When we last saw Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), the scientifically advanced super soldier had been frozen during the Second World War and defrosted in modern day, where he helped sort out the attack from Loki and the Chitauri in The Avengers. Now he’s dealing with a threat that’s much closer to home, when it appears SHIELD, the company he works for, may be a little more corrupt than he anticipated.
So far this year there have been two films that received almost universal praise upon initial release, but which I came to late and was subsequently disappointed. The first was How To Train Your Dragon 2, and this was the second. Neither are anything close to resembling bad films, but nor did they show me anything that I was hoping for, given how much acclaim they’d received. I know it’s not exactly the done thing to review a film purely against the general opinion of it, but I wanted to express my disappointment, especially as I’d heard comparisons to both The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back, so my hopes were raised far higher than they perhaps should have been.OK, like I said, not a bad movie. It’s funny where it needs to be – Cap has a list of things he needs to catch up on, from which Star Wars has been crossed off but he still needs to get to Nirvana and Steve Jobs – and his relationships with both Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha and Anthony Mackie’s Sam were great, possibly improved by the direction of the Russo brothers, who made their names directing comedy with Arrested Development and my beloved Community. There’s great action, from an initial raid on a ship seeing Cap singlehandedly take out a small army in hand-to-hand combat, to the also over-hyped elevator sequence, that would have been a darn site more impressive had I not heard all about it beforehand. There’s possibly a few too many scenes that ostensibly equate to two guys smacking each other around for a few minutes, and I’m getting tired of seeing a giant ship crashing down to the planet’s surface in blockbuster climaxes, so if we could please stop doing that soon, it would be appreciated.So far, I haven’t outright hated a Marvel movie. Some have been mediocre – The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2 – and others have been pretty damn phenomenal – Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and – say what you will – I absolutely love Iron Man 3 and genuinely have never understood the many complaints that films receives. This film sits between those two groups – alongside the Thor movies, I’m still undecided on them. However, Marvel are starting to piss me off with their slate of films looking far into the future, where movies yet to come out are casting a shadow on those just being released. I knew, for example, that there was no possibility of either Captain America or Black Widow dying in this film, because they’re both in the promotional material for The Avengers 2. Similarly, when a main character appears to have died, I folded my arms and said “Nope,” because his contract still includes more movies. I wasn’t necessarily expecting any of these people to be killed off, but when the threat is removed even before the film has hit theatres, that lessens the experience in my eyes. I have no problem with Marvel stating when they have films scheduled to be released, but I don’t think they need to tell us exactly what those films will be and who will definitely be in them until nearer the time.OK, rant over, back to this movie. The usual criticism of Marvel-fare tends to be leveled at the villain, and The Winter Soldier unfortunately suffers the same fate. I knew going in that the eponymous antagonist was somehow supposed to be one of Cap’s allies from the first movie, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember Bucky Barnes at all, even when I went back and saw some clips. He has an interesting look and a cool metal arm, but if it weren’t for the images in this post I’d have already forgotten him. Robert Redford is decent in his role (If you weren’t expecting him to be a villain, shame on you. Plus, watch more movies.) but he doesn’t really stand out. And it was fun seeing Jenny Agutter, reprising her role as a SHIELD councilwoman, kicking some arse late in the movie. If you’re not familiar with Agutter, she’s a bit-player in a lot of British movies, going as far back as The Railway Children. She was also, of course, the nurse in An American Werewolf in London. Anyway, I found it amusing that she got to do some fighting, especially because I’ve most recently seen her playing a nun in Call the Midwife.Sometimes the dialogue was a little lazy and predictable – Coby Smulders, as Nick Fury’s right-hand woman, is at one point tasked with something to do, and requests four hours. Sam Jackson retorts “You have three.” I got the feeling that no matter how much time she requested, she’d have been allowed 75% of it, for no other reason than it makes it seem more urgent and Jackson gets to be both dominating and cool. Speaking of cool, The Falcon, as portrayed by Anthony Mackie’s Sam, a war veteran with a flying suit, was pretty damn awesome. It helps that Mackie is generally a cool dude (seriously, why hasn’t this guy had his own movie yet?) and I hope that any future movies include him too. As in, put him in Avengers 2, even if it’s just so Iron Man can make fun of his wings. It helps that as a character, Captain America isn’t very cool, so by comparison whomever he is stood next to instantly becomes cooler in contrast, but still, it’s Anthony Mackie.So, The Winter Soldier. It was OK, I suppose. Not terrible at all, just not as astounding as everyone kept telling me. I appreciate that it actually had an effect on its own world, so that any future Marvel movies will theoretically have to deal with the events that took place in this one, in a similar way to how the events of The Avengers have continued to be referenced and have repercussions on every movie since. However, in future, if everyone could just calm down when they think a film is better than average, I think it’d work better for everyone. By all means like a movie, just don’t claim it’s the best ever when it’s clearly just a little ahead of the current pack.
Choose Film 7/10