Other Media Review

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A

Title: Captain America
Written By: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Screenplay: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Publication Info: Marvel Entertainment April 2014
Genre: Comic

Captain America Winter Soldier standing in the exit bay of an aircraft about to jump into some massive battle with helicopter aircraft carriers Does a review count as a review if it’s just a big Squee?  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie that gets almost everything right.  This is a classic example of how to make an action movie that is character driven instead of just stringing together a bunch of set pieces.  Marvel achieves the perfect balance of action, drama, and comedy here.  It should be used in film classes on how to make a sequel that doesn’t suck.

Here’s how most studios approach a sequel.  They say, “Let’s do the exact same thing we did last time only with more explosions and also we should add on more stars and extra villains”. 

What Marvel seems to be doing in the best of their sequels is establishing what a character is comfortable with during their origin story, and then taking that element away in the sequel.  For instance, we know that Tony Stark feels powerful in his suit.  So, in Iron Man III, Tony is separated from the suit for most of the movie.  And we know that Steve Rogers (Captain America) loves honor and black and white moral issues, so Marvel throws him into a story about espionage, moral shades of gray, and murky politics.  This approach is genius.  It means that there’s always the comfort of the familiar (Tony still wants his suit, Steve still wants everyone to tell the truth) but there’s also the sense that everything is new and fresh – and it means that the conflict is character based.  The main conflict isn’t “Can Captain America stop that helicarrier”, it’s “Can Captain America survive in the murky political world of today, and can he make this world better?”  One of the things he has to do to survive is stop a helicarrier, so we still get action, but the action means something emotionally to the characters and to the audience.

Marvel has an amazing knack for casting, and so it’s no surprise that everyone in the film is perfectly cast.  What is amazing is that given the high level of action here, so much of the movie involves intimate character moments, especially between Steve and Sam (Falcon) and Steve and Natasha.  Steve thinks of himself as isolated, but it’s clear that friendship remains important to him, and although it takes him some time to appreciate it, it’s clear that he has friends now.  This could have been a terribly cynical film but it’s pretty damn heartwarming.  There’s a lot of heroism, and it doesn’t all come from people with superpowers or military might.

It’s also amazing that the film is able to convey a real sense of danger.  If you read about these movies online, you know which actors have multi-movie contracts, and that makes us skeptical that they will, for instance, kill off Captain America in his second movie.  But this film has so much tension that there’s a real sense of menace.

This is a romance website, so I know you are all wondering if Steve has anything romantic going on here.  Well, I have a new psychotic, sad villain to have a crush on. 

The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier is scary as shit, but look at those puppy eyes, people!  That man needs cookies, STAT!  He needs the love of a good woman, such as myself!  I’m going to open a therapy group for him and Loki.  I will offer them brownies and lasagna and other forms of comfort.  My husband will understand that this is important for the greater good, because we can’t have all these guys running around trying to express their inner pain through global domination – it’s too messy.

Oh, I’m sorry, you wanted to know if any one in the movie has a romance with another character in the movie, didn’t you. 

Natasha and Steve have tons of chemistry, but this is a story about friendship, not romance.  Natasha (Black Widow) spends the whole movie trying to set Steve up with dates.  This becomes increasingly hilarious, since she insists on chatting about this during fight scenes, but it’s also a poignant reminder that not only does Steve feel totally isolated, he lacks the will and the skills to break through his isolation.  By the end of the film there are some hints that this may change, since he promises Natasha to call someone at the end of the movie (no, I’m not going to tell you who it is).  I have never thought that Steve and Natasha should be a permanent romantic relationship, but they have a great friendship and quite a bit of chemistry.  I’m a little embarrassed by just how very much I think these two people should have casual sex.  Who better to teach Steve about condoms and The Pill and new gender roles than his good friend Natasha?  Alas for my torrid fantasy life, no sex happens during this film.  But they have a sweet friendship and they make a great team.

