Iron Man got one. Thor got one. Now Captain America…well, almost got one. A post-Avengers solo outing that is. The emphasis being on ‘solo’ here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows a great effort to introduce a leaner and meaner Cap, one diverging from his goodie-goodie ways, and fighting (both literally and metaphorically) to overcome his most-boring-of-the-superhero-gang label. Ultimately though, CA:TWS ends up being a double act that appears unable to rest solely on Chris Evans’ otherwise extremely broad shoulders, and is in constant need of adding Black Widow’s spice to Captain America’s vanilla. The film could have just as well been called Captain America: The Black Widow, since it is as much Natasha Romanoff’s soul-searching, world-re-evaluating journey as it is Steve Rodgers’. *cue Black Widow spin-off rumours*
Captain America 2.0 starts with an energy-bursting set-piece, which borrows a page from the books (and movies) of 4 bad-ass J’s – Jason Bourne, James Bond, Jack Ryan and Jack Reacher. In this sense, apart from Cap’s shield-wielding tendencies and super-serum-pumped body, the fight sequences seem to be more grounded in action hero stylistics than in superhero stylistics. Still, the fights are carefully choreographed and the scenes – skilfully edited, to create a breathless pace which is just as much fun.
So far, so good, but the problems start emerging when The Winter Soldier tries to venture into espionage thriller waters. While Iron Man 3 was a gag-packed funfair and Thor: The Dark World delivered a load of large-scale outlandish spectacle, CA:TWS doesn’t offer much of either, opting for an ill-conceived genre shift instead. From the worn-out political themes and freedom-vs-control debates, to the more-than-predictable plot ‘twists’ and the unnecessarily delayed ‘big reveal’ of the Winter Soldier’s identity, the entire effort comes out on the light side of intellectual engagement, leaving questions as to why Marvel didn’t stick to what they do best.
These are not the only questionable elements though. For one, CA: TWS indulges a frequent urge for showing Captain America protecting Scarlett Johansson’s feisty combat-super-skilled Black Widow and pushing her out of harm’s way. All good intentions, no doubt, but being reduced to a damsel in distress and having her skillset undermined proves problematic for someone who faced The Hulk and got the best of Hawkeye in Avengers Assemble. As for Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, in spite of donning some uber-cool gear and stealing some of the funniest lines (‘I do what he does, just slower’), the newbie sidekick suffers from a very hollow introduction and an awkward integration into Marvel’s cinematic universe. Not to mention the absurdity of Cap recruiting someone he has just met after Nick Fury’s warning not to trust anyone – maybe detecting golden-heartedness is Mr. Rodgers’ new-found superpower. And while Samuel L. Jackson’s rock-solid Nick Fury is all business as usual with a side of near-death experience, and Robert Redford’s S.H.I.E.L.D. director is a welcome high-calibre addition, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier proves only vaguely interesting and never truly menacing.
CA: TWS presents an enjoyable, yet instantly forgettable display of hard-assery. The attempted exploration of certain ‘big themes’ seems badly woven into the fabric of Marvel’s universe, the escalating number of references to the previous film weighs on the uninitiated, and the overly formulistic finale is…well, overly formulistic. Still, Captain America’s re-introduction-to-the-world journey is fun while it lasts, but the real excitement only comes at the end when a post-credits cameo of Aaron Taylor- Johnson’s Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch gets us reeling from anticipation of what is to come in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
My encounters with the cast 🙂