Marvel Studios is in the middle of an impressive run. They just keep churning out fun, enjoyable movies. I may like some more than others, but I always have a good time. I can't think of a franchise that I like to sit down and casually watch more than the Marvel cinematic universe. One of the greatest surprises from this universe was Captain America: The First Avenger. The first film caught me off guard and was really enjoyable. From his debut through The Avengers, Chris Evans has taken ownership of the character.
Now is where things get tough. We've seen the World War II story. We've seen him lead the Avengers. Now we get to see if Captain America can carry a solo story set in modern times. Who is this Winter Soldier, and is he a match for our hero?
Warning: this is a spoiler filled recap of Captain America: The Winter soldier. If you haven't seen the movie yet, turn back now.
Of course, my set up and expectations going into the movie were all completely false. This isn’t really a Captain America solo story. It's a S.H.E.I.L.D. story with Captain America at the center of it. It's just as much about Nick Fury, Black Widow, and the S.H.E.I.L.D. organization. This is one of the strengths of the Marvel cinematic universe, it doesn't have to rely on a single character; the creators can mix and match them as much as they like. They should know, it's been working it's for decades in the comics.
I think the usage of the Winter Soldier was genius. The weird part about seeing these movies as a comic's fan is that you already know some of the twists before the movie starts. My wife was blown away by Harvey Dent's plot line in The Dark Knight. I knew better. I know Cap would be blown away to find out that the newest enemy was his old pal Bucky, but it turns out that didn't matter. The Winter Soldier was really a red herring. The real villain was the suspiciously cast Robert Redford. The real villain was Hydra. It was Hydra all along.
And so we see the genius of the Marvel cinematic universe unfolding. We smile as Gary Shandling shows up again, last seen as a senator and Iron Man 2, only to find out that he's Hydra! For all we know, the seeds been planted for years. We just weren't able to see them.
The movie kept bringing the twists and turns. Just when we think we know what’s going on, someone turns out to be a hydra agent. I’m beginning to doubt that Marvel feels many limitations in what it will try to work into their movies. Heck, Dr. Zola made a comeback in a sea of data tapes. I will admit, I was just waiting for Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to remove his face to reveal that he was really the Red Skull. It would've fit so cleanly. Sure, we have to learn how he found his way back to Earth after falling through a wormhole, but that's not so difficult in these movies, is it?
I found this movie really satisfying. I felt like all of our main characters were treated rather well. It was good to see Nick Fury in action. That car chase was exciting and fun. Black Widow became increasingly interesting character. We get so many great interactions between her and Cap. Speaking of Cap, Steve Rogers turned out to be a fine reluctant spy. If anyone was shortchanged, I think it was Anthony Mackie as The Falcon. Granted, I don't really know the character very well, so not really sure what more I could expect. I thought he was much more interesting as a vet helping his fellow soldiers return home then as a guy with wings and a jet pack. He’s a great modern equivalent to our 95 year old hero.
For all that I enjoyed, I have doubts that Marvel will stand by the decision to dismantle S.H.E.I.L.D. By now, they’ve earned plenty of slack. It just seems that they have invested so much in the name of the organization (like a TV series). I really want there to be some repercussions for these actions. I’ve grown accustomed to these movies being popcorn fun that isn’t always substantial. Suits, problems, and cities can feel disposable in this universe. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the movie, but the consequences don’t carry much weight. We know Iron Man isn’t gone after Iron Man 3. Nobody stays dead. I know, I know, this works in the comics; but in the comics Bucky stayed dead for decades. All I’m saying is that I have doubts that S.H.E.I.L.D. is gone for long. I look forward to Marvel Studios proving me wrong.
In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best from Marvel Studios. Fans old and new were treated to an accessible story that paid plenty of service to long-time fans. The characters we have come to love are treated well, and the action was great. We’ve been given a great summer blockbuster that was a heck of a lot of fun. We can debate whether or not these movies are substantial enough (or should be), but I am pleased that Marvel Studios keeps delivering some of the most fun you can have at the multiplex.