Captain America: The Winter Soldier - An In-Depth EF Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - An In-Depth EF Review

I finally got to see the highly anticipated Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Did it reach expectation? Does it deliver on what Marvel set out to do? Hit the jump and gain some of my perspective on this amazing entry into the MCU.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

General Information
Released: April 4th, 2014
Opened: March 26th-28th 2014 Internationally @ $95,383,000.00
Metacritic: 69 with an 8.9 User Score
Rotten Tomatoes Aggregated So Far: 88% Critics & 94% Audience
IMDB Profile
Movie Website

Editorial Biases

I liked the first Captain America film. I liked it because it lived in the era of the 'greatest generation'. I liked it because I got to see a proper movie about one of my favorite Marvel characters. But I wanted more out of that film. It felt a bit rushed. It was a great and solid tie to the MCU but it was lacking. 

Going into this film I was expecting that it would give me a lot of the same things I gained from the original. A more toned down concept for a character focused picture that was very heavily based on the solidarity Steve Rogers is feeling; rather is portrayed to feel constantly throughout the original film.

While I had expected a good movie, I was not expecting to be impressed with a solid character story. Let alone a solid character ensemble.

The Good

The character development in the film feels appropriately paced, and shines the spotlight properly on Steve Rogers. We get a great amount of time with Sam "Falcon" Wilson, played gracefully by Anthony Mackie yet we don't get a lot of time on his origin. We simply see a connection formed between the two soldiers that builds from a very specific place. Something the 'greatest generation' had when it came to soldiers and war was the banding together of brothers. "Soldiers know soldiers" would be an easy and poignant way to say it. Rogers may respect Fury on some level but he's a spy not a soldier, he doesn't trust Fury; similarly with Black Widow. But Wilson is a tried and true soldier. The bond formed between both men is extremely apparent and slowly takes on a proper and informal comfort zone. While I can agree the movie uses this with undertones, most may not understand why their relationship becomes such a strongly bonded one early on if they don't understand how soldiers can bond in the field. But I liked how the film doesn't waste too much time attempting to showcase this aspect. It wasn't brutally forced on us. It was appropriately paced and it made great sense.

I almost feel like there might have been scenes filmed where the trio of Cap, Falcon, and Widow went to retrieve the EXO-7 Falcon rig, but I'm slightly glad it was removed from the film. I would state it would have been a digression from the main story. If such footage does exist, it is thankfully best saved for a directors cut of some sort.

Scarlett Johansson continues to bring her character to life in a way that is both dangerously arousing and almost perfectly close to the comic. Of course we rarely hear her use a Russian accent, but I think that's ok, she makes up for it in a variety of ways in every MCU film in which she continues to reprise the role.

The Bad

Is it me or do we all agree that 'Shaky-Cam Syndrome' should now be listed in the DSM5 as a psychological disorder that directors have? Because I think it is a disease that may be spreading among Hollywoods elite. I also think that the extreme closeup and flash-focusing around a scene is a bit of a copout to hinder any possibility for the audience to not notice a stunt double. 

I think with a little more movie magic we can maintain camera angles or jump to alternate camera perspectives to produce certain shots, sans the shaky-cam and the refocusing shot. Maybe it's just me, but it takes a little bit away from the film if I have to go into rapid eye movement every moment to readjust and try to comprehend what I just saw. Then questioning what I just saw as it moves on to the next scene. It's almost as reflexive as blinking at the moment you needed to not blink. That's frustrating, because the phrase "if you blink you'll miss something" isn't really what I'm going for here.

I also kept being driven crazy by my intolerable use of common sense that struggled to understand why the helicarriers had to rise to 3000 feet? To then be expected to believe that cannons, aiming in a downward angle could fire rounds from DC to as far North as New Jersey...then it hit me. State of Plot essentially played out that it would be more believable to assume this 'weapon' could fire to such reaches but would never actually be fired in the film. Versus having the helicarrier climb to actual suborbital heights; roughly 62 miles (327,360 feet) and believably fire on these targets that spanned hundreds of miles apart on the ground. Why? For one logical reason. It would not be believable for these characters to be running around the decks of these carriers let alone flying around them without oxygen masks. Especially without specialty suits preventing them from freezing at such altitudes. Hooray plot! Trade one point for another to relieve the issue of suspension of disbelief and still not accomplish the task.  Is this a big problem? No. It's a nerd/geek argument that is more about the science and math associated with such an endeavor than it is a problem for the mainstream to comprehend. But I'm a nerd/geek that likes to be complete in my assessments of such things if they are present. 

The Ugly

Did I say I hated Shaky-Cam Syndrome? No, well I hate it...

There isn't much issue in this film that would really constitute being in this category of my In-Depth reviews. If I were to make a case against the film that I'd feasibly add here it would be the lack of Hawkeye. Which is understandable. I'd also argue that there was no mention of Coulson, let alone any mention of the other agents from the TV series. I think that was a sore misrepresentation of this continuity concept. I expect undoubtedly in the next episodes of Agents of SHIELD to come there will be fallout from this film into their storylines. A simple communication between Fury and Coulson on a screen or at the Triskellion would have sufficed and than a dismissal toward other endeavors away from the films plot would have been nice. Especially because we had Sitwell in an important role present. But then again, I made statements about the appropriate pace this film had in moving forward with its characters and their development. 

To argue any of the above would really be reaching and nitpicky to say the least. I can understand why it is not in the film, but I can also argue the same thing in past MCU films, such as with Avengers. The momentary acknowledgement that Dr. Foster was safe and the same argument of "why?" would also present the argument about why was Warmachine missing in Avengers? These are arguments best left to the fan community to chew on and speculate about on the inconquerable ether that is the interwebs. 

The Great

Do you want to play a game?

