Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain_america_winter_soldier_movie_poster_by_alvincapalad-d5af6nfOverview:

“After the cataclysmic events in New York with the Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intreague that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy- the Winter Soldier.”

— The website for my local theater.

Plot: 5/5

They filmed this movie over last summer, but it fits really well with a newer antagonist style championed in “Frozen”- that of the ambiguous enemy. Yes, there is a huge conspiracy around S.H.I.E.L.D. that the Captain and Black Widow are trying to navigate through, but the Winter Soldier is really the big antagonist (as you can probably tell from the title).

Normally, I would just say one of the big things that complicates the story and, basically, why I say it’s an ambiguous enemy, because I thought everyone knew this, but it completely threw my parental units for a loop in the theater, they apparently didn’t get the memo, and because of that they LOVED the twist and it ramped up the excitement tenfold, so I won’t say.

Anyways- the Winter Soldier (Oh my god, I just realized how hard the “Acting” this is going to be… OK the “Acting” review is going to be half-under a cut, so if you read this from the main page, you can avoid spoilers as to the actor identity and therefore the Winter Soldier’s identity), the Winter Soldier is this mythic assassin no one believed existed, no one except for Natasha (The Black Widow).

Natasha faced the Winter Soldier once when she was supposed to be protecting an Iranian nuclear physicist, but the Winter Soldier managed to best even her, and left her with a huge bullet wound in her stomach (he shot the Physicist through her). Natasha is willing to break allegiance with S.H.I.E.L.D. high command in order to protect Steve and try to finally beat this baddie down.

The Winter Soldier's metal arm allows him to catch the shield, whereas everything else it hits get at least a severe dent. The very definition of "Bad ass".

The Winter Soldier’s metal arm allows him to catch the shield, whereas everything else it hits get at least a severe dent. The very definition of “Bad ass”.

I really do like this story. It deals pretty heavily with Steve’s troubles adjusting to life in the future (modern day) and his second guessing even his decision to be a soldier, though he seems resigned to his role. That side of things never seems to be resolved though, so I think in “The Avengers 2” we’ll see Captain really really struggling with the question of if he wants to be a soldier or not.

One plot element that really kind of drove me crazy (OK, it drove me REALLY crazy, someone in the theater actually yelled at the screen when it happened): One of Captain’s sounding boards when he has his doubts about S.H.I.E.L.D.? Peggy Carter, his girlfriend from the first movie, who is now bedridden and has probably advanced Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. You find out she did marry one of the former comrades of the Captain from his elite squad back in the 40s, but that’s it!

You don’t get to see them reunite for the first time (kind of, she has an attack of Alzheimer’s or whatever in the middle of their conversation and it’s like she’s seeing him for the first time and finding out he’s alive), but I don’t understand why Marvel didn’t give us the Captain deciding to track her down and see her again and reuniting with her. That just annoys me, it would have been such a great moment, even with the dementia, but we miss out.

Acting (the non-spoiler one): 6/5

Chris Evans (Captain America) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) have worked together in the past, both in “The Avengers” and as (rather unbelievable) romantic leads in her movie “The Nanny Diaries” (from around 2 years before she took up the role of “Black Widow”). While they didn’t make great lovers in that movie, they DO make excellent partners in crime. The big issue with “Nanny Diaries” was that they seemed more friends than a romantic couple, and that is a huge asset here.

Chris Evans expands his range VASTLY in this film, and I loved it! He was good in Captain America, but his character was, in terms of acting, relatively one-dimensional the whole film- super patriot! Yes, we got a bit of good, old fashioned emotional acting when Buckie died, but it was such a short bit before he goes after Hydra and, ultimately, does his suicide run in the plane.

Anthony Mackie, the (regrettably, according to him) spandex-free Falcon.

Anthony Mackie, the (regrettably, according to him) spandex-free Falcon.

In “Winter Soldier”, mostly due to the thing I’m not spoiling, you get to see probably about as wide a range as you can get emotionally in a movie, and Evans nails it. He finally gets to show off what he can do, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Marvel’s promised us a “Black Widow” movie eventually, and after seeing Scarlett here, I’m really looking forward to it! She kicked it out of the park as Black Widow, as always, and keeps a lot of the same fun and wild side as she had in “Iron Man 2” (not so much “Avengers”). I’m excited to see what she brings to the table in the next several films!

Someone else who earned a mention (a non-spoiler mention) is Anthony Mackie, who plays “The Falcon”. But- and this is a big but- they don’t ever outright name his character in the movie. The most you see is a case file that says “The Falcon”. He’s Steve’s buddy who he kind of gets to know doing his usual run around the monuments as exercise. The relationship starts off as funny and joking, but they do develop  a great friendship. Anthony isn’t an actor I’ve seen before, at least not that I recall, but he absolutely holds his own against the other superstars and has made a place for himself in the Marvel Universe.

