PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers lives in Washington, D.C., continues to work for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and struggles to adapt to contemporary society. After meeting and befriending former Pararescue war veteran and PTSD counselor Sam Wilson on a morning jog, Rogers is called to help save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Algerian pirates led by Georges Batroc. Aboard, he discovers fellow agent Natasha Romanoff extracting data from the ship’s computers, something Rogers was not briefed on. At S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Nick Fury introduces Rogers to Project Insight; three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites and designed to preemptively eliminate threats.
Due to heightened encryption, Fury is unable to access the data Romanoff recovered. On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, he is ambushed by assailants disguised as police officers, led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes, sneaks into Rogers’ apartment, and informs Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. After Fury hands Rogers the USB flash drive with the data from the ship, he is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Rogers gives chase, and his neighbor reveals herself as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent 13. Fury appears to die in surgery, and Hill recovers the body.
The next day, Rogers is summoned by senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by the agency, Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover an old S.H.I.E.L.D. underground base in New Jersey. There, they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola, who reveals that since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, HYDRA secretly operated within its ranks, sowing chaos across the world in the hope that humanity would willingly surrender its freedom in exchange for safety. Rogers and Romanoff narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker.
They enlist the help of Wilson, and acquire his old “Falcon” winged-flight exoskeleton. After deducing that senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is with HYDRA, they interrogate him until he reveals Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future opponents to HYDRA’s plans. The new helicarriers will sweep the country, eliminating these individuals with their satellite-guided guns.
En route to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, they are ambushed by the Winter Soldier. In the fight, Winter Soldier loses his mask and Rogers recognizes him as Bucky, his old World War II comrade. They are captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. but are rescued by a disguised Hill. She leads them to a hideout where they discover Fury is alive and planning a mission to prevent Pierce from launching Project Insight by replacing a chip within each Helicarrier to override their satellite control.
After members of the World Security Council arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Pierce holds them hostage and reveals HYDRA’s true motives. Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controllers, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and confronts Rogers at the third. They fight, with Rogers trying to revive Bucky’s memories. Meanwhile, Fury and Romanoff confront Pierce and force him to unlock access to S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so Romanoff can expose HYDRA’s motives to the public by leaking classified information. After a brief conflict, Fury shoots Pierce dead. Aboard the third Helicarrier, a wounded Rogers replaces the final controller, allowing Hill to override the satellite operation and have all three vessels destroy one another. The Helicarrier carrying Rogers and the Winter Soldier crashes into the side of the Triskelion, where Wilson battles compromised agent Rumlow, who had earlier tried to capture Rogers.
Rogers falls off the vessel into the river. Slowly remembering his past, the Winter Soldier pulls Rogers from the water before disappearing. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Fury destroys the last traces of his identity before heading to Europe in pursuit of HYDRA’s remaining cells under the cover of his apparent death. Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and later gives Rogers a dossier on the Winter Soldier program. Both Rogers and Wilson decide to track down the Winter Soldier.
A mid-credits scene takes place in a HYDRA lab, where Baron von Strucker is keeping Loki’s scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution to learn of his past.
The day has finally arrived, my most anticipated film of 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has arrived…and with great fanfare! I loved Captain America: The First Avenger, partially because of the era in which it was set in and partly because it was just an entertaining film. I’ve been wondering how this would be able to follow that up, especially with it being in modern times.
What is this about?
Extending the saga of Marvel’s The Avengers, this superhero sequel finds Steve Rogers living quietly in Washington but growing increasingly restless. So when a deadly new foe surfaces, he transforms into Captain America and allies with Black Widow.
What did I like?
Bucking the trend. Have you noticed with most of the superhero films of late that the heroes have been doing all they can to not be the heroes they are anymore? Batman, Iron Man, Kick-Ass, Hellboy, Green Lantern, and most recently Superman have had this identity crisis. Thor seems to be the only one immune, but he has his own other issues to deal with. With Captain America, a guy who went through hell and back just to try to be able to enlist in the Army, being a super soldier is his dream. Cap’s issue is that his ideals don’t fit in with today’s world. As someone who is often told they belong in another time, I relate. Thank goodness, the writers were smart enough to realize that Captain America is above self-doubt, although he does have his doubts about the organization he works for.
