[Movie Review] ‘Winter Soldier’ Is Perfect Rival For Captain America
Captain America is back in theaters in the latest chapter from the ever-growing Marvel cinematic universe, a super secret agent adventure that introduces the patriotic hero’s greatest rival.
Captain America is basically the grandfather of Marvel’s vast superhero universe, a man of traditional old school values trapped out of time in the modern tech-ruled world, facing villains with weapons, methodology, and motivations that he cannot comprehend.
While 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger cashed in on this unique origin story by setting the entire first film in the 1940s, when the Captain America comic books actually started in real life, the new sequel places the Steve Rogers of the ’40s firmly in the 21st Century, forcing the man out of time to re-condition his own methods and maybe even his own motivations as well.
In his third outing as the title character, Chris Evans has come a long way from his days at The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films (and even longer since his hilarious early career breakout in the comedy classic Not Another Teen Movie), and his Captain America has also come a long way since we first met him back during World War II.
His first love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) gets a fittingly emotional cameo, reminding us of Cap’s tortured past, but his own inner grappling with the seductive yet dangerous pull of the covert government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is what anchors the story in the present day.
I won’t spoil anymore here, other than to say a familiar voice from the first Captain America movie resurfaces just long enough to announce a major plot twist that will have ramifications throughout the entire Marvel cinematic universe following this film.
Oh, and fans will definitely want to stick around until the very end of the credits to enjoy two bonus scenes that tease next summer’s sequel to The Avengers and the future of The Winter Soldier himself.
University of North Carolina School of Arts alum Anthony Mackie joins the Marvel Universe as Cap’s newest ally, a former military vet with an awesome set of retractable metal wings that strap onto his back, creating an exciting new hero named Falcon. Through out the impressive flying scenes that all but steal the action sequences late in the film, Mackie manages to maintain a grounded performance that the audience can identify with, and often laugh along with too.
Black Widow gets considerably more screen time than any of her previous appearances in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, and Scarlett Johansson is more than ready for her turn at center stage ass kicking.
Sebastian Stan presents Captain America‘s most formidable and equal rival in the genetically enhanced assassin known as The Winter Soldier, a ghost from Rogers’ past that is clearly not going away anytime soon.
Stan makes the most of his limited presence, taking over every scene he appears in during the second half of the movie with alternating Terminator-like terror and an Anakin Skywalker-like humanistic “good side” still lurking beneath.
The moral delima of the film, as spelled out by a perfectly cast Robert Redford (The Sting), is if indeed it is better and more righteous to kill a few million people in order save billions more.
I don’t have to tell you what an old soul like Evans’ Steve Rogers is going to choose when faced with that question, and it’s great to see the Boy Scout of the superhero world go into rogue badass mode against the very forces he believed were working on his side for the good of mankind.
The first half of the movie does not feel much like a typical superhero flick, but rather an amped up secret agent thriller. The brisk pace keeps the action moving, wasting little of the film’s two-hour running time on much existential discussion, instead letting the rock solid stunt and special effects team dazzle with adrenaline-pumping flare.
When Stan’s Winter Soldier first appears out of the smoke on a traffic jammed interstate, he is as hauntingly menacing as his final ghostly appearance, a hint that Captain America may have finally met his match in a sequel that rivals the original.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (rated PG13) is now playing, at The Pioneer in Manteo May 16-22, and at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.