Every year, there’s at least one movie I’m absolutely dying to see, and this year it was Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Events conspired against me — websites lying about movie times, a massive headache pulsing down the entire right side of my face and making me a little sick if the camera spun to fast — but I did it. I successfully watched my movie.
And it was awesome.
Captain America (Chris Evans) is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and feeling awfully disillusioned about the job. But after an attempt on Nick Fury’s life, Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have to team up to find out what secrets S.H.I.E.L.D. is hiding and, also, take on the titular Winter Soldier.
1. It’s funny. I’ve been excited about this movie since, well, since The Avengers came out, but I was not actually a huge fan of the first Captain America. The movie’s actually grown on me since I first saw it in theaters, but I can still critique the shit out of it and probably wouldn’t give it any grade higher than a B, possibly a B-. So, for me, The Winter Soldier is one of those fairly rare sequels that is absolutely better than its predecessor.
2. One of the reason? The ACTION.
Oh my God, you guys. The action sequences in this movie are so good. I never felt like I was being assaulted by a bunch of shitty CGI, and I was SO into all the fight scenes, especially this one where Captain America is just kicking all kinds of henchmen ass on this ship. I’m not even quite sure how to describe it — I’m afraid I don’t really possess the proper terminology for that kind of thing — but it was really quick and merciless and super badass. Captain America fights like a superhero, but he also fights like a soldier, if that makes any sense. Like, he totally throws a knife at this dude — there’s just something kind of cool about that. You know, he was in a war, and in war, people kill each other. I don’t know. It’s just a thing I liked.
3. Other things I liked:
Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is basically the best. He’s funny and totally easy on the eyes and has a really good chemistry with Chris Evans. I would absolutely sign up to see him in more movies, with Captain America, The Avengers, or possibly even on his own. I’ll be honest — I don’t know shit about the Falcon that I didn’t see on Robot Chicken — but in this movie, his wings were pretty awesome. I’ll all on board with this new superhero.
4. Of course, Anthony Mackie isn’t the only one who has good chemistry with Chris Evans in this movie.
Here’s another funny thing: for as long as I’ve been reading Avengers fanfiction, it has never once seriously occurred to me to ship Captain America/Black Widow. But I have to say that these two on-screen together were really enjoyable to watch, and while I don’t necessarily need to see that turn into a romance . . . you know, I actually wouldn’t mind it. (It’s probably not surprising that Johansson and Evans have as much natural chemistry as they do, seeing as how they’ve acted in, what? Four films together now? It’s funny how that happens.)
Aside from shipping, though — Johansson is just really good in this film, funny and awesome. I have really grown to like Black Widow a lot, and I am also now definitely ready to see a movie featuring her being all badass.
5. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but in case it does — Chris Evans still makes a really compelling Captain America.
Rock those glasses, Cap. Rock em hard.
I don’t have a lot to say about Chris Evans’s performance that I didn’t already say in my reviews for Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers — I just like him a whole lot. There was one scene in particular where he kind of just broke me. He makes for a very solid lead in what is already a really good cast.
6. If the movie has a weak point — well, at least one I can kind of mention above the Spoiler Line — I think it centers around Emily Van Camp. It’s not her performance, exactly, just . . . she’s kind of introduced as a love interest, only she’s not given very much to do. And she doesn’t actually have that many scenes with Cap, so they have little chance to build what lackluster chemistry they have. Captain America has better chemistry with Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, and the Winter Soldier than he has with Emily Van Camp’s character. I suppose they’re just setting her up for the next movie, but I would have been totally okay if she hadn’t been in this one at all.
7. Finally, for a movie called The Winter Soldier . . . there’s not actually all that much Winter Soldier. I mean, he’s there, but . . . I don’t know. I get why the movie can’t actually be subtitled with a more plot-accurate name, but still. I kind of wish we got to see a little bit more of him.
Want to know what I think this movie should have been called?
