Winter is Coming

I know the heat is probably still on in your house, and you haven't quite put away your overcoat yet, but summer is here! At least according to Hollywood. It seems like blockbuster action movies are coming out earlier and earlier, so despite the fact that it's not even Tax Day yet, I went out the other night and caught Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I don't have a monolithic view of superhero movies. I enjoy some, and loathe others. The best entries aren't the ones with the best action set-pieces, but the ones that manage to be entertaining in the scenes between those set-pieces. A thousand explosions don't do much good if the conversations the characters have afterwards are actively annoying.

I didn't have high hopes for the first Captain America movie, but turned out to be pleasantly surprised. That said, I wasn't breathless with anticipation for this follow-up. If I wound up seeing it, great, but it was really only a small blip on my movie radar. But then I started hearing some glowing praise from quarters I didn't it expect it from. Word-of-mouth started to build. So when a spare evening came along, I jumped on the opportunity. I don't know if I ever mentioned this in any of the other superhero movie reviews, but I don't care much about the mythology of these stories. If something doesn't match up with how it was presented in the comic book, I don't give a damn. All I ask is that these movies be entertaining and that they make sense internally.

Well, here I am, pleasantly surprised yet again. What a fun movie! Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) now lives in contemporary America, with all the benefits and detriments of modern society. He's becoming increasingly disillusioned with SHIELD, which is amassing more and more information through questionable means, all in the name of security. That's a pretty trendy plotline these days, and not without reason. When it becomes apparent that SHIELD has been infiltrated by HYDRA, the question of who Captain America can trust becomes extremely murky. He's joined in this particular adventure by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and a new friend that comes to be called Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. I don't think it's giving away too much to report that this trio saves the day, but it comes at a high cost; one that will unquestionably ripple throughout the entire Marvel franchise moving forward.

The action scenes are a lot of fun, but like I said, what really makes these movies is what's happening in the quieter moments. Evans is solid, but gets a little lost in the shuffle, considering he's the main character. I do like, however, that Captain America is not the Broody Loner Hero that we've been seeing a lot of lately. He wants to interact with society, and has a much stronger connection to the people around him than Batman or Superman has in a long time. Still, the real standouts in this movie are Johansson and Mackie, both of whom take roles that could easily come off as one-note and flesh them out into relatable, sympathetic characters. Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford also turn into some great supporting performances.

It's not a perfect movie. There's a little bit of Action Movie Cliche Dialogue, and in what has become a standard complaint of mine, too much shakycam. Aside from that, though, it was a thoroughly entertaining film that was well-acted and didn't have a bunch of idiotic plot holes. And when a superhero movie accomplishes that, it counts as a rousing success in my book.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: A-


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