Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Marvel Universe
I remember as a kid I never was quite like other boys my age. I didn't watch a lot of the other things people were talking about, like the Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (if anything, to me the latter did a dang good job of keeping me away just because the title itself seemed so stupid). As a result, it should hardly come as a surprise I never got into superheroes the same way others did, and it wasn't until much later I even got to really see any of the big superhero movies. I didn't see The Dark Knight until 2012 in high school, about four years after everyone else did.
So to make a long story short, if a superhero franchise spanning multiple films and a TV series focusing on different characters with seperate but connected story lines that you really have to be on your toes for in order to follow manages to win me over, they must be doing something right. There may have been one or two here and there that didn't work so great (I can't be the only one who was disappointed Pepper Potts didn't get her own suit in Iron Man 3), but overall it's a compelling and exciting franchise that always seems to have me excited for the next installment. Recently we saw the latest entry into this multi-series franchise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
This was a compelling follow-up to the original Captain America: The First Avenger with a mix of drama, action and comedy without one over dominating the other. There is some emphasis on the strain that Steve Rogers has to go through as a result of being unfrozen in the present day after crashing during World War II, but it's not overdone so much as it is just enough to provide a recap (and key information for anyone who missed the first film). It does allow for some minor continuity references (which would be hard to do given most of the cast of the first film has died of old age). This all occurs in the form of a few scenes in a museum, where the uniforms of Captain America and his band of not-so-inglorious basterds are on display, along with a brief scene in which he speaks to an elderly Peggy Carter. It also sets up yet another humorous cameo by Stan Lee during the climax.
Of course, once that's all out of the way, we get plenty of great action and suspense. There's lots of twists and turns to be found and the film takes the franchise into an interestingly dark direction. Of course if you've been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. you'll have some idea of what's going on, but The Winter Soldier does help to shed some light on the events of the series (and vice versa). If you haven't seen either I'm not going to reveal the conspiracy that's at large, but let's just say it really turns things around for our heroes and places a lot of questions of loyalty.
It also probably helps that the focus here is largely on more familiar characters. We do get introduced to some new faces, but the story is still about Steve Rogers. Scarlett Johansson returns in the role of Black Widow, who inevitably gets many tough moments of her own. Of course she seems to have habit of changing her hairstyles between films, but she still gets plenty of action and a decent relationship with Steve Rogers.
Also back is, unsurprisingly, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, who has here a lot more screen time than usual. In most of the previous films Nick Fury has had worked from the sidelines, organizing the Avengers and observing from elsewhere, but in this movie, he gets a whole action scene to himself to show just how tough a guy he is. It's actually a pretty tense scene with some very real dangers even for the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Also back is Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, also a great character. As with The Avengers, she doesn't get involved much with the action (although the little she does participate in is pretty important), but she is still a welcome returning face to the series.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine addition to the Marvel Universe. Already there is talk of a third movie, which I hope will find new directions to go. I can say I'm excited to see the next installment in the franchise.