So far, so good for the recent spate of Marvel superhero movies.
They are on a Pixar-esque run. Of course, even Pixar petered out (thank you “Cars 2” [2011, a 4]).
But it’s still clear sailing for Marvel – the second “Captain America” movie is pretty good.
ABOUT THE FILM
For decades, Marvel and DC, were the Ford/Chevy rivals of the comic book business. Devotees of each defended their preferences fervently.
Now DC, despite the success of the “Batman” series and the most recent “Superman, Man of Steel” (2012, a 7), is anxious to enjoy some “Avengers” (2012, an 8) stratosphere success with their corral of superheroes.
And those gears are in motion. On the horizon is a meeting/teaming of Superman and Batman set for May 6, 2016. The “Man of Steel” Superman is back in Henry Cavill as well as the same Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane).
The updating comes with “Batman” (the hubbub over Ben Affleck donning the cape has finally settled down) and a new Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Not to mention DC is beginning to drop in some lower-tier heroes, taking a page from Marvel’s movie universe book.
The still-untitled DC movie also stars Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Other rumors are rampant: Denzel Washington as Green Lantern, Nightwing (Batman’s sidekick) and the villain Doomsday.
The Marvel plan began showcasing less popular characters to great success. After introducing the DC crew above (and certainly some surprises to boot), next will come DC’s version of the Avengers super team, “The Justice League of America.”
Like the Avengers, the JLA was a squad that regularly changed. That movie is penciled in for 2017. That’s pretty far off, but speculation is that, aside from Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, the rest of the League might be Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Flash and, hopefully one of the Movie Man’s few DC favorites, Martian Manhunter.
If they hit and if Marvel’s streak stays alive, forget the Golden Age of comics – nerds will be in the Golden Age of superhero movies.
Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans, who actually starred in two Marvel movies that weren’t mega-hits, as the Human Torch in a pair of “Fantastic Four” movies [2005, a 6] and “Rise of the Silver Surfer” [2007, another 6]) is still trying to adjust to the modern world.
He befriends a man, Sam (Anthony Mackey). Then Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) get put on a mission to stop pirates who have taken a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship at sea. They succeed, and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reports to his boss Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford).
Meanwhile, a mighty killer known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is assassinating powerful folks. When he and Cap meet up, the patriotic hero recognizes his nemesis. The Winter Soldier is under the command of Pierce who has a nefarious plan to keep the world “safe.”
Eventually, Cap gets on the outs with S.H.I.E.L.D. along with Mackey – who also has an alternate guise as the Falcon, a former solider with mechanical equipment that allows him to fly – and the Black Widow.
They figure out that S.H.I.E.L.D. has an enemy infiltration problem, and the gears are in motion for a mass casualty incident that would kill millions of Americans. The good guy trio must stop the infiltrators as well as the relentless Winter Soldier.
Evans is really good as Cap. He’s getting the hang of adjusting to the future in some ways. He has a small notebook where he jots down suggestions from friends (each country’s copy of “The Winter Soldier” movie has a “must-see/-read/-hear list” unique to that nation).
Cap’s biggest problem is the way modern America protects its freedom by taking away individual rights – fortunately, directors Anthony and Joe Russo don’t relentlessly hammer this topic to death. In fact, the movie is exceptionally well made overall, too.
And, unlike last week’s Noah (a 4), “The Winter Soldier” soundtrack is excellent.
Redford is tricky here. Initially, his role is meek, and it looks like he’s out of his element in a superhero movie. But that really changes later.
There are some good action sequences here (but see “What doesn’t work”). Samuel L. Jackson, so good as Fury, gets tangled up with the Winter Soldier, and the initial attack on the ship at sea highlights Cap’s groovy offensive use of his shield.
Finally, the pair of stingers (one at the beginning of the end credits and the other at the very conclusion) is made mainly for True Believers. The first is a hint to what’s coming in the Avengers sequel, “Age of Ultron,” while the other, much more vague, teases “Captain America 3” (due in 2016).
Cap gets on an elevator with a couple of guys. Then it stops and a few more get into the car. And it happens a third time. Cap deduces that all these fellows wish him ill. After a comic book-appropriate wisecrack, there’s a mighty fight in the close quarters of a glass elevator. It’s perfectly done.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK (SPOILER)
The fight scenes go on too long. They all begin great but go on and on. Since the movie is a heinie-testing 136 minutes, a few cuts would’ve been nice.
The plot gets bogged down and is pretty ridiculous in tying the master conspiracy together. Black Widow’s rogue trick near the conclusion seemed like a cheat, somehow.
The Marvel effort of introducing so many characters gets pushed a little here with the cameo appearance of Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp). She’ll likely be Cap’s future girlfriend in the third movie, but it’s getting hard to keep track of the heroes these days.
With very few cuss words, the PG-13 is exclusively for action and minor gore. It’s a very mild PG-13.
“The Winter Soldier” is good. It’s not nearly as other-worldly as Marvel’s other comics and is actually more of an Old School espionage thriller than a superhero fantasy.
“Rio 2” likely.