What do we expect from a Captain America movie? A good dose of patriotism, a wistfully lonely hero too earnest for his own good and great action scenes where the world is saved–all these ingredients are there and two bad guys to give us pause: the brooding young Winter Soldier and the older senior leader within SHIELD.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is a sequel to the 2011 “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The first story told us about a sickly 5-foot-4 95-pound weakling from Brooklyn named Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) who is transformed into a superhero after becoming part of an experiment (instead of becoming a jockey or gymnast). Although the movie begins in the present-day, it quickly moves back to a time when things were crystal clear: 1942. Men were men. Women were women. And the enemy was Nazi Germany. Rogers and his best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) meet up with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and form a team to battle HYDRA. They prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction but both Rogers and Bucky are lost. Rogers wakes up in a 1940s style room, but an anachronism alerts him that things are amiss. Rogers flees the room to find himself in our times and learns he’s been asleep for 70 years.
Rogers gets to meet Tony Stark in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” the 2012 movie written and directed by Joss Whedon.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is about Rogers by himself two years after the events of “The Avengers” movie. Tony Stark is mentioned but doesn’t appear. Now we look at how Rogers deals with being a 90-something that looks like he’s still in his 20s (Evans is actually 32). Like Highlander Connor McLeod, he has the unfortunate fate of seeing his loved ones grow old. His flame from the 1940s, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) founded SHIELD, but she’s old and dying.
While some people like the Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) deal with PTSD, Rogers has survivor guilt. His best friend Bucky died…or did he? Or does anyone really die in the Marvel Universe? (Remember Agent Colson “died” in “The Avengers”).
The queen or at least superheroine of murky ideology, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) is on board and works with Rogers to save a vessel that has been boarded by Algerian pirates. He soon learns that the Black Widow and he have different missions and back at SHIELD headquarters Nick Fury lets him in an a secret “Project Insight.”
Rogers is now dealing with the new war concepts like pre-emptive strikes carried to the extreme. Why wait until someone even thinks about doing bad stuff–check out their DNA and do them in before they can do anything wrong. What Rogers doesn’t know if Fury is unable to access the intel Romanoff brought back. It seems, Fury doesn’t have clearance. Later, in what seems like a case of police profiling–black man in a nice car should be stopped, Fury is accosted by police, resulting in a car-crashing high speed chase (where high tech is mocked).
Fury breaks into Rogers apartment, and is killed by the mysterious metal-armed Winter Soldier. But is he really dead? Rogers attempts to capture the assailant only to learn his neighbor, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) the one Romanoff was trying to set him up with, is a SHIELD agent. When Rogers is asked by World Security Council member and senior leader of SHIELD Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) about his encounter with Fury, Rogers doesn’t reveal all and suddenly Rogers is also a wanted man. Luckily, Romanoff is used to playing double, triple agent and teams up with Rogers as they find shelter with Sam Wilson. They help Wilson become Falcon with a bit of larceny. Wilson might not be superhuman, but in this script he can roll on the pavement at high speeds in short sleeves without any road rash. Realism in the Marvel Universe only goes so far.
Hitler may be dead (and in this case, I think he’s really dead), but Rogers finds himself battling the remnants of the Nazi regime in HYDRA and comes face to face with another near immortal–The Winter Soldier.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” sets up future stories with romantic pathways and builds on the emotional journey of both Rogers and Bucky. Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo get real up close and personal with plenty of head shots, particularly in profile of the angst-ridden Evans as Rogers and the smoldering angry at everything lost child (Stan). Since Captain America is everyone’s straight man, most of the humor (script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) comes from problems with technology and the expected cameo appearance of Stan Lee.
The movie is fun and gives you patriotism with plenty of old-fashioned values. That makes this a family film if you don’t mind the millions of unseen casualties and mass destruction of cities, but then if you did, you wouldn’t be interested in super heroes at all. Of course, you have to stay for the credits, otherwise how will you know what’s coming next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?