One of the things I liked about this movie, and Marvel movies in general, is that even though we still don’t have a stand-alone female-led Marvel movie yet (grrrrrrrrr) the women in the “men’s” movies are their own people.  They have their own stories.  Yes, in the movies, the male’s story is the central focus.  But every female character clearly has their own life, their own missions and goals and relationships, beyond the guy.  They aren’t just “the chick” who exists solely to further that man’s story.  Natasha has her own agenda in Winter Soldier and goes through her own emotional journey that doesn’t revolve around Steve, even though her friendship with him is clearly a big influence on her.  Marvel is full of inspiring, powerful women who demonstrate strength in all kinds of ways and that’s why I find the movies enjoyable, even as I can’t fathom why I still don’t have a Black Widow stand-alone movie on my calendar.  Marvel, give me my Black Widow movie now please, and while you’re at it, I’ll take a Falcon movie too, cause he was made of win – kind, courageous, and charismatic, and we need more superheroes of color.  Get on that, OK?

There’s a lot about this movie that doesn’t seem very probable although I think it holds up within the somewhat insane world of the Marvel Universe.  I didn’t catch any glaring plot holes on this first viewing.  But one petty thing kept distracting me.  For part of the movie, Steve and Natasha are on the run, and she has this very distinctive red hair, which she doesn’t dye to cover it up.  Look, they are in a hurry, I get that.  But Natasha is a master spy.  You can’t tell me she doesn’t have packets of instant hair dye tucked away on her person.  Wearing a hoodie doesn’t cut it, Natasha.  It’s sad that I have to tell you that, given that you are a super-spy and I am a housewife in the suburbs.  So there they are, in peril, and all I could think was, “Is this the part where she’s going to change her hair?”

I loved this movie.  I loved the casting.  I loved the pacing.  I loved the scenes in which everything was blowing up and I loved the scene in which Steve and Natasha have a quiet heart-to-heart talk in a bathroom.  I loved the way the movie made me laugh and the way it broke my heart, occasionally at the same time.  I loved the relationships.  Now Steve, go call that person that Natasha mentioned.  If you can save the world, you can make a phone call.


This movie is currently in theatres, and you can find your local showtime at Moviefone or Fandango.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Umm.

    I am not myself an old-school Marvel geek, and I saw Winter Soldier this past weekend without having actually seen the first Captain America film.  (Heresy, I know, but bear with me.)  I quite liked the movie, for many of the reasons articulated here.

    However.  I’ve seen it postulated elsewhere in the online review-stream—by people who are in fact old-school Marvel geeks and who saw the first movie, and are therefore likely to be correct—that That Person is the granddaughter of That Other Person from the first movie (whom Cap meets again as a much older woman in the present film, and has a Major Poignant Moment with).

    Which would make Cap pursuing a relationship with That Person…possibly a trifle unsettling, if not out-and-out weird.

    Oh, and about the hair-color thing?  Clearly what Natasha needed was more of the hardware she was using to impersonate REDACTED to get close to REDACTED near the end of the movie.  I think the assumption we have to make is that Natasha was caught sufficiently off-guard by the whole HYDRA thing that she simply didn’t have a chance to pick up her disguise kit before she originally bailed and went AWOL.

  2. 2
    Sarita says:

    Kinda excited to see this now. I have a huge weakness for superheroes hanging out and talking. The one thing that made me sad about the Avengers movie was that there is this incredible potential there to explore the way the different personalities interact. In particular the dynamic between Thor and Tony Stark. I mean, here you have two men who are both incredibly arrogant in completely opposing ways. Tony’s all narcissism and insecurity, always trying too hard. Always has to dazzle everyone. And then along comes Thor, who doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone because he is totally at peace with his massive sense of entitlement. By rights, he should drive Tony nuts and that would make for such great dialogue…sigh.
    But back to Cap, there is an awesome webcomic framed as Steve’s own comic journal that blends the tone and style of autobiographical comics with marvel heroes. It’s great for my superheroes-hanging-out-chatting fix, though it updates pretty slow.
    http://americancaptaincomic.tumblr.com/

  3. 3
    Natalie Hart says:

    A big YES to this review. Like the first commenter, I also saw this 2nd movie without seeing the first, which didn’t appeal to me, as Cap seemed too earnest to be enjoyable, but you’ve nailed why that makes *this* movie so good. And oh yes, those moments with Natasha and Sam were so, so right. Hooray for character-driven superhero movies!

