Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3D / fifth-pass)
Cert: 12A / 136 mins / Dir. Joe Russo & Anthony Russo / Trailer
You've got to feel a bit sorry for ol' Cap. After a cinematic debut in which he was centre-stage, it almost feels like he's been told to stop showing off and play nicely with the other kids. While The Winter Soldier directly references and continues Steve Rogers' story, the inclusion and heavy usage of Black Widow and Nick Fury (characters both introduced elsewhere in the MCU) makes the Captain America sequel feel more like a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie. And given that Civil War seems to be an extension of the Avengers internal-politics, you almost wonder if he'll manage to get that spotlight back again.
But this struggle is also reflected within the story of his second installment. Captain America is no longer the idolised poster-boy of the free; he's a government agent with a shield instead of a briefcase, and has a job to do. Like it or not. Gone are the sepia-infused tales of bravado and derring-do, replaced by retinal scans and a desaturated paranoia. The culture-shock of Steve's rude awakening in the digital age is heightened by new threats which were inconceivable when he first battled a crazed Nazi scientist over the Atlantic ocean (ah, that was a simpler time). Lines are getting blurrier with each mission and danger now comes from within.
And I think it's this tonal-shift that singles out The Winter Soldier unfairly as 'the one which wasn't as good' in general conversation. Not quite as sure of itself as the previous films in the timeline, yet it relies heavily on the audience having watched them. Each victory is more hard-won and painful than the last, raising questions that the characters don't really want answered (because when you can't trust Robert Redford, you're really in trouble). The film also begins and ends in uncertainty, which is anathema for a blockbuster (even one with sequels to follow) and Henry Jackman's Dark Ominous Tones™ contrast sharply with the occasional refrain of Silvestri's soundtrack from the previous outing.
But each corner that's turned and truth revealed brings Steve Rogers nearer to closure; not of his future, but the past which has followed him here. If Rogers can just fix everything, maybe he can start to feel at home. We're not here to watch Captain America win, because the world no longer works that way; we're here to watch him not giving up, and there's a lesson in there for us all.
The Temple of Doom of the MCU, The Winter Soldier is more fun than you remember. It just leaves you exhausted rather than than exhilarated.
Well, Marvel movies, really…
If you can.
It struggles more than most in the canon, but it manages in the end.
The Russo brothers are in charge of Civil War, so we'll find out…
Level 1: Like I said, Mace Windu's in it.
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