|Captain America. The First Avenger. Steve Rogers. 95 years old, and still sprightly!
In The Winter Soldier, Cap is still unswayable and upright, but there are no longer underlying hints at his being a Mr. Goody-two-shoes. He fights hard to win, not timidly as to not step on any toes. His morality and justness is not a hindrance, but goes hand in hand with his heroism, and Chris Evans, with the help of the makers of this film, finally make that loud and clear. I've never disliked Captain America, but now, finally, the character resonates with me.
Evans is, as always, great in the role. He leads the film with likeable charisma, conviction, and more complexity than ever. A better lead for a better leading character for these movies you could not hope for. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow is very welcome, and fits in perfectly -- right at home whichever franchise she finds herself in. And she just keeps getting more and more complex and deep with each fresh look at her characterization, and it's awesome.
|Who would've thought these two could work together so well? Well... somehow, it's obvious.
Other returning characters include Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who gets to do more than just boss people around this time. His sense of morality (or lack thereof) clashes with Cap's to great results. Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) shows up to help out from time to time -- still waiting on a real character for her.
And then there's the Winter Soldier himself, played again by Sebastian Stan. He is a great antagonist, upping the stakes for Cap for added layers, but this film (in spite of being titled in his honor) does not appear to be his main event. So what, I wonder, will the next film be called? Captain America 3: The Winter Soldier 2?
|"Yikes." And also, "cool!"
The team newbie is the talented Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. He is maybe a little stereotyped as the plucky sidekick with a fun sense of humor but is still a good and helpful addition and will hopefully get some solid development as the Cap stories continue. Emily VanCamp as "Agent 13" didn't get as big a part as I imagined she would, but she'll be back, guaranteed. My favorite addition to the Marvel universe though has to be Frank Grillo as Agent Brock Rumlow -- maybe partially because Grillo is breaking into more mainstream roles (I only recognized him from Warrior) with this cool character, but mostly because he's simply a very, very cool character.
|"The elevator scene" hands down wins coolest, most awesome, scene. And coolest buildup to an action scene. It was a highly anticipated scene for me, and didn't disappoint.
All the scenes between Cap and Natasha. They are almost complete opposites, so they complement each other perfectly. They develop an easy friendship that is very fun to watch -- whether they're joking and flirting, clashing wit, confiding in each other, or just kicking tail side by side. I wish there were more scenes of cheerful banter between those two, and less of a few of those dull scenes. Mostly the ones in which Robert Redford's character holds droll meetings to discuss plot developments. Those scenes also include dull lighting, and no interesting camera work to pep things up; it was as if the directors (Anthony and Joe Russo) felt the same about these scenes as I do. A second viewing should prove them more interesting, but if not, they'll provide a perfect window for snack-fetching.
|Your mouth is moving, but all I can hear is "blah, blah, blah..."
All other action/fight scenes. The elevator scene may be the best, but there are super cool fight scenes everywhere. Action can get dull very fast, but not here -- here it's consistently exciting, and timed perfectly to not overstay welcome. The innovative fighting style of Cap and his companions were fantastically original, awesomely choreographed, and super fun and exciting to watch. Occasionally the tight filming and cutting style let a movement slip by, but mostly it complemented the action very well.
|Added up, I think my favorite scenes total to about four fifths of the movie... so... that's nice.
(Mild spoilers) I'm glad they included the scene with Cap and Agent Carter. Two old folks -- one having been affected by the progression of time and the other not -- reminiscing. It added nothing to the plot, but concluded that loose end sweetly. (End spoilers) And while Winter Soldier was pretty dark and serious compared to other Marvel flicks, and also didn't have any side-splitting "Hulk is destroying Loki like a kid in a temper tantrum" moments, there were plenty of those great witty lines, and slick winking moments that you should always find in a Superhero flick.
|Finding a balance is important. The light side and the dark side should be evenly matched.
You may recall from The First Avenger a problematic climax where Cap crashes the plane in ice, and no number of re-watches inform us of exactly why. That situation was necessary to get Cap where he needed to be -- in the 21st century, and in the status of selfless hero -- but it was contrived. The Winter Soldier, however, gives him more meaningful, more solidly written situations where his selflessness and heroism comes out naturally -- because it's who he is, not who he needs to be. There are still moments of predictability, (what Marvel movie is without them?) but as with the best of Marvel, the storytelling transcends all that, and allows us to have an absolute blast watching our heroes fight against evil for the sake of others. Captain America, I salute you.