  4. 4

    I thought the movie was really, really well done. In some ways, I liked it better than The Avengers because it was more realistic.

    Every character got a moment or two to shine, and there were some funny quips and lots of little shout-outs and references for fans. Plus, the action scenes were good and added to the story, especially the one in the middle with Cap, Black Widow, Falcon, and Winter Solider.

    There needs to be much more Sebastian Stan in Cap 3. Seeing him and Cap team up to take down what’s left of Hydra (or whatever the big bad will be) would be awesome.

  5. 5
    Amanda says:

    My current sexual orientation: Winter Soldier’s metal arm.

  6. 6
    Dora says:

    I had never read anything about Captain America when my husband convinced me to go see it with him, so I was pretty ambivalent with low expectations. I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed it! I think it’s because I have such a huge soft spot for heroes who are genuinely motivated by the desire to do good and take care of other people, and Cap is basically the epitome of “Why can’t people be nicer to one another?” It was really refreshing. I can’t wait to see this.

  7. 7
    CarrieS says:

    @John: I think they changed it from comics cannon and made her a niece, which is slightly less weird – but yes, it’s still a little weird.

    @Amanda!  GUFFAW!

    In general – I’m actually surprised people were able to enjoy it without having seen the first Captain america Movie and that makes me even more impressed with it.

  8. 8

    I am all over seeing this this coming weekend. Because while I have not historically been a comics reader (although I am eying a couple of Marvel’s titles for exploration, in particular their Black Widow line), I DO love me some Marvel movies.

    And I adore Chris Evans as Cap. People sometimes critique him (and Superman for that matter) for being overgrown boy scouts, but y’know? I LIKE the boy scout type of hero!

    Also, YES WHERE THE HELL IS OUR BLACK WIDOW MOVIE? C’mon, Marvel! I have money! I’d like to give more of it to you!

  9. 9

    Saw it yesterday and enjoyed it very much. It’s not exactly one of the most profound things I’ve ever seen, but it was a lot of fun. I do love a movie where they blow shit up. Plus Robert Redford!
    Never mind Natasha’s hair – I want that lipstick and mascara she was wearing all the time she was on the run. She never topped it up, but it went through amazing scenes of violence and espionage, getting covered in muck, etc, and it didn’t budge. The lipstick didn’t wear off and the mascara didn’t do that panda thing. And it didn’t clump. So I think the real superhero was the Widow’s lipstick and mascara.
    And where was the Jeremy Renner character?
    That scene when the Winter Soldier was put in the helmety thing, when all his muscles went taut? Every female in the whole place went “ooo.”

  10. 10
    jimthered says:

    I liked this movie a lot (shameless plug: My review is at http://thearmchaircritic.blogspot.com/2014/04/captain-america-winter-soldier.html ) as it combined action, investigation, and humor, instead of just having super-powered guys in bright costumes hitting each other.

    As a small aside, I liked that Steve Rogers actually tried to disguise himself when on the run.  On thing that bugged me about the BOURNE movies is that Jason Bourne always knows he’s being pursued by government groups with access to all sorts of surveillance, yet he never does anything to hide or change his appearance while walking around in broad daylight.  (And Natasha may not have used the head-altering tech, but she looked a lot different in an old hoodie than with her hair out and a skin-tight bodysuit.)

  11. 11
    Nicole says:

    I agree with all of this. I saw the movie and enjoyed it so much that I’m going to pay Manhattan movie prices to see it again. That being said, how did your review leave out the most important part: THIS MOVIE IS FILLED TO OVERFLOWING WITH HOT MEN. The good guys are super hot. The bad guys are super hot. A large percentage of fight scene extras could eat crackers in my bed and that’d be just dandy. Even the older guys are dapper (except for poor Gary Shandling; whoever did those things to his face needs to lose his or her medical license). This movie was generally predictable, although there were a few things that surprised me enough to make me gasp out loud. Each Marvel superhero movie just makes me all the more excited for the next one. Lord help me, I’m even excited to watch that goofy-looking one with Chris Pratt.

  12. 12
    Joanna says:

    Great review, saw it last weekend and really enjoyed it too!  Loved the humor in the little moments that Marvel seems to do so well.

