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 The days of the all-American patriot has been replaced by a shitty Congress, two failed wars, Fox News, and reality TV shows.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?|
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?|
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.|
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!|
|As if she needed it.|
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!