Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Starring: Robert Redford, Jenny Agutter, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo (You, Me & Dupree; Welcome to Collinwood; episodes of Community and Arrested Development—in other words, seasoned action movie masters)
Synopsis: Captain America must stop a new plan from an old enemy and an old friend who is now a new enemy.
WARNING: INTENSE SHAKY-CAM
Worst part(s): MAJOR SPOILER: So Nick Fury “dies” to add some dramatic tension, and if you don’t realize that he’s obviously not actually dead then you probably think rain is dragon piss.
Also, for the big final battle, Cap breaks into the National History Museum to steal his old uniform. Really? You’re going to risk getting seen when everyone’s out looking for you just so you can wear a uniform in the finale? You don’t even need it!
Best line: [Cops eyeball Nick Fury in his SUV] Nick Fury: “You wanna see my lease?”
Worst line: Cap: “Bucky??” Winter Soldier: “Who the hell is Bucky?” And like that, all the mystique and coolness about the Winter Soldier vanishes.
Nudity: My wife was disappointed that the closest Cap gets to popping his shirt off is when he wears a wife-beater. And at one point, when Falcon is flying around you can briefly see his wiener flapping.
Overall: This movie is being heralded as an espionage thriller, but espionage thrillers are traditionally suspenseful, and there is zero suspense in this movie. If your IQ is above a pygmy marmoset, you know everything that is going to happen. The Winter Soldier is clearly Bucky, Nick Fury isn’t really dead, Robert Redford is the real bad guy, Cap is just going to beat everyone up who tries to beat him up (and the elevator scene, while a cool fight, why didn’t they just taze him immediately? Why give him time to figure things out?), Cap is going to put the chip in the ship at the last second, and Bucky will have a moment of redemption. For a thriller, the plot is very paint-by-numbers.
I have no idea how the Russo brothers landed this directing gig but they couldn’t suck more at shooting action sequences if their eyes were black holes. “Ok, let’s work through this action sequence, how should we frame…” “Shaky cam.” “Ok, you keep saying that, surely we can do something el-” “SHAKY CAM!!” “But sire, there are other, better ways to fi-” “SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKYYYYYYYYYYYYY CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!”
Besides the action scenes, one of the worst-shot scenes is when Cap and Nick Fury are talking in the big helicarrier hangar, it looked WAY too much like the fake, lazy, all green-screened walking and talking horribleness that plague the Star Wars prequels. In an age where CGI effects are no longer impressive, you’d better make damn sure they don’t look like crap, and that scene did.
BUT, all those numerous flaws aside, I did actually like it. The action sequences are good, if kind of repetitive, but could have been shot way better. The directors clearly tried to ape the Bourne movies, but I’m just not a shaky-cam fan. Cap is kind of a flat character, but he’s extremely likable. Black Widow and Falcon are good sidekicks in this, each actually given useful things to do. The Winter Soldier is a classic “hero’s mirror” foil, but it would have been better if he wasn’t such a pawn and had a brain of his own. Plus, I’m not sure what he has to do with winter. It’s GREAT to see Robert Redford, even though he’s looking really old, but kudos to him for not going the plastic surgery route and looking like this:
I didn’t like this as much as the first Captain America. I preferred the WWII story, the Red Skull as the villain, and Joe Johnston’s directing. Of the Marvel series, I’d rank this behind Iron Man, The Avengers, and the first Captain America, and just above Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think I’ll probably like this one better on a second viewing, because the direction and Garry Shandling’s face won’t seem so bad on my TV.
Score: 7.5 American captains (out of 10)
After credits scenes: The mid-credits scene set up three characters for The Avengers sequel with Baron von Strucker, non-douchebag Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch, but if you don’t have an idea of who these people are from the comics, you’ll probably be confused. The second after credits sequence is completely useless and a waste of sitting for 5 minutes. Just use the internet, Bucky.