I love the reference to War Games. I love this reference because it was a lovely tongue-in-cheek statement to the concept of this film. This was an excellent spy vs. spy film, dipped in Marvel's universe like a vanilla soft-serve cone into chocolate at a Dairy Queen. We've seen the action packed scenes, sure. We've seen the giant war scenes, ok. We've even seen super-powered characters like Thor and Hulk go-at-it, sure give me more...I'm game! But truly we needed to see this film containing all of the above but told with a feel for espionage, for some intrigue. Develop the characters in their struggle and connection to one another, but use strife, paranoia, betrayal, guile, and a variety of other pretentious words that help you understand the concept of struggling through adversity. 

I loved the integration of Civil War #1. It was marvelously placed and used well. If you haven't read this series, you need to. I won't ruin the scene. It is not exactly as it is in the comic, but it uses the premise in this film with aspects of what happens to Captain America when SHIELD tries to apprehend him in both iterations. It is an enormous foreshadowing to use this bit of source material in this film. Especially when you add the Winter Soldier element to the mix. Two very specific elements helping build the future of 'Cap' in the MCU with varied implications. 

Once upon a time I was in the military and because of this fact, I love and appreciate military accurate combat tactics in military-style films. Even if this is a comic book film with some super-hero flair. I appreciate that fighting tactics used by both Rogers and Barnes were deliberately US vs Russian fighting tactics. I just wish I had more of it presented with less of a shaky-cam effect to appreciate more of the movement. 

GSP from UFC fame in a cameo as Batroc was an extreme highlight for me in the movie. I moonlight on a newspaper as a UFC journalist, and that was a fantastic showing for the former welterweight Champ. Among other cameo's was Toby Jones returning as Arnim Zola as we have all waited to see him again. Granted it wasn't exactly as he appears in the comics, but it was a perfect appearance for the characters interpretation. I also expect we'll be seeing him later in the MCU.

…and, Amazing?

“Stephen Strange...”

The future of the MCU was laid before us, and not just toward the next incarnation of the Avengers, but in terms of some of the most brilliant villains Marvel has ever devised. We already had Red Skull, and we already know that Ultron and Thanos are in the fray. Guardians will pull out more galactic level baddies but Winter Soldier just opened the door for the next level of MCU films. Not just because of the Doctor Strange Easter egg that was dropped. But with the mid-credit and post credit teasers. 

That said. The fight choreography, when you could follow it, was spectacular. You feel the blows, you can easily feel the theater around you heave and huff with each blow. If not feel the sonic bombardment of patrons yelling "Oh!" and "Ah!" from the various encounters. There was a moment when I began to wonder if the 2005 comic book, Captain America Volume 5 #1, "Out of Time" Part 1 would see itself completely come to life during the climax of the film, and I was literally at the edge of my seat. Perhaps because I'm an avid follower of all of the Captain America comics I can shudder through various scenes when I felt both Comic and Film universes coalesce. Due to some perceived outcomes prior to the film, seeing it happen, and then it be taken in a different fruitful direction was exhilarating. Those are the moments I enjoy. I comfortably retreated into my chair again and allowed the rest of the movie to play out until I found myself nearing collapse from my stated seat once more.  

To continue, Sebastian Stan is without question fantastic as the Winter Soldier. To some degree it's hard to make too many statements about his performance as most of his portrayal he could have researched watching the early Terminator films. Learning to maintain an air of extremely urgent danger and focus. Stan does this beautifully. Both Robert Patrick and Arnold Schwarzenegger were extremely intimidating Terminators, but personally, Sebastian Stan might be in contention for dethroning both of them in this extremely sinister role. Stan looked beyond incredible and every time his character hits Rogers you might just wince a little, especially near the climax of the film. If you've seen it, you'll know, if you haven't, you'll understand when you do...

What Might have Hurt This Film…

I think one of the greatest strengths of big budget films today, most of all Comic Book Films, is the fact that the marketing budget for them are larger than some third world countries GDP's. I think while this is a powerful thing it also hurts these films in the way that they can reveal so much of their plots before anyone actually sees them on the big screen. I'm not complaining for getting more, not at all. But I think in terms of the fandom, the expectation of the films greatness is lowered by minor reveals that churn throughout the internet headspace and slowly the most intuitive of fans can break the stories and help reveal some of the strongest plots that should have been kept secret until witnessed on the big screen. All because a random image on a trailer reveals it.

This films trailer, I will say, did a very good 'bit' of misdirection with the helicarrier crashes. Giving you what was believed to be too much, but the intention and cause were perceived to be something else altogether. So as far as The Winter Solider goes, bravo for that. However, considering what other critics may argue against the film - "not seeing anything new" - strikes me as effect from a cause of over-marketing material that could have been held back.

That said, the camera work and the overarching issues of Rogers past can become redundant and boring. But truly not enough to cause the film any harm.

Overall Verdict?

I loved the film, shaky-cam aside, it had a lot of heart. It showcased Steve Rogers and paved the way for a very enthralling MCU future. It was a very terrestrial Marvel character film prior to a very extra-terrestrial set of films that will be proceeding it. It felt powerful, it felt purposeful, the characters were extremely human but still felt larger than life, and that is the general goal of a film like this. I think fans of Captain America will absolutely love it. Fans of the mainstream MCU may think they are seeing the same thing if they are just watching these films as a general diversion, because it's a Marvel-esque Jason Bourne typical story. But the character is not typical, and neither was the main super-villain. 

4.5 out of 5 Comic Book Movie Geeks


Have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet? Are you planning to? Did this review help you? Do you agree or disagree? I want to hear from you! Comment, share, tweet, pin, form your words out of Lego pieces, whatever tickles your fancy. @EmanuelFCamacho
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