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