Widow walking around trying to avoid the bad guys, uncover a conspiracy, and figure out who the winter soldier was... and talking to an old Russian computer...?
There were explosions and shooting and highway scenes. Also there was a large glass building and a fight scene there. There was also an elevator fight, and an epic fight on the streets. Fights everywhere all the time. Nowhere is safe!
My mom noticed something interesting when she went to see it. She said that everyone was always wearing hoodies in the film! Seriously, next time you see it, count how many times people are wearing hoodies. It's so random. Sometimes it's justified, and others, I have no clue about.
What I do recall is that the Winter Soldier was really sexy, and he had mid-length hair, which basically counted as metal hair (especially on the posters) which was also kind of sexy. He was a rather imposing character, even with a couple of continuity errors at the end. But whatever. He was relentless and ruthless. Great great character. Could have used several copies of him in the movie. Woulda made things really interesting.
I also recall some kind of connection from this film to the Avengers and the Thor film. That was... interesting.
All in all, it was a Whatever Movie for a Whatever Weekend.
I used to feel like after The Avengers came out, Marvel was running on autopilot. They were still capable of making entertaining movies - Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were both worth watching for the laughs alone - but nothing was memorable to me. Given that I thought the first Captain America movie was faithful to the comics but a tad bland, I was hopeful, but not optimistic, in regards to the sequel. My hopes were surpassed when the movie exceeded all of my highest expectations.
Let's start with the cast; Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, The Falcon, Maria Hill, Sharon Carter, the Winter Soldier, and even Batroc the Leaper all make appearances. What's more, each and every character is given ample screen time and development, without stealing time away from anyone else. The acting is superb, and Chris Evans in particular does a great job portraying a brilliant fighter and strategist who worries whether or not he's fighting for the right side. The stakes are high enough to bring mountains of tension to the plot, and it's the only Marvel movie in recent memory that ends with long-term ramifications for the Marvel Universe as a whole.
The action scenes are some of the best Marvel have ever done. Falcon's aerial manoeuvres are impressive and Nick Fury's encounter with HYDRA agents early on was gripping, but the Winter Soldier himself beats them all. Every fight with him is excellently choreographed to highlight the level of skill he operates at, as well as the skill of those fighting against him. It's one of the few uses of shaky-cam that I approve of, because it's actually appropriate for the situation - fast-paced, intense, and constantly on the move.
That's not to say the movie is perfect; the first half adopts the line 'Don't trust anyone,' which around the halfway point becomes 'Don't trust anyone unless you recognize their name from the comics in which case they're unambiguously good guys.' But ultimately, any flaw I could find was so small and unimportant that it couldn't detract from the movie as a whole.
If you don't like Captain America, this movie might change your mind. If you do like Captain America, you owe it to yourself to see the best Captain America movie there's going to be for quite some time.
"The Winter Solider" is effectively one big, prolonged attempt to wrench the Captain America franchise away from the high-flying pulp adventure tones of the first movie and push it towards the more typical "dark and gritty" atmosphere of the other Marvel movies. Good-bye, Nazis with laser beams. Hello, heavy-handed 9/11 imagery.
We could go back and forth on the merits of that all day, but the bigger point is that the movie just doesn't do it very well. For all the gunfire and bombs, all the collapsing buildings and ruined cityscapes, all the so-called political intrigue and talk of "freedom versus security" in a world that moves in shades of gray, the movie is actually incredibly black-and-white. Despite how much the characters SAY that you can't trust anyone, the good guys turn out to be exactly who you'd think they'd be and the bad guys turn out to be unambiguously bad. What we're told is completely contrary to what we're shown, and what we're shown is actually a world where everyone is either cartoonishly good or cartoonishly evil. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with that approach, and it worked perfectly well in the first movie, which was deliberately cheesy and overblown, but here, in this one, it completely contradicts the entire mood the film is clearly trying to build.
The one genuinely "gray" thing in the movie, one of its final story beats which I won't repeat here for the sake of spoilers, is glossed over incredibly quickly and carries absolutely no consequences for the heroes even though it obviously should have. Logically, it SHOULD have gotten hundreds of innocent people killed, and it SHOULD have gotten the heroes locked up or executed as a result, and if the movie was actually true its message of moral ambiguity, it would have relished the opportunity to explore these facts — to show that in today's world, there's no such thing as a perfect answer and so such thing as an easy way out. Instead, easy ways out are all we ever get, and the heroes walk away pristine and unsullied. It's proof that the movie's political backdrop really was just a flimsy backdrop, nothing more than an excuse to make all the gratuitous booms and bangs and action set pieces happen rather than a genuinely thoughtful piece of insight.
I'm going to start this off by saying I'm very glad the Russos (who direct the delightful, character-driven Community, in whom I have absolute faith they will do characterization justice) are back to direct Cap 3, because what they have done with this film is very, very good.
The film's strongest point really is the characters. I was clapping in my seat because of how well-written Steve, Sam, and Natasha are. Their character arcs within this film are clear, and heartwrenching, and really just make you want more — Steve as the torn cultural icon, Natasha as the self-loyalist, glib veteran, Sam as the strong point of normalcy. Steve's dynamics with both of them flow very smoothly, and all three of them grow from it. Sebastian Stan as Bucky is excellent. The childish repetition of "I knew him" as a lifeline — wow. Hill and Fury are great, too.
I think the political thriller/espionage angle worked very well - because you cannot define Steve without politics, not without real-world commentary. It really understood the heart of espionage thrillers. The film's whole message that the dynamics between institutions are not solid but are shifting patterns, that an institution might be awful but the people in it might be — an excellent climax that really shows the MCU's Steve Rogers is more than a boy scout. He's not representing America, he's representing what America could be, and he gives the SHIELD personnel the chance to prove that, too.
What I liked about this movie was that it never tried to compromise emotional punches for speed (yeah, I'm talking to you, Thor 2). There are action scenes that leave you on the edge of your seat but also very well-acted emotional scenes that leave you wanting to curl up. The high production values are also apparent. The fight scenes are very well-choreographed, the Scenery Gorn is stunning.
All in all, this film really takes Phase 2 and pushes it to a whole new level. I'm excited to see where they go with this.
Overall rating: 9/10, for some qualms about the political intricacies that would require spoilers to discuss.
This movie was a real game changer,in more ways than one. Everything in this movie is pushed to the next level. Steve Rogers/Captain America is at his best,having to shift his morality to combat the new threats he is faced with was an interesting element to see, Chris Evans is fantastic. Scarlet Johanson is great as well. Anthony Mackie was a wonderful addition to the story. Samuel Jackson did an awesome job as always,playing the shady yet realistic mentor-like figure to keep Steve Rogers grounded in reality. I disliked nothing about this movie. It was a real game changer.
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