I was thinking something like Captain America: HYDRA Strikes Back or Captain America: S.H.I.E.L.D. is FUCKED.
So, it turns out that S.H.I.E.L.D. has long been infiltrated by HYDRA. Like, half the godamn organization is HYDRA, including some annoying people . . .
. . . some surprising people . . .
. . . and some totally-less-than surprising people.
First, dealing with Robert Redford . . . look, no one’s going to say Redford is bad in this movie because for Christ’s sake, he’s Robert Redford. It’s not like the guy can’t act. But . . . he’s not the most compelling villain in the whole world, maybe because he was pretty obviously a bad guy from the trailers. Maybe even from the casting announcement — did anyone really believe Redford was going to play a good guy? His reveal was hardly shocking, and more than that, his character’s just . . . okay. He’s not the worst Marvel villain by any means — I generally enjoyed any scene he had with Samuel L. Jackson, and I certainly liked him more than I liked Malekith from The Dark World — but his character is just not terribly compelling or ominous. Once again, the Marvel villains continue to be the least interesting part of their own movies.
Despite my increasingly desperate desire for an awesome villain that isn’t Loki, the semi-lackluster nature of these bad guys isn’t a big stumbling block for me, as far as the movie’s concerned. Let’s get back to the basic plot for the moment: Nick Fury is beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, so he starts to do some digging. So Pierce (Redford) orders the Winter Soldier to kill him. Actually, before we continue with that, let’s talk about the Winter Soldier because if you don’t know, this guy . . .
. . . is totally this guy.
Can I just say, Bucky? Not exactly rocking the long hair and light stubble look.
Despite the fact that I kind of thought everyone knew Bucky Barnes became the Winter Soldier — and despite the fact that his unmasked face was prominently featured in a few of the trailers — I still heard a couple of non-ironic gasps in the theater when he was revealed. (And then I laughed at them. Because I’m mean like that.)
Sebastian Stan didn’t really get a lot of play in the first movie, but I kind of figured he’d be a much bigger deal in this one. But . . . he’s sort of not. I mean, he’s important to the story, and he’s involved in some fun fight scenes and all, but he really only had a couple of moments where he actually had to, you know, act. He wasn’t bad in the scenes he had, but I was vaguely disappointed that he and Chris Evans really didn’t have all that much screen time together. (Although I just assume he’ll be a bigger part of Captain America 3, whenever that comes out. I don’t think he’ll show up for The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron . . . that movie already seems to have a LOT going on.)
But back to plot. Brainwashed Bucky causes Nick Fury to rather spectacularly crash his car, but Fury escapes long enough to get to Captain America’s apartment. He gives Cap a memory stick of Confidential Shit and then gets shot like three times in the chest through a godamn wall. Supposedly he dies, although if you’ve seen any of the trailers, you probably won’t be too terribly surprised when he pops up alive about an hour later. (I usually only watch one trailer, maybe two tops, to avoid being unduly spoiled for movies I’m interested in, but since there was a commercial for The Winter Soldier during like every commercial break in every episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., well, it was harder to avoid.)
Fury tells Cap that he shouldn’t trust anyone before he pretends to kick the bucket. Cap ends up having to kind of trust Natasha, though, and they get to dress like hipsters and go on a fugitive road trip (always the best kind) to figure out what’s going on while S.H.I.E.L.D. hunts them down.
They essentially figure out that HYDRA is not dead, that it’s going strong inside of S.H.I.E.L.D. and has been since basically forever. The agency is so damn compromised that they can’t really break down one without the other, so the plan is to more or less unravel both. Also, there are like these weaponized anti-privacy planes that can target threats to HYDRA and kill a whole bunch of people and stuff? So, yeah, the plan is to take those down too.