Also, check out his promotional interviews, he’s HYSTERICAL. Warning though- he’s often paired for interviews with the Winter Soldier, so that could be spoiler-y. My favorite quote from him was that Marvel wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret if “The Falcon” was in “Avengers 2”, because he’d run through Time Square in New York City, buck-naked, with “Avengers 2” tattooed across his chest. It’s fun to see fan-boys get to live their dream!

Age Rating: 13+

I’m going to agree with the MPAA here and say that’s a good place to set the rating, though, as always, judge it for yourself as to what you think your kids can handle. I’ve got a friend, older than me by 6 months, who can barely handle “Pirates of the Caribbean”, but I was an Au-pair one summer for a 6 year old who watched “Queen of the Damned” no problem (his mom was fine with that).

There was probably some language, nothing that really comes to mind though, and a LOT of violence, but not a whole lot of gore. You see a guy with his hand cut off at the forearm, and it’s kind of corny and definitely not realistic, so you don’t have any worries like that.

The Captain decides it's best to pick on aircraft from a motorcycle.

The Captain decides it’s best to pick on aircraft from a motorcycle.

Fun Trivia:

The Falcons metal wings have a Stark Industries logo. Following that thread, when the evil targeting device that’s going to kill 20,000 people who S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrators see as a threat, Tony Stark is selected almost immediately.

Apparently the scenes where Captain America wanders through a whole museum wing dedicated to his history, as well as that scene with Peggy that annoyed me so much, was all originally filmed for “The Avengers” (so Steve looks a bit younger), but it was cut and held for this movie.

Natasha, throughout the film, wears a little silver necklace with an arrow charm on it, a reference to her Avengers teammate and (more outright stated in the comics) lover Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson wrote their own dialogue for many of the Black Widow/Captain America scenes.

This movie featured a throwback to a dying form of cinema: They actually used special effects, not CGI, for nearly everything. Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) revealed that if they could build it and film it in real life, they did, they minimized green screen as much as possible.

There is a great “Avengers” reference in the movie made by Nick Fury: he says that Stark (Iron Man) made several changes to the propulsion units after he got “an up close look at them”. This is referencing the scene where the Captain and Iron Man have to manually re-start one of the propellers and Iron Man accidentally gets trapped inside one and is thrown around before finally managing to get himself tossed out.

Google “Captain America To Do List by Country”- Steve keeps a list of pop culture things he needs to learn about or catch up on, and the list actually changes from country to country. So far someone has compiled 11 different lists from different countries, like the UK, Russia, Mexico, Italy, France, and other places.

The Captain and the Winter Soldier square off for the first time. OK, so I just chose this picture because Chris Evans looks like he's going to pee himself.

The Captain and the Winter Soldier square off for the first time. OK, so I just chose this picture because Chris Evans looks like he’s going to pee himself.

The actor who plays the Winter Soldier (You can read the spoiler on IMDB, I Don’t know why I’m making this so hard on myself) didn’t know he was the Winter Soldier. When he got the call for “Captain America 2”, he was confused until they explained his character was TWS.

The actor who plays the Winter Soldier (Goddammit) was so excited to film a scene with Robert Redford (who plays the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. command), he actually walked into a refrigerator on set.

Black Widow mentions “Department H”, a Canadian Agency. This is a reference to “X-Men”, specifically Wolverine, who was experimented on by that agency, where he received his adamantium frame.

Seemingly counter-intuitive, Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) was actually upset with the modern version of his costume- he was looking forward to wearing the red spandex.

Hayley Atwell actually did return to her role as Peggy Carter- filmmakers used a combination of makeup and CGI to age her.

The Winter Soldier (or rather, the actor) had to deal with some hardships in filming– the character has a solid metal arm, meant to replace a severed one. To make the arm look realistic, a three-piece metal unit was crafted to the exact specifications of the actor’s arm and slid on so it fit snugly. To accommodate this, every day the left arm of the actor had to be covered with half a jar of lube and the metal was slid up piece by piece. Now, they filmed this movie in the middle of the summer, just imagine how PAINFULLY hot that must have been…

There are several iterations of any of the Marvel heroes, comic series of Captain America were begun and ended nearly a dozen times, with different storylines featuring different endings for different characters. Now, I’m not sure if this is something that’s a common theme, because I like Superhero movies but I’m not into the comics, but apparently The Winter Soldier eventually takes up the mantle of Captain America himself.

