Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier

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.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, Marvel movies, really…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It struggles more than most in the canon, but it manages in the end.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
The Russo brothers are in charge of Civil War, so we'll find out…

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Like I said, Mace Windu's in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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