Article By: Dan Clark
After a winter that simply would not end the summer movie season could not start soon enough. This year we are getting a jump start with the recent release of Marvel’s latest film Captain America: The Winter Solider.
While the first Captain America took the style and tone of classic serials to craft a Raiders of the Lost Ark esc adventure with a comic book feel, Winter Solider takes the plotline of a Cold War thriller and adds some massive action set pieces. This blend gave the film an element so many comic book movies are missing—an actual story full of well defined character moments. Captain America: The Winter Solider may not be quite the spectacle of The Avengers, however it shows a comic book movie can be more than hollow fanfare entertainment. This may not be the transcended feat of The Dark Knight, but it is by far the best Marvel’s Phase Two has had to offer.
One of the biggest questions going into the Winter Solider was how well directors Anthony and Joe Russo would handle such a massive project. Prior their work has been mostly dedicated to television sitcoms and comedy. Moving from that world to a high budget action blockbuster is a tremendous transition, which they handled with ease.
There appeared to be a minimal learning curve as they crafted some of the most intriguing action set pieces of the Marvel franchise. Each action beat was distinctly different from the last. You had everything from a silent incursion of a pirate controlled ship to a high speed and high caliber car chase in the streets of DC to plethora of hand to hand combat assaults to its immensely thrilling finale. Much of the action is unexpectedly brutal thanks in large part to its main villain.
Many Captain America fans, me included, view The Winter Solider arc as a crowning achievement for the character—one that showed the inner complexities of Steve Rogers like none before. Interesting enough The Winter Solider storyline is mostly a subplot for much of the film. The story picks up after the events of The Avengers as Steve Rogers is attempting to find his place in the world. Although he is currently working for S.H.I.E.L.D., he does not always agree with their and Nick Fury’s tactics. Questions begin to rise over who is really in control, and a mysterious force begins to emerge from the shadows. Rogers and crew soon find themselves the targets of the organization they once pledged their loyalty towards.
What separates Winter Solider from other Marvel proprieties is that it places story and character first. A great example is how right they get the character of Captain America. He is the type of character that can easily become a simple straight-laced do-gooder with little personality. Similar to Mark Waid’s Man out of Time Cap is used an analytical microcosm of American progression since World War Two. There is an element of political commentary on the new American imperialism and that fine line between security and tyranny. It is an interesting perspective when you have someone who can make comparisons to Nazi Germany based on firsthand knowledge. Now, no one would confuse this with the investigative subtext of an Erroll Morris documentary, but it at least attempts to be more than a bland bombastic entertainment.
Captain America is a character that always tries to do the right thing, and instead of adjusting his moral compass they present a scenario where it is nearly impossible to differentiate from right and wrong. Chris Evans has completely proven all his naysayers wrong by this point. He has a supreme understanding for the character and his old-fashioned moral code. Instead of corny he is genuine, instead of dry he has the slight bit of wit, and instead of having a myopic outlook he has an understanding of life’s complexities. The Russo’s slow down the film enough to give way to some authentic character moments. Rogers visiting his past love provided insight to the tragic life he lost. His relationship with Black Widow expanded into something tangible, although there were times where they would force in some levity. A running joke of Black Widow attempting to find Cap a date grew tired rather quickly.
Marvel films have always struggled to create intriguing villains. Besides Tom Hiddleston’s Loki most have been rather forgettable. The Winter Solider is the strong silent type. He is reminiscent of a Terminator or horror villain that is solely focus on a defined target. He is less of a character and more of a force of nature. Even with his limited discourse Winter Solider has quickly become one of Marvel’s more effective villains. From the instant he is introduced his presence amps up the tension of every scene he is in. If anything it could have utilize the character even more.
Captain America: The Winter Solider not only bares little resembles to the first Captain America it breaks away from many of the Marvel tropes. Action does not get in the way of the story but enhances it. At times the plotlines do suffer from being needlessly elaborate, and its mystery creates more questions than answers. Luckily we live in a world where those questions open the door for possibilities later down the line. Those who prefer their movies more contained may take umbrage with this method of storytelling, but Marvel has proven there is a method to their madness. For the first time in a while Marvel appears willing to challenge our expectations. Well Marvel, challenge excepted.