Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Film #435


Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history - the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Year 2, Film #70

THE REVIEW: Superhero movies have become a staple in cinemas today with a couple new films being produced by both Marvel and DC each year. Despite the large number of films that have been released over the past few years, I don’t feel fatigued by this genre yet. Marvel especially continues to deliver high-quality and entertaining films from a medium that I’ve never gotten into — comic books. What has made Marvel’s superhero films so great is their ability to tell the singular story in the film in addition to an overarching one that spans several films and ties in numerous characters. Captain America: The Winter Solider continues this pattern and is yet another great entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While the first Captain America film took place during World War II, The Winter Soldier takes place in the present day. Most of my complaints with the first film dealt with the disconnect between futuristic technology in the 1940s, all of which are alleviated now that things take place in 2014 (because somehow seeing a massive, aircraft carrier-sized vehicle flying in the air capable of killing thousands of people per second is much more plausible now than a few high-tech computers and gadgets were in the 1940s). Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the man who was turned into Captain America to serve as a super-soldier may have been designed and “created” in WWII, but he seems much more at home in The Winter Soldier. Part of the reason I think his character works so well in this film is because of the difference in values he displays. He comes from an era where we seemed to care more about our lives then we do today. Now privacy is just a running joke that we willfully give up all the time because all our friends join whatever the latest social-media craze is this week. While we may complain about a government that is taking over our lives and form protests to demonstrate our resolve, it’s nothing like what took place in the 60s when entire colleges would be overrun with students calling for an end to the Vietnam war. In Captain America: The First Avenger Steve Rogers character and the story that was told wasn’t all that interesting because the conflict was just between the bad guys and the good guys (and women). In The Winter Soldier the bad guys have grown to include some of us “good guys” (and women) and seeing Captain America have to deal with this much larger threat is much more interesting.

But more than that though, The Winter Soldier also has an amazing chemistry between the characters. What made The Avengers one of the best in the franchise was the incredible camaraderie between everyone. It was hilarious to watch Agent Coulson obsess over Captain America and the bromance between Tony Stark and Dr. Banner. The characters were much more than just their own characters coming together; the Avengers were a team that got along and fought at the same time. It was one story with a whole bunch of superheroes instead of an anthology of sorts. Captain America: The Winter Soldier feeds off of that chemistry to deliver a similar level of entertainment with just a fraction of the cast. Rogers, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) the same team vibe, and with a greater focus on each (given the fewer number of characters), they can explore their characters more and discover what makes each of them tick.

As I mentioned in my review for Thor: The Dark World (Marvel’s prior release)…

There is [a] sense of complacency. The real issue with these [superhero] films, and why I mention it here, is that there is a limit to the enjoyment whereas an equally entertaining yet original and groundbreaking film (like Gravity for example) can be so engrossing and so mind-blowing…

I repeat this more to clarify my rating system than to comment on The Winter Solider itself. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic and entertaining film that’s better than its predecessor. Steve Rogers feels more at home despite the cultural and societal changes that occurred during his years in stasis and the result is one of my favorite Marvel films, on par with the level of The Avengers. And it’s a film you should definitely see, in theaters if you have the time and the money. Even with this glowing recommendation, I’m still giving the film four stars out of five because it’s missing that unspeakable quality; that thing you just know after watching a great film. As entertaining as The Winter Soldier is, it’s not a film I would include in a Best Picture list because it’s missing a certain level of originality, a certain insight that only a few films have. It’s entertaining, but not revolutionary.

THE RATING: 4 out of 5