Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

It’s spring again, and you all know what that means: One of this year’s two Marvel movies has just been released, and being in Europe, I get to see it before anyone in the U.S.! Wow, just think: we now live in a time where it’s normal to have two Marvel movies each year, one in early spring and one in summer. In fact, it’s become such a regular thing that we hardly notice or rejoice in it like we used to.

Then there’s the fact that all of these movies have a shared continuity, which has now become the accepted norm, so much so that we now take it for granted, and thus don’t recall what a batshit insane project this was for Marvel from the get-go, and how batshit insane it still is. Especially as this universe is still expanding, and still introducing new heroes and overarching plotlines, and now has a spin-off TV show, plus potential Netflix shows that could eventually lead to a crossover miniseries for the Defenders that would still exist in the same universe of the films!

These movies truly are the closest we’ve ever come to a comic book-style continuity in film. And if they’re not careful, they may soon end up just as confusing as the actual comic books.

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This spring brings us the return of Chris Evans as the Sentinel of Liberty in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, which functions as a sequel to not only the first Captain America movie, but also The Avengers. I really liked the first Captain America movie, and it’s perhaps my favorite of the pre-Avengers Marvel movies. Yes, I might even like it better than Iron Man—so sue me. I enjoyed it because it was such an unpretentious, classic, good-guy-vs.-bad-guy movie. There have only been a few big budget action movies in recent years daring to go as old school as the first Captain America.

The good guy was in fact just a really good, nice guy, who only wanted to do the right thing and help people around him, because he’s just that nice. The bad guy was evil just because… well, he’s a Nazi! In fact, the Red Skull was so evil that he made Hitler look like a puppy dog in comparison, and next to HYDRA, the Nazis themselves looked like dancing fairies.

And yet, the movie never turned into a diatribe about hate towards a specific country. The movie went out of its way to show that nationalities don’t matter at all, and that brilliant and good people can come from anywhere. The movie showed Captain America not only fighting for America, but fighting for anyone who couldn’t fight for themselves, and gathering a team of men from different countries around him, presenting an ideal of a world where everyone bands together to fight for freedom.

The movie was a loving tribute to old-time comic books and what they stood for back in the day. It was about the rise and fall of not just a hero, but a true hero in every sense of the word. Someone who does what he feels is right because it’s his duty. No higher purpose, no tragic backstory. With or without powers, Steve Rogers is obliged to do the right thing when called upon. It’s really amazing that they’ve made a character like Captain America work in modern action films.

Since the first film, we’ve moved from the past of World War II into the present day of 2014. So how do they go about making a movie about a guy who’s pretty much a product of his time?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Well, in the present day, Captain America is still a soldier and still feels he has a duty to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. So he works for SHIELD and, of course, Nick Fury. But even from the first opening action sequence, we can already see why this relationship may be less than ideal.

Steve is a soldier. He follows orders and is ridiculously honest. He’s purely an agent for justice and is all about fighting the enemy directly and openly, and proudly standing up for what he believes in, and trusting his comrades with his life.

SHIELD, on the other hand, is a secret agency full of secret agents (which I write as a Danish person from Denmark, currently eating a Danish, hah!) where information is given out on a need-to-know basis, and every mission might have a secret objective, and lies are the norm, and trusting the wrong people might get you killed. So, yeah… Steve and SHIELD go together like oil and water.

And while Steve is a relic of a time where right and wrong were obvious things, and is all about proudly standing up for your ideals, SHIELD is more suited for our world today, where ideals and morals have changed. The world is no longer as Steve left it, and to him it doesn’t seem to have changed for the better. While the past had honesty, our modern world depends on secrets, lies, and spin doctors. So yeah, you might notice there’s just a little bit of social commentary going on in this movie.

And as if all of this isn’t bad enough, Nick Fury gets attacked by a huge group of assassins and a super-soldier just as strong as Steve. Because you don’t take down Samuel Motherfucking Jackson without bringing half an army first!

The last thing Fury manages to tell Steve before he dies (keeping in mind this is the Marvel Universe, where nobody really dies) is that the attack was an inside job perpetrated by a rogue SHIELD agent, and no one is to be trusted. So now the movie is all about Captain America teaming up with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, of course) to try to find the mole within SHIELD.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Eventually, they’re on the run from SHIELD itself, who’s tracking them in a cross-country manhunt where Steve is forced to play the secret agent game, and figure out who to trust among a number of operatives who make their living lying and playing dirty. During this, he joins up with the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), a fellow veteran who’s able to fly thanks to mechanical wings, because… they look really cool!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

As we’ve all come to expect from these movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a perfectly good, perfectly entertaining, perfectly solid movie. It is by no means among any of my favorite Marvel movies (sorry, guys), but as a story filling the time between two Avengers movies, it’s pretty good. It has a lot of interesting ideas, and takes Steve’s character in a direction that feels natural, with a fish out of water storyline where it becomes apparent just how much our world has changed in the last 70 years. Not just in silly pop culture and technology, but also in our very principles and how things are done.