    @Jennifer: I totally agree we should see more of Sebastian Stan in the next movie.  He’s an actor I really enjoy watching, and the set-up for him to redeem himself from some of the horrible things he was made to do would make a great story.

  13. 13
    Rachel says:

    I didn’t see the first one and took my son to this one thinking I would get a nap! haha
    I loved it!

    I can see the attraction to the winter soldier, but as for me (and I typically love the bad guy), Capt America/Chris Evans has my vote!

    Pick me to show him birth control… :)

    Honestly, I thought it was a fab flick.

  14. 14
    Lostshadows says:

    I saw it Saturday in a crappy theater, with a small child in the audience who kept talking, and it was still great. That is how awesome this movie is.

    I did kind of wish I hadn’t known the Winter Soldier’s background going in, since it killed a bit of the suspense.

    I do have to wonder what the ending will do to the second season of Agents of Shield. Events in the show seem to be heading in a similar direction at least, but its going to make things complicated.

    Speaking of endings, for those who don’t know already, there are two extra bits in the credits. One part way in and one right at the end.

  15. 15

    All Cap has to do to disguise himself is to change into a T-shirt that actually fits like normal clothing. I swear, every woman in America would be able to recognize him by his huge pectoral muscles.

    Gulp.

    The scene in the nursing home was the one that got me.  Because I totally believe that he would have made regular visits, and maybe even not moved on from that relationship to start dating.

    And after the movie, I am really looking forward to tonight’s Agents of Shield, since my real Marvel crush is Agent Coulson.

  16. 16
    SB Sarah says:

    @Lynne:

    That scene when the Winter Soldier was put in the helmety thing, when all his muscles went taut? Every female in the whole place went “ooo.”

    This made me laugh so hard. That’s reason alone to go see it, I think.

    Question for those of you that have seen it: what’s the violence level? Too scary/overwhelming for kids?

  17. 17
    Michelle C. says:

    I enjoyed it.

    I think the potential relationship character might be a certain characters niece.

  18. 18
    Alina says:

    @CarrieS: I’m pretty sure she was the niece in the original comic iteration – Cap originally woke up from his deep freeze in the 60s.

    The moment between Steve and the heartbreaking cameo from the first film was, well, heartbreaking.

    I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It’s so good that Marvel let it be the spy thriller it was instead of trying to shoehorn it into a big boom dumb action film (although they tried to make it look like that in their promotion of it). Lynne Connolly, I missed Clint, too! He should’ve been in this movie.

    I am so looking forward to Agents of SHIELD tonight.

  19. 19

    I hadn’t really formalized the thought until now, but yes the Winter Soldier is a nice looking villain. Chris Evans isn’t quite my type but holy cheeseballs that scene after he’s running around the reflection pool. His shirt is straight-up struggling to stretch around those massive biceps. Well done, dude. That’s intense.

    I also got choked up at the nursing home scene. When he said she’s still his best gal—I didn’t think I’d fall for a line that cheesy but it really got me.

    Black Widow is a great character and I really hope we get to see her in a stand-alone. The fight scenes were great;I’d see this again in the theater just for those. I love it when movies that can afford to CG the crap out of everything still bother to take some time with choreographed fights that borrow from martial arts. My biggest issue with Man of Steel is that everything was constantly exploding and busting up that I could barely see what was happening. Give me a fistfight over that any day, just sayin’.

  20. 20
    Stephanie Scott says:

    To the question on the violence level, it’s very violent. I was a little surprised at some of the violence, even though I guess I shouldn’t be at this point. A whole mess of people die, including innocents. I would not rec this for young children at all. Obvs your discretion but PG-13 is appropriate. Maybe slightly younger but not elementary age kids.

  21. 21
    sara says:

    Re: violence level, yes. It is violent. But it depends on your kids. My kids are pretty young, but they’ve seen every Marvel movie since Iron Man (not all when they came out, obviously, since Iron Man came out when they were babies) and my daughter, in particular, loves The Avengers because she’s a Black Widow fan. (Side note: when, about 30 minutes from the end of the movie, someone mentioned Black Widow (v. Natasha, which is how they reference her through the rest of the movie) and my daughter turned to me and said, “Wait. I didn’t know Black Widow was in this! SWEET!!” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud!)

