Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier in Theaters Now

I wanted to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13, 136 minutes) immediately when it came out, but life with children being what it is, I had to put it off for a bit. I might not have gotten to see it even as soon as I did if not for the fact that I was told I couldn't continue to watch one of my favorite TV shows (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) if I didn't watch the movie first; the show ties into the movie so well. So, my husband and I made the time to see it. It's probably too late now to warn you, but if you are a fan of the Marvel movies and the show, you should have watched the movie the first weekend it came out (April 4), before the April 8 episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fortunately, I watch the show online on regular hulu and had to wait a week anyway, so it wasn't a problem to wait a few more days, see the movie, and then watch the TV episode. Awesome tie-in episode. (SPOILER alert!) This latest Marvel movie has really changed the whole show: characters, settings, relationships. What has thus far been a pretty stable, no-rocking-the-boat, episodic kind of show has been flipped on its head in a fairly dramatic way. Some of the trappings will still be there, but there's going to be major fallout for some time to come, I think. It's pretty cool to see a movie and a show work together like that.

As for the movie itself, I liked it. I'd been warned it was a bit dark for Captain America, but being a big fan of Batman Begins and the Dark Knight movies, I wasn't bothered by that. (Possible minor SPOILERS ahead.) The short of the plot is that Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) find themselves in the suddenly-not-so-friendly cross hairs of the very agency they work for, and they have to go on the run while also putting together a plan to fight back. Meanwhile, in the minor subplot that gives the movie its name, Rogers's old friend from his pre-Captain days, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), is alive and has it in for Captain America. I call it a subplot because that's not what the movie is about, but it's a nice subplot that gives even more depth to our hero as he continues to mourn the loss of his past and tries to find meaning and purpose in the future he's found himself in. (End Spoilers.)

Chris Evans continues to be great as Captain America in this sequel which also ties in nicely to his first solo movie. He's super serious, but he also has a comic side. Let me just say this: elevator scene! He continues to be a sensitive guy, but this movie is darker thematically and emotionally because he doesn't know whom to trust. He cares about people, but he doesn't know who deserves his care anymore.

Scarlett Johansson is a fabulous Black Widow. (Just to be clear, though, I only know her character from the movies. I'm not familiar with the comic book world.) Everyone always says that Hollywood can't seem to get its female superheroes right and that a movie with one as its titular character would not go off well. However, I think they got it right this time, or at least Johansson got it right. She pulls off a character who has multiple layers, is sympathetic but can kick butt, and who has the prerequisite looks but doesn't need them to make her character. If my memory is correct, after she starts off the movie in a black combat suit (which inspired thoughts of whom I could be for next Halloween--after all, my name is Natasha, and I already have red hair!), she spends the rest of the movie in normal, modest civilian clothes and ends up doing a fight scene in a matronly dress suit. I think she could carry her own movie.

Samuel L. Jackson is, as usual, entertaining as Nick Fury, and he gets his own scenes, for once! And Anthony Mackie, as the Falcon, is a great addition to Black Widow and Captain America's team. He's funny but sincere and provides a nice counterbalance to Rogers's darker side in this movie.

Altogether, The Winter Soldier is a nice mix of funny and serious, of fight scenes and relationship dynamics (though practically no romance!). I enjoyed it, but at the same time, I don't need to see it again. Though there are a few memorable parts, I didn't find it so memorable as a whole, and it didn't grab me emotionally. But I wasn't looking for that. On the other hand, some said it ran too long, and I didn't feel that either. I simply enjoyed it. It's a nice piece of the Marvel universe puzzle, but what I'm really looking forward to is the next installment of the Avengers because I think the team dynamics are some of the best of what Marvel offers.

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