Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Ever since the first Iron Man film, I’ve been a big fan of the relentless stream of films set in the Marvel universe (yes, even the first Thor film). So I was very excited about the latest entry in the series: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now, for me, Captain America isn’t the strongest character in the Marvel canon. He’s a little bit straight-laced for me; a little bit too perfect, and I like my heroes to have flaws. Character flaws make me be able to relate to a protagonist better, because I’ve got flaws coming out of my ears (as well as wax, since one of my flaws is that I don’t clean my ears enough). With Captain America though, I cannot think of a single vice, vulnerability or character defect he has, and that makes me suspect there’s something behind the scenes we don’t know about him that makes up for this. Maybe he likes to burn ants under a magnifying glass in his garden when he’s not doing press ups. Or maybe he has a disturbingly large porn collection under his bed. Either way, he’s just too perfect.
Despite my ambivalence towards Captain A himself, I had high hopes for this film. Regardless of who the lead character is, I’m fascinated the twists and turns that occur in the fantastic world Marvel has established in its films. No, really – Marvel could make a film focussing on the adventures of the guy who paints the toilets in Shield’s headquarters, and I’d still go and see it. So what did I think? Well, I sort of liked it. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I just felt it could have been better. Now, I’ve done a couple of blog posts about films before, but this time (inspired by a friend of mine), I thought I would break my criticism into two camps: Wot I liked, and Wot I felt could be improved (before you get to the colon at the end of this sentence though, you should be aware that there might be one or two spoilers ahead):
Wot I liked:
- There was a really interesting plot here, and I think the film had a very serious point to make behind its glossy action exterior, about the nature of surveillance and whether or nor we are surrendering our freedom willingly. At times, The Winter Soldier played out like one of those great 70s political thrillers, and having Robert Redford (who was awesome, as you would expect), only emphasised this through his pedigree. It was just a shame the film’s potential was suffocated towards the end by the action, which I will come onto later.
- Scarlet Johansson. Great as ever.
- Like a lot of the other Marvel films, this one didn’t take itself too seriously. There were lots of good gags in it, particularly the one about breakfast.
- I thought Anthony Mackie was great as Falcon. In an interview he did recently, he said he was really excited to do the role because he could be a superhero for his kids, and I thought that was pretty sweet. He looked like he was having a great time in this film.
Wot I felt could be improved:
- I wasn’t sure why this was called Captain America: The Winter Solider. The Winter Soldier was only a secondary character in this film, and not really the focus of the story. The film was about project Insight, not The Winter Soldier. You might as well have named the film Captain America: The Notepad Where he Writes Down Stuff, and it would have been just as meaningful.
- I’m not sure it was the right decision to make Captain America the lead character for this film. As I said earlier, Scarlet Johansson was a plus point of this film, but there’s more to it than the fact that she looks rather nice in a leather cat suit. I think this film would have worked much better if her character (Black Widow) was the lead, and Captain America was in support. In fact, in many ways, she was the lead in this film – she is the one who knows more about what is going on, she’s the one closer to Nick Fury, and she’s the one who makes more sacrifices at the end when she has to reveal her past in order to expose Hydra. This film would have been much stronger if it was a Black Widow vehicle, rather than Captain America.
- As interesting as the plot is, everything goes out of the window in the final act. Okay, this is a comic book movie, but the aerial acrobatics and the sheer scale of what happens in the last twenty minutes is just so ridiculous, its no longer possible for the audience to suspend their disbelief. I think the filmmakers wanted to out-do The Avengers with an epic climax, but in the end I think they went too far. This film would have worked better with a more restrained ending, less reliant on guns blazing. Some sort of battle of wits or something.
Anyway, enough of what I think – Captain America, how many stars would you give this film out of five?
Only one!? That’s a bit harsh, Captain. I give it three.