    That said, I loved the movie. The end really set up a nice story if they ever get around to making a Black Widow solo film. And I can’t wait for Age of Ultron next summer. Until DC gets around to making a Wonder Woman movie, Marvel is going to get my money. Because, while they don’t have a solo female film, they at least have a female superhero who has had a significant role in more than one film.

  22. 22
    Joanna says:

    RE: the violence level – I would agree with others it is violent and a great deal of it is due to violent fight scenes.  As far as the intense fighting goes, my sons pointed out that the actor playing the leader of the pirates at the beginning of the movie, who has an intense fight scene with Cap on board the ship, is a legendary UFC fighter named George St. Pierre, who supposedly got bored because no one could beat him and so started making movies! Anyway, the fight scenes are very well choreographed if you like that sort of thing – especially the one that takes place inside an elevator.

    @Nicole – totally agree this movie is “filled to overflowing with hot men”

  23. 23
    Coldglass says:

    Come on Marvel, do I have to spell it out for you?  Falcon & Hawkeye!

  24. 24

    This review summed up exactly why I loved this movie (and enjoyed it much more than the first one)! You hit the nail on the head with your take on Black Widow, and I’m wondering if you’ve seen this post: Every review of Black Widow in ‘Captain America’ is wrong. I’ll add another hand in the air for a Black Widow solo movie!

  25. 25
    Lulu says:

    Really? While I loved the film, I think that Black Widow is the only Marvel heroine who doesn’t suck. The rest of the girls exist solely as girlfriend characters IMO, except for maybe Maria Hill. I especially loathe the Natalie Portman character who despite having “doctorates” is a complete idiot.

  26. 26
    Fiona McGier says:

    I’m such an action movie junkie that this needs to be bought and stored in my house…where I can find it often!  Yes, lots of hot men…as it was pointed out, even the extras in the fight scenes are drool-worthy!  And the winter soldier?  I’ve got what it takes to heal you, honey.  ;-D

    But I also was extremely pleased that the female aren’t just window dressing, eye-candy or prizes/trophies.  Black Widow is a strong heroine, and her trying to get the Capt. to date again is great.  I don’t want the two of them in a romance, though yes, she could help him overcome his…um…performance issues.  But they need to be friends first.  And the “nurse” is a great new character, as is the dark-haired woman agent also.  I want to see more of both of them in this Marvel universe. 

    Keep ‘em coming, Marvel!  I’ll be there with my family, waiting in line for the midnight showings!

  27. 27
    Helen M says:

    I only saw this a for the first time for a few hours ago, so my brain is still in the ‘WHEEE CAP! I LOVE CAP YAY FOR MORE CAP MOVIES’, because I? Love Captain America. Once upon a time, I found the character mega cheese, but post the Civil War storyline in the comic books, I’m a fangirl. The speech Cap gives Peter (where he uses his secret mutant power of inspirational speechmaking) is one of my all time favourite pages, and sometimes makes me tear up. Like I did at the ‘best girl’ line, and a couple other things in the film. Because I am a MASSIVE crybaby.

    But my leaky eyes aren’t what I’m here to talk about. Not today.

    OBLIGATORY MASSIVE SPOILER/SPECULATION WARNING HERE.

    Like, seriously, I’m talking about things that happened in the post credit scene, and what the possible impact of contracts/casting/comics canon could have on future films. So, if that’s not your things, ignore the below:

    Did everyone watch the post-credits sequence? Not the mid-credits sequence with Strucker and ‘the twins’, but the one after everything, with Bucky doing a Steve, and viewing the Smithsonian exhibit (minus the old skool Cap uniform, hee!) in civvies, and getting totes emosh whilst doing it? Because I have a theory – which seems obvious to me, so I may just be falling for Marvel trolling, but here we go: Bucky’s kicking his programming, learning about his past. This is A GOOD THING, because the beautifully built Chris Evans has pretty much confirmed that the third Cap film is going to be his last, which is sad for two reasons. 1. The beautifully built Chris Evans is fantastic as Cap. 2. The possibility of no more Cap films / possible impact on the Avengers franchise, etc. But! There is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel – in the comics, Steve…goes away for some time…but there, like, can’t not be a Captain America, so Bucky pulls on the star, and Bucky!Cap is le awesomesauce. And his romance with Natasha make me all squishy inside. They are both so damaged, and their shared experiences mean no one else understands them as well and and and and and I just want all the films now, please.

