Friday, April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review - All American Awesome

Let's not lie to ourselves, people. America just isn't as popular as it used to be. The days of the all-American patriot has been replaced by a shitty Congress, two failed wars, Fox News, and reality TV shows. Mention America in some parts of the world and often the response will be along the lines of, "America? You mean that crazy country that contains five percent of the population, consumes 25 percent of the resources, and elected George W. Bush twice?" It's just way too easy to be overly cynical. Whenever someone claims to be all American these days, it's only a matter of time before that person starts with the gay-bashing, xenophobic, holier-than-thou bullshit. But there is still one American icon who can say he's an all-American hero without sounding like a douche-bag. And his name is Captain fucking America.

Feeling patriotic yet?
This is just one of the many reasons I was more excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier than I was for any other comic book movie since Avengers. I've got nothing against Iron Man or Thor. They're awesome in their own right. But one of them is a womanizing drunk and the other one is a cocky demigod who gets to soak Natalie Portman's panties. That doesn't really make me feel patriotic. That just makes me feel inadequate. But Captain America is more than just a pretty boy. He embodies the most awesome qualities about America. The shit that gets Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs horny are all perfectly conveyed in Steve Rogers, minus the gay-bashing and racism. The ideals of America may be more corny than a re-run of Leave It To Beaver. Truth, justice, law, and freedom seem like good talking points or the title of a Country music album. But Steve Rogers doesn't just believe in this shit. He actually fights for it. And he fights in some pretty badass ways.

Now the first Captain America movie had a pretty basic fight. All those beautiful American ideals were under attack by the Red Skull, Hydra, and the Nazis. It's impossible to get more anti-American than this without taking a shit in an apple pie. That movie did a great job of showing why Steve Rogers embodies everything that's awesome about America. Plus, he beat the shit out of Nazis. It's hard for a movie to be awesome that doesn't involve beating the shit out of Nazis. But the enemy in Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn't as clear cut. And even though it says Winter Soldier in the title, he's not the villain here. This whole movie is basically built around making Captain America fight for all the ideals of America, even if it means getting his ass kicked. It's a different kind of movie and a different kind of threat. But the way it's presented is every bit as awesome.

Feeling patriotic now?
I'll start off by just coming out and saying it. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is fucking awesome. Of all the Phase 2 Marvel movies that have hit the theaters, this is the best. However, it's not better by much. Anyone who enjoyed Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World will probably enjoy this movie for the same reasons. But what sets Captain America: The Winter Soldier apart is the bigger picture. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World only had a limited impact. They affected mostly the characters around them. What happened in those movies isn't really felt by the larger Marvel MCU. But what happens in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is something that will be felt by damn near everyone that isn't in outer fucking space. And maybe that's why the next movie in Phase 2 is Guardians of the Galaxy. Without reading from the whole damn script, what happens in this movie basically undermines everything Captain America, SHIELD, Nick Fury, and the Avengers have done to protect the world. It's like being the only Giants fan in cage with 100 deranged Eagles fans tripping balls on meth.

Despite what the title says, the big enemy here isn't the Winter Soldier. In fact, he might as well be one of Kanye West's pit bulls. He's really nothing more than muscle. Granted, he's a badass, tough, ass-kicking muscle that gives Cap a fight every bit as tough as the Red Skull. But it's the assholes pulling his strings that are the real bastards. And in a revelation that shouldn't count as a spoiler to anyone who knows anything about Marvel comics in any capacity, Hydra is the one who tied those strings. That whole "cut off one head and two more take its place" isn't just a long-winded battle cry. It actually still applies here. But they've actually stepped up their game compared to the first Captain America movie. They're now working smarter and not harder. And that's where the big theme for Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes in.

Still not as evil as Nazis.
Captain America came from an era where the line between good and evil was very clear. America is good. Nazis are evil. It's so simple that it could be explained with a beer and cockroach. A lot of Cap's morals and ideals were forged in the World War II era. But in The Winter Solder, he's in a very different era with very different threats. The line between good and evil is really blurry. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. And as we saw in Iron Man 3, it's way too fucking easy to manipulate people into following some deranged sociopath who might just be a drunk. Hydra takes full advantage of this. It's even stated outright. When they try to take someone's freedom away, they fight back. So it's just much easier to convince them to give that freedom up. That saves them the trouble of building big ass war planes and bombing the shit out of major cities. It's probably not as fun and way more tedious, but it fucking works.

