Thursday, April 17, 2014

We Agree: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

2014, Joe/Anthony Russo (TV including Community, Happy Endings & Arrested Development) -- cinema

It is only appropriate I follow Graig's up with mine.

We (we western first worlders) live in an age where EVERYTHING is on display. Before movies are released, we get boat loads of trailers and clips and blog articles written by fans, speculators and people paid to say what they say. We get crappy cams for those who have left cinemas behind. We get review blogs & tweets and FB status updates telling us about the movie seconds after it has hit the cinema. We have access to source material and scripts and rumors and hints and misdirection. It is hard to avoid knowing all there is to know about a movie, before we even see it.

So, it was hard not to know what this movie was going to be about, the title saying it all, the trailers filling it in for those who have not read the comics. I knew the comic storyline, probably having grilled Kent about it before I downloaded the entire extended series. The gritty story swaps rah-rah superheroics for almost-noir gritty espionage drama. Cap, often lost in memories of the 40s, remembers how he lost Bucky.  Well, at least his Bucky. Part of the detailed story reminds us of how many Captain Americas, how many Buckys there were. But it always draws back to one Cap, one Bucky and their separation near the end of the war, with the death of James Buchanan Barnes. Even after the thawing, this is haunting Cap. And then, suddenly and terribly, Bucky is back. And Cap is obsessed with finding out who and how.

Even with all the trappings of super villains and S.H.I.E.L.D. this is an action-spy story.  Its a convoluted story, as all wide reaching comic arcs are, of Hydra and the Red Skull and a Russian General who was part of a program that used the differently frozen Bucky Barnes as a twisted assassin. Only one arc of the story is about Cap finding this out, and dealing with, as it extends into the Civil War series (the US demands superheroes become registered, most rebel, branded villains) and the death of Captain America. Much of the central story is how the two tortured friends deal with what drew them together again, their loyalty to each other.

So, it was kind of amusing that I could be exposed to all the Internet can give me, not shying away from spoilers, and yet not get that this was not really a fully, wholly Winter Soldier story. Bucky is only one element of this incredible plotline that shakes up the world building they seem to have just got around to establishing in the movies --- that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a new centre of protection for the world.  Hell, how many movies did they spend time inserting scenes of Ultimates Nick Fury and establishing that these solo movies would become The Avengers? And once you bring in the long slow burn of the TV series, you get, well, you get WOW. The Winter Soldier himself was just one piece, albeit a finely crafted cog in this machine. And I didn't catch it.  Yay me. Or boo me?

The action is outstanding. Even with our viewing suffering the dull, dimmed screen of not-3D, the precision of this movie stood out. The establishing battle scenes for Cap are exquisite. Slam, pow, clunk, bang full of weight and force that had me cringing for those poor sods with no super soldier skin or even body armor. Never pays to be a mook. Captain America leaves much of the bigger explosions for the other Marvel franchises, as this is a hands-on character. Sure, we crash some heli-carriers, but that is the climax of the movie.  Most of this movie is a punch-up, shield throwing & gun fight.

The story is an interesting flip of the tables from previous movies where they established that the world needed a team of super powered beings independent of other nations' armed forces. Considering they saved the world from an alien invasion, they seem to have free reign and Fury is running with it, building kill-you-from-the-sky laser guns that when combined with a Person of Interest establish-who-the-Bad-Guys-are AI makes even Cap queasy.

He really does represent the true ideal of American values, those that are what the world want the US to aspire to, instead of the reality we live with. His boyscout ideals even melt the hardened heart of Black Widow, who I was rather underwhelmed by in this movie... literally not finding Scarlett J attractive at all with that unflattering hair cut. And by heart melting, I don't mean swooning, I mean she realizes this is a man to be friends with, to be loyal to. And once she has earned it, she really sees the value. He also has the support of a good, loyal soldier in Sam Wilson and his Falcon flight armor. The interactions between the two unadulterated Good Guy conversations and I really took to this character, having always been rather meh about his comic books persona. He and Cap agree on how soldiers should support their country and get along rather well.

The movie rounds out by the surprise reveal that I was already expecting because I watched the TV series before the movie -- hail Hydra. S.H.I.E.L.D. was not only infiltrated from the inside but could be said to have had a Hydra agenda all along. This leaves long running ramifications on the playing field, which will definitely affect every movie after. The Avengers will have to act independently of their origins and will probably suffer the suspicions of the world forever. There are still some good agents out there, but what do they represent? Who do they work for? Who can they trust?  Next movie now, please !!