Again, I don’t know the circumstances, all I know is that the similarities in fighting styles and how the Winter Soldier can use the Captain’s shied and catch it and all that are in tribute to that plot point from the comics. I don’t know if the Captain retires or dies, but the Winter Soldier takes over. Though, it is worth noting that there can be a range of endings for characters within different comics, and not all of them have Winter Soldier replacing Steve as Captain America, but from what I’ve heard, Chris Evans isn’t going anywhere, at leas through Avengers 3, so don’t expect Capt. to die anytime soon, if ever.

There are multiple theories on what “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” means with the title. “The Winter Soldier” is an expression originating in the Vietnam War to describe a soldier who has kind of given up and is questioning their role even as a soldier. In the case of the movie it can refer to the character “The Winter Soldier”- who came out of Siberian Russia in the dead of winter, or it can more directly refer back to Captain America, describing HIM as a Winter Soldier, since he’s lost his sense of purpose and loses faith in his role as a Soldier and what he is fighting for under SHIELD.

Foreshadowing of Bucky becoming Captain America, or merely a tribute to one of many storylines from the comics? You decide.

Foreshadowing of Bucky becoming Captain America, or merely a tribute to one of many storylines from the comics? You decide.

Acting 6/5 (Spoilery)

SEBASTIAN STAN (BUCKY BARNES, CAPTS BEST FRIEND WHO DIED IN THE FIRST MOVIE IS THE WINTER SOLDIER.

Phew, finally! No more tip-toeing!

The Winter Soldier is Bucky, who you might remember was experimented on when Steve first found him and rescued all the prisoners. Well, apparently their experiments worked: he’s got everything Steve’s got. Oh, except his memories.

Bucky was captured by Hydra, he’d lost his arm in the fall from the train (in a perfectly straight cut line…. whatever) and they put him on ice for around 20 years, just like the Captain being frozen in the north. Extensive torture and electro-shock were used to make Bucky loose his memories, and he re-emerged as The Winter Soldier, an elite assassin who’s been doing his thing for 50 years (in the comics, which I did actually read for once, they go through great pains to say that he was thawed every mission, and so he has aged, but only a year or two, in the movie they don’t elaborate and while he has Steve’s abilities, it’s only in the metal arm, so technology could be a factor, you decide if he’s juiced or not).

Early on, The Winter Soldier confronts Captain America, and as soon as he loses his mask, Steve realizes who it is. Just hearing the name “Bucky” is enough to begin shocking TWS’ brain back into motion.

The first movie has Bucky as a pretty straight-laced guy, Steve’s best friend, but not really anything more. He, like Captain, is pretty 1D, so it was hard to gauge Sebastian Stan’s acting (though, I”d just seen him in “Once Upon A Time” as the Mad Hatter, and he was phenomenal).

Here you get the Winter Soldier’s automatic killing-machine instincts as well as a side of him that begins to remember Steve and remember his life as Bucky. Stan is incredible with this range, and he deserves an award.

Sebastian Stan is PHENOMENAL in this movie! Yes, Bucky is relatively one-dimensional, except when he begins to remember, but compare him with “Captain America 1”- the incredible difference between the two versions of Bucky is AWESOME, and Stan is definitely going to end up an A-lister if he capitalizes on his performances in “Marvel” movies!!!

Can you tell Bucky/Winter Soldier is my favorite character? Bad. Ass. (well, not a bad ass, it's actually not that bad... um... you know what i mean)

Can you tell Bucky/Winter Soldier is my favorite character? Bad. Ass. (well, not a bad ass, it’s actually not bad… um… you know what i mean)

Fun Trivia (Now that I don’t have to worry about spoilers I want to reiterate something)

Sebastian Stan said in an interview that because he was raised at least partly in then-communist Romania (he was born in Romania, his mother moved him to Vienna in Austria when he was 8, and then she married the headmaster of a private school in the US and he came State-side when he was 12, according to IMDB), he didn’t grow up with the Captain America comics and such like the other cast members. He didn’t know Bucky DIDN’T die in “Captain America” and when they called him for the sequel, he initially thought he would be appearing in some flashbacks, someone had to explain that he was, in fact, The Winter Soldier. The most he knew before that was that there was a version of the comics where Bucky didn’t die.

Sebastian Stan has signed with Marvel for a 9 movie deal. With this movie, he’s still got 7 to go!!!!!

 

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1 Comment

  1. Note from the writer:
    Yes, I just re-read this and realized for Black Widow I said “Iron Man 3” when I really meant “Iron Man 2”

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