Stuff happens. I don’t feel like recapping this movie scene by scene, but we do need to take a minute to mourn Agent Sitwell, who was secretly evil all along. (Also? Dead now.) No, Agent Sitwell, NOOOOOOO. (I kind of can’t wait to see Coulson’s eventual reaction to that in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Actually, I kind of can’t wait just to see tomorrow’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at all Hot damn, things just got interesting.) I think it was probably a smart move, having somebody we actually know and care about secretly a HYDRA agent . . . but a little piece of my nerd heart is just all sad now.
So, Steve, Natasha, Sam, Maria Hill, and Not-Quite-Dead Nick Fury team up to spill all HYDRA’s and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets to the public, bringing down both agencies. It’s all agent versus agent, including Agent 13 (Emily Van Camp), also known as Sharon, also known as the babysitter agent who lived next door to Cap and pretended to be a nurse. (Also a SHIELD agent? Danny Pudi! Sadly, he wasn’t making eyes at Captain America.) Van Camp’s stuff is okay, but it also seems pretty superfluous, and I’m just not feeling her character. Especially because I know what her last name is — even if they didn’t actually say it in the movie — and that’s just not a development I’m interested in at all. I don’t care if it’s canon. Blech to that subplot.
Oh, but while we’re briefly talking about Captain America’s love interests? I completely forgot to mention the heartbreaking scene from earlier in the film, where Cap visits Old Peggy, who looks to be suffering from Alzheimer’s, or at least some kind of dementia, and it’s just so damn sad. Oh, these two actors are so good in this scene. Bastards tried to make me tear up. (They failed, though, so HA. Assholes.)
Anyway, back to final battle shit. Nick Fury shoots and kills Pierce, which was totally good for me. I’m not exactly sure why. I just liked that moment a lot. Also, while I haven’t really talked much about him yet, I should say that I also really enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson in this movie. His scenes talking spy philosophy with Captain America are pretty great.
Falcon ends up fighting this annoying second banana dude (Nick Grillo), who I guess is a much bigger bad guy than I initially realized, because he very unfortunately lived. (Although he’s now considerably crispier than he was. I guess that’s something.)
And Captain America took down the planes and got shot to shit by his previously assumed dead best friend.
Thankfully, Cap got through to Brainwashed Bucky, at least a little, because BB saved our hero from drowning before dumping his ass off on a river bank and walking off into the sunset. At the end of the movie, S.H.I.E.L.D. is basically dead, Nick Fury goes underground, everyone gets jobs everywhere else, and Cap and Falcon go off in a mission to track down BB and bring him home. And that’s kind of the end.
(Except the teasers, of course, where we get our first taste of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch. Oh, and Bucky looking at his own memorial at the Smithsonian. But eh, whatever. If it’s not shwarma or Bruce Banner, I’m just not that impressed.)
Natasha: “You do anything fun Saturday night?”
Steve: “Well, all the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead. So no, not really.”
Sam: “Don’t look at me. I do what he does, just slower.”
Brock: “Yeah. You seemed pretty helpless without me.”
Natasha: “What about the nurse that lives next door to you? She seems nice.”
Steve: “Secure the engine room, then find me a date.”
Natasha: “I’m multi-tasking.”
Sam: “How do we know the good guys from the bad guys?”
Steve: “If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad.”
Natasha: “Shall we play a game? It’s from a movie –”
Steve: “I saw it.”
Pierce: “Fine. But you’ve gotta get Iron Man to stop by my niece’s birthday party. Not just a fly-by. He’s gotta mingle.”
Sam: “Shut the hell up.”
Natasha: “Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”
Steve: “That’s hilarious.”
Steve: “On your left.”
Pretty damn awesome. The villains are kind of mediocre, and I just can’t get into Agent 13 — but this movie was a blast: funny, action heavy, and with some really well done scenes. I had a great time watching it, even with half of my head pounding.
Chris Evans, mostly because he has to carry the whole movie, and I think Captain America is a harder role than some might give it credit for. But Anthony Mackie and Scarlett Johansson were serious contenders too.
Freedom good, fear bad.