It may sound pretty fucked up, but is it really? We live in an era where basic human rights like privacy, freedom of association, and shooting a gun at an empty beer can for shits and giggles are being pissed on every day. Ask any minority who has ever been caught smoking weed how much their freedoms are valued. They'll probably tell America to fuck off and even Captain America couldn't blame them. He basically sees how SHIELD is now starting to operate in ways that the NSA only wishes they could operate. They're trying to basically create weapons so effective that they can kill anybody they want who just might be a threat. Never mind this bullshit about habeus corpus, getting a warrant, or innocent until proven guilty. After Loki launches an alien invasion, that's reason enough to shit all over the constitution. Some might call that an overreaction. I just call that too many people shitting themselves in terror at once.

At times, it seems SHIELD is the enemy. But SHIELD is not the enemy here. Hydra is the enemy. They're just an enemy that's a lot tougher to fight. That's why most of the action in The Winter Soldier involves running, sneaking, and general spy shit. It doesn't have the same class as James Bond and it shouldn't. Steve Rogers isn't some womanizing, smart-mouth drunk in a fancy suit. He's Captain fucking America. Even a few flirtations with Black Widow can't keep him from his mission to stop Hydra and save the ideal that is America. Let me say that again. Even flirtations from Scarlett Johannsen in a Black Widow costume can't distract this guy from his mission.

Suck it, James Bond!
Now this may be disappointing to some. In the first Captain America movie, there were plenty of romantic overtones and sub-plots with him and Agent Carter. And there are a few hints of that between Cap and Black Widow in this movie. But not much comes from it. All of those sub-plots are secondary for the most part. Black Widow is basically an ally and one of the few Captain America has. This actually might be better for her because it makes Black Widow much more than just a romantic interest. She demonstrates just how different she is from Captain America. She's a spy who lives in a world of lies. But in the end, she has to basically take a page from Cap's playbook and embrace the truth. And when a beautiful woman like Black Widow embraces the truth, that just makes her even sexier.

As if she needed it.
It's a nice and welcome change of pace from Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, which relied heavily on romantic sub-plots. This didn't have that. This just had Captain America teaming up with Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and his new buddy Falcon to take down Hydra before they could turn SHIELD against them. It's exciting, action-packed, explosive, sexy, and engaging. Every battle and every explosion is very well-done and nicely organized. Shit just doesn't randomly blow up Michael Bay style. And it's no over-the-top fighting on the level of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's the kind of action that feels perfectly appropriate for a comic book movie and more than fitting for a battle with Captain America.

That said, the movie isn't without its flaws. The scale is epic and the battles are awesome. But at times, the plot does drag. It mostly happens in the early parts of the movie, but it quickly picks up. In addition, Winter Soldier is really under-developed. He has some nice moments, but they're all quite lacking. He's not nearly as bad as Malaceth in Thor 2 or the Mandarin in Iron Man, but his impact on the story really is secondary to Hydra. He mostly serves as an extra source of emotion for Captain America and that emotion really doesn't resonate that well in the end.

But the flaws in this movie are too few and easily overshadowed by all the shit it does right. The story isn't as basic as the first Captain America movie. It shows an evolution of the plot and an evolution of the threats the Marvel movieverse is dealing with. And like every other Marvel movie to date, there is a post-credits scene that sets up Age of Ultron. However, I didn't find it all that mind-blowing. I might have just been too sober. But if anyone had to leave early, don't feel bad. Not much was missed.

So where does Captain America: The Winter Soldier rank in Marvel's already impressive library of awesome movies? Well, it's not better than Avengers. That bar is simply way too fucking high. And in some ways it's not better than the first Captain America movie or the first Iron Man movie for that matter. But it's a movie that definitely deserves to be in the conversation in terms of Marvel's best work. It took all of the awesome elements that fans of the previous movies have come to expect and served them with a bottle of whiskey and a plate of bacon. It's as satisfying a movie as anyone could ask for without seeing Scarlett Johannsen in a thong. But she's in a skin-tight outfit a number of times so it's still pretty damn close. I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier an 8 out of 10. See this movie. Embrace your inner patriot. It'll remind us all that America can still be pretty fucking awesome. Nuff said!


  1. You missed the whole point of the movie...renunciation of Progressivism (Hydra)

  2. Hi. I am peruvian and I admire USA, because you have done very good things for the world. Obviously, wrong choses too but you are a nice country.

  3. Only Hawkeye was missing, but he is probably going through some recovery process after been possessed by Loki.

  4. It's a superhero movie that can practically please anybody out there. Especially the diehards. Good review Jack.

  5. I really admire how TWS decided to go with its plots and their continuing impact on the MCU.

  6. Cap might be a pumped up, costumed action hero, but in the hands of the Brothers Russo, he's also just human enough to remain interesting.

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