Action. Man, oh man! The action we’ve all be clamoring for in these comic book films we finally get in this one. Captain America kicks all sorts of ass, and in different ways. In the first fight he has with Batroc the Leaper, played by MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre, we see Cap utilize some brawling, boxing, kickboxing, parkour, and martial arts moves. That is nothing compared to the elevator scene, the car chase involving Nick Fury, or the many other fights, chases, and other actions scenes that we get throughout the film.
True to character. Regardless of what you may think of these directors, who are best known for directing episodes of Community, you can’t deny that their devotion to this character paid off. Yes, this is a darker film than the previous film, but not so much that it changes who the character is. The Dark Knight was a game changer for superhero films (and is still highly overrated), yes, but it should not be the gold standard by which all comic book movies are held. As the Marvel films have proven, it is possible to be true to the character, tell a great story, and have some fun along the way. As proven with Man of Steel, DC hasn’t figured this out yet, and the one time they did, Green Lantern, they just didn’t have a good enough story. Back to my point, Captain America is not some dark, brooding anti-hero. He is a soldier, not a boy scout, but from a different time, and because of this, he needs to be written with that in mind, a tidbit that lends itself to some light moments, such as Black Widow spending the whole film trying to find him a date (not really sure why she wasn’t available).
Falcon. Introducing new characters can be a good or bad thing, especially when that character is one that had they adhered strictly to the original comic design is…well, it just wouldn’t have worked. I have to hand it to Anthony Mackie, he brought it as a sort of comic relief to the more stoic and serious Captain America, but more importantly, the revamped backstory he was given worked. A paratrooper that was given these experimental wings and he was able to fight as he said, “…same as Cap…only slower.”
Nefarious. I have to say, this plot that HYDRA comes up with is about as evil as one can be. I’m not going to explain all the intricate details, just know that the return of Dr. Zola (sort of in the form that he is known for in the comics) leads to the audience getting the full scoop on what the plan is. The short version is that the evil organization, HYDRA has infiltrated and taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. and is now planning on using three satellite controlled helicarriers armed to the teeth to destroy anyone that doesn’t fit their ideal mold for what they think is the superior man. Sound familiar? Well, they were created under the Nazi regime by the Red Skull, remember? Maybe I’ve played too much Assassin’s Creed, but these guys sound a little bit like Templars, too.
What didn’t I like?
Theme. Alan Silvestri did not return to compose the score for this film due to other commitments. His replacement doesn’t really do it for me, but I’m not sure that’s his fault. You see, in the original film, Captain America is given a very heroic theme song, and it could very well have worked with the film. They do use it in the opening scene when Cap is jogging and passing the man who would become Falcon. For me, the music works, but I feel there were moments when the heroic “Captain America March” would have serves much better than the current score, which doesn’t deliver until the credits roll.
She’s back? When they announced the initial casting for this film, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter wasn’t said to be returning. I won’t spoil anything about her return except saying that it is a bittersweet. On one hand, she is one of the few friends Cap has and may very well be his only friend from the old days. On the other hand, there is a disease that afflicts her that breaks you heart when you see it happen to her. At least they didn’t go the Captain America route and kill her so they can replace her with her niece, who actually plays a somewhat major role in this film (and perhaps the future?)
Winter Soldier. The supposed primary antagonist isn’t given much screentime. At least not enough to justify getting such heavy billing. This is really a shame, as Winter Soldier is a great character. The storyline in which he is introduced has been considered one of the greatest in comics, and yet the film doesn’t allow him to develop into more than the brainwashed shell of a man that he is, while seemingly focusing entirely on Robert Redford’s character. I would’ve liked a different mixture amongst the antagonists and more fights between Cap and Winter Soldier. They do seem to be evenly matched, after all.
I have yet to read a bad review or hear any negative press about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, except for one article that was Yahoo earlier this week, but that guy came off sounding as more of a hater than anything else. This is one of those few films that manages to live up to the hype. While this may be a superhero film, it also is a sophisticated action spy thriller, but with bits of comedy thrown in there for good measure. This has set the bar pretty high for the rest of the films to be released this year (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy), but what a ride it was. I can’t wait to watch it again and hope you rush out and check it out. This is not a film you should be waiting around for it to be released on DVD, so quit reading my random musings and go see it now!
On a side note…look for a certain homage to another Samuel L. Jackson character near the end of the film.
5 out of 5 stars