When I was training to be a newspaper reporter, I learned never to bury the lead. Which meant, always start with the most important stuff right up front.
Not in the second paragraph.
And certainly never in the third.
I am, however, willing to state here, in the fourth paragraph, uncategorically, that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic, rip-roaring, rootin’-tootin’, bad-guy shooting, uplifting, side-splitting fantastically good movie.
I liked it, is what I’m trying to say.
I thought it would be difficult for any Marvel movie to surpass the wonder that is Marvel’s The Avengers, which I thought might have been one of the best movies of the decade at least. And, to be sure, CA: TWS, doesn’t surpass The Avengers, but it comes darn close.
Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, while Scarlett Johansson also is back as Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. They’re joined by Anthony Mackie, playing Sam Wilson, the Falcon, and a host of other folks, including Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. high-muckety-muck Alexander Pierce.
And they all — every single one of them — are fantastic in their role. The Black Widow, instead of being a girlfriend, or a pawn, or a sacrifice to make the male hero’s journey personal, is a formidable hero in her own right, facing down doubts and horrors from her past. She also benefits from the double-edged sword that is Captain America: She believes she can be better because Captain America believes she is better and she doesn’t want to let him down.
That’s only one of the things that makes Steve Rogers such a dangerous man.
Not only is the film well acted, but it’s filled with astonishing special effects, drastic fight scenes, Easter eggs too numerous to count (including the birth of at least two new villains, a certain tombstone near the end and namechecking the Sorcerer Supreme), and — believe it or not — an extended meditation on the idea of freedom versus security.
Following the events in New York, chronicled in Marvel’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. is all set to step out and take over world security. This eagerness is making Captain America a bit wary as it seems S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to start killing people before they actually commit a crime.
Should Americans and, by extension, the world give up their freedoms to become safer from a world that now contains super soldiers, aliens, gods and ten-foot-tall rampaging rage monsters?
Unfortunately, it’s not a question that will get answered in this movie, because it turns out that the entire operation has been compromised by Hydra, the bad guys from the first Cap film. Which means that the entire notion is, prima fascia, a bad idea. It sort of deflates the argument I was having in my head there, but I applaud the movie for at least bringing it up.
I’m also amazed by the actual change displayed in this movie. In most action series, there’s a set status quo and, once the movie is over, no matter what happened in the previous two hours, everything is back to the way it started. Not so in this movie.
Things change. Structures and organizations you thought were permanent fixtures of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been completely transformed.
And all this before the Winter Soldier hits the scene, himself stalking out of Captain America’s past with a secret that could shatter him without a fight.
So, yeah. It’s a great movie, not just a great superhero movie.
What I loved the most about this movie can be summed up in one amazing elevator ride.
Captain America is trying to leave the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters after telling a powerful person no. He steps in the elevator. Two floors down, several men get on. Several floors after that, more rough and tough men come on. Eventually, the elevator is packed with roughboys and Captain America, who realizes what’s about to happen.
Instead of immediately smacking them all silly, Captain America first tries to settle the situation peacefully.
“Before we get started,” he says, “does anyone want to get out?”
The answer is no, so then he wipes the elevator floor with them in an amazing fight scene that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.
Go pay said price of admission and enjoy yourself. This is a fantastic movie for the family or anyone else who enjoys action movies with fun, adventure, laughs and a couple of moments of genuine sadness and deep emotion.
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