    Somewhat less spoilery but still speculative TLDR: If you lurved Sebastian Shaw as the Winter Soldier, there is the potential for him and his metal arm to be in a lot more Marvel films, as a fairly major character.

    It’s 1 am. I have to be at work in an obscenely short amount of time, so I’ll stop the flailing there.

  28. 28

    A squee totally counts as a review, IMO.  I loved it.  I’m thinking I’ll sneak off to see it again. Alone. This Thursday. Shhhhh…tell NO ONE

  29. 29
    CarrieS says:

    Couple super quick responses before I fall asleep:

    @Donna Gambale: I have seen that article, and it makes me SO ANGRY.  Not the article itself, which is a great response to sexism – what enrages me is ALL THE SEXISM.  HULK NOT LIKE SEXISM.  HULK SMASH.

    @SB Sarah re violence: The violence is not graphic, but it’s semi-realistic.  In The Avengers, most of the violence is human vs alien but in this movie it’s human vs human, which I think males a difference.  The only Marvel movies 10 year old daughter has seen are the two Thor movies and The Avengers, however I’m unusually protective re violent movies.  There’s no gore.

  30. 30
    CarrieS says:

    @Lulu:  How much the Marvel women function as “The Girlfriend” depends on the movie. 

    Let’s start with the worst of the lot – Thor.  Everything revolves around Thor, including Jane Foster.  I complained about this on this site in my review of Dark World.  When Thor left Earth, apparently she moped for two years.  Sad.  Sif has also been broken-hearted by Thor, but she has things to do.  She’s a competent warrior in her own right, with her own job.  She puts it well in the first movie, when Thor is saying to all his friends, “Who made you great” (I’m paraphrasing) and they say “You did!”  But Sif’s response is “I did!” (Thor quickly replies, “And I supported you!”

    On a tangent – I think every Thor movie should be subtitled “It’s All Odin’s Fault”.  what an ass.

    Here’s more of my thoughts on Thor:  http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/movie-review-thor-the-dark-world

    That brings us to Iron Man.  Because Tony is so narcissistic, it’s hard for side characters to be more than sidekicks.  War Machine in particular is horribly underused.  And Pepper Potts has to do a certain amount of revolving around Tony because she runs his company.  This does not alter the fact that she’s an exemplary, influential, powerful businesswoman.  She doesn’t need Tony to be a successful CEO although she does need him to sign stuff if she’s going to be CEO of his company.

    Here’s more about Pepper and Tony: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/iron-man-3-a-guest-review-by-carrie-s

    By far the best mini-franchise in terms of women has been Captain America.  Peggy, in the first movie, is not there to be the chick.  She has her own mission, her own goals, and her own set of skills.  When Steve is lost to her, she’s sad, but it doesn’t stop her from finding happiness with a new love, having a family, and having an amazing career which includes triumphs both in and out of combat. Peggy doesn’t encourage Steve because she has a crush on him, she supports him because he supports her greater mission.  She clearly ALSO has a crush on him, but that’s not her motive in the first movie.

    Neither Maria Hill nor Natasha are girlfriends and they are perfectly capable of kicking ass on their own regardless of girlfriend status.  Natasha in particular is working out a whole set of non-Steve, non-Hawkeye related issues having to do with her past and her future.

    We don’t see much of the nurse down the hall but she’s another character who is motivated not by her attraction to Steve, but because his mission matches her mission. 

    The bottom line, even with Pepper, is that these women are people, not decorations (I just rewatched Thor: The Dark World and I got nuthin as far as Jane Foster is concerned).  They have fully developed personalities and they have value in their own right.  Women and people of color are marginalized within the Marvel movies but they do better than they do in many other action movies (we’re looking at a low bar, here).

    Whew, long post – sorry!

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