I feel that I would be remiss in my inauspicious return to the world of Garbled, if I didn’t start off with a summer blockbuster. As it just so happens, that ‘blockbuster’ turned out to be Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A film that I quite honestly, was not over the moon to see when I first heard it announced. My thoughts on the first installment were unapologetic-ally lukewarm. (Read my review for Captain America: The First Avenger in the archives)
However that being said, I am very pleased to inform my fellow geeks that I was extremely impressed with Caps second outing. While I felt that the first Cap film was far and away the Ringo of Phase One, The Winter Soldier can proudly hold its head up high amongst the pantheon of the undeniably superior roster of Phase Two. So without further adieu, let’s begin shall we?
We first revisit the Sentinel of Liberty an indeterminate amount of time since the events in The Avengers (but we can only assume that it’s been roughly the same amount of time as Iron Man 3 & Thor: The Dark World). It was great to see some time pass in Cap’s world before haphazardly jumping into another adventure. I really felt this allowed for the afterglow to fade between Captain America and his colleagues. As a man of out time, Steve Rogers spends his time training and getting acclimated to a new millennium. While running laps around the reflecting pond in Washington D.C., Cap runs into a fellow war vet by the name of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) whose also trying to get used to civilian life. The two have finally begun to trade war stories when our favorite saucy ex-Soviet super spy, The Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) arrives to retrieve Cap for a secret mission. A mission assigned to them by the uber-spy extraordinaire, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) During the mission, Cap discovers that there was another agenda behind it the whole time, a fact that he’s none to happy about.
I have to say that the thing I loved the most about The Winter Soldier was how much darker and cynical the filmmakers made Captain America / Steve Rogers this time around. In the time since The Avengers, it seems that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working overtime in order to secure the world’s ‘safety’ and putting Cap to work non-stop in a big bad way. Unfortunately, the only one that seems to take issue with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s methods is Cap.
Allow me if you will, to geek out for a moment. I have to admit that watching Captain America not even try to fit his square peg sensibilities in a round world reality, was actually refreshing to watch. Sure he knows that he has to adapt but to still remain resolute with his core morals is what makes him not only a superhero but a leader worth following. In this outing especially, Cap has gone from the antiquated WWII propaganda poster boy to an ass-kicking / name-taking albeit heroically non-lethal Jason Bourne with an unbreakable shield. I didn’t think it could be done but DAMNIT, The Winter Soldier found a way to make Cap relevant. Thanks in no small part to expert directing, solid storytelling and an impressive cast.
I have a feeling that the first thing that most fans will notice about this film is the scope of this tale. I’d dare say that Winter Soldier is closer to an Avengers scale action romp. This film, like most superhero sequels, is able to hit the ground running unencumbered, without having to schlep through miles of obligatory backstory. For instance, instead of only hearing about top-secret covert missions, you actually get to see them unfold. Instead of inferring at the magnitude and majesty of the juggernaut of espionage that is S.H.I.E.L.D., we as the viewing audience get to see an underground fortress that Dr. Evil himself would unleash sharks with friggin laser beams attached to their heads after you to get one of his very own. Trust me, the action set pieces are a true fanboys pleasure to behold. (**Note to the G.I. Joe franchise** – Do yourselves a favor and watch the Winter Soldier at least a half dozen times before you bastardize my childhood any further. You could learn a few things.) Watching Team America (Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon & Fury) take on, not one, but three heli-carriers guaranteed to even the most strident of geekboy skeptics nerdgasms.
Speaking of Team America, let me spend some time praising the new kid on the block Sam Wilson aka Falcon. Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Pain & Gain) embodies the character with a self-assuredness and sense of identity that immediately separates him from the cape carrying sidekick crew. The film also gives Black Widow something to do aside from backflips and looking good in a leather catsuit. (Although she still does that just fine) Speaking of sidekicks, Sebastian Stan also reprises his role as Bucky Barnes, although it’s a bit more lets just say…disgruntled.
In conclusion, if you have enjoyed Marvel’s Phase Two rollout thus far, then you’ll be more than thrilled with The Winter Soldier. (Be sure, to stick around for the post-credits easter eggs) Time and again Marvel has impressed me with not only convincing but compelling characters and performances that just so happen to be married up with knock-your-socks-off actions set pieces.
P.S. – DC-slash-Warner Brothers, you really need to on the ball because the House that Stan built is leaving you in the dust. More and more, it’s looking like the Justice League film (ahem) I mean, Man of Steel 2 is just a mad dash to try to save some face. Now, just don’t let Guardians of the Galaxy fail and Phase Two will have a undefeated track record. Till next time folks. Get your geek on.