The biggest flaw in this film seems to be that quite honestly, it sometimes feels like it’s much more interested in the future Avengers movie than itself. Which could have easily resulted in a way worse movie; Iron Man 2 had the exact same problem, and ended up being the worst of the shared Marvel Universe movies, and is only salvaged by its place in a much grander scheme of things. Captain America 2 at least works in its own right as a suspenseful action movie.

I would have also preferred a more memorable villain. The Winter Soldier is of course the main draw here, and a villain taken directly from the comic books. I assume he’s pretty popular there, since they made a movie about him and all. But here, he’s really not that remarkable, and is ultimately just the hired muscle for the real villain, who’s not that interesting either. It’s funny that in a world inhabited by iron-clad, god-like, and star-spangled superheroes, we end up with such bland and boring villains.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The only two villains we’ve had so far in the Marvel films that really feel like comic book villains are Loki and the Red Skull. The rest are… well, it would have been awesome if Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin showed up and was given super powers, along with his big-ass mystical mansion to have battles in. At this point, I’d appreciate any attempt to have a more imaginative villain.

The time spent with Black Widow AKA Natasha Romanov AKA whatever you want to call her is definitely welcome, as the character is given a lot more depth here. This was by far her best appearance in these movies, as she gets both a good deal of character development and to kick some ass.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The supporting cast are of course all great, and deliver strong performances. Though I think it says it all when the best thing in the entire movie was the small mid-credits scene that’s actually a sneak peek of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which looks beyond amazing and really got me hyped up.

All in all, this movie is perfectly serviceable for what it is, but it’s not a big standout “must-see” movie. If you like the Marvel movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this movie should be perfectly fine entertainment and hold you over until Guardians of the Galaxy in August. But its biggest strength is how it gets you excited for what’s coming next year.

If you skip The Winter Soldier, you really won’t have missed all that much in the grand scheme of things. It’s just a good movie, and that’s about it.

[—Editing/cleanup/revisions to this article provided by Dr. Winston O’Boogie and Elliot Hodgett.]

Tag: Marvel Cinematic Universe

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  • conservative man

    I heard in this movie that shield has been infiltrated by Hydra, which could explain why the big secret bosses of shield had no problem trying to nuke New York city in the Avengers during the alien invasion.

    • Sofie Liv

      Spoiler darling, spoiler ;)

      • conservative man

        oh right…sorry about that.

        • Sofie Liv

          That’s oki doki.. it is the sat up mystery of the movie. “Whom inside shield did this, and whyyy???” … but, well, it is a superhero movie after-all, not a detective movie. So we are not here for the mystery are we? it’s quiete honestly, not all that good any-ways.

  • I quite liked this film overall (probably as much as Avengers), but I think it lost its nerve at the last minute. The interesting modern day political conspiracy thriller story was rather undercut when, instead of having the villains turn out to be flawed human beings deciding that mass murder is the path to happiness and kittens they just turn out to be Nazis (or rather Marvel’s I-Can’t-Believe-They’re-Not-Nazis). That’s not to say that the political stuff didn’t work however, and I think that this film was what both Elysium and the Robocop remake were trying to be, and like those movies it is executed with a subtlety reminiscent of being smacked round the head with a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick. SPOILERS Also I was really disappointed when Nick Fury didn’t die. END SPOILERS

    The Winter Soldier’s prescence here also rather baffles me as he doesn’t have anything to do with the plot despite being the sub-titular character and I think they should have held him off ’til the sequel and instead called this one Captain America: Obama is a Nazi or something. Falcon’s presence is similarly superfluous, although it was one hell of a relief when I realised that the ex-US soldier superhero plotline would not be a Michael Bay-esque demand for the audience to fellate the US military (I had enough of that in January with Peter Berg’s The Passion of the Navy SEAL). I think they’re both symptoms of a script with too many ideas that it doesn’t have enough time to flesh out well (Bioshock Infinite was similar in my eyes) and when the final fight scene cut back to Falcon from one of the four other fights going on I realised I’d forgotten he was even in there.

    The action I thought was particularly good, with a real feeling of weight to it and it flowed so naturally in and out of the other scenes that you never had the sudden feeling of ‘oh, we’re in an action scene now’ that many films give me (coughQuantumofSolacecough). The credits scene was okay in my opinion but nothing spectacular, although part of me hopes that they’ll use the Ultimate versions of the characters because I’m a bastard like that.

    Also, what was on Cap’s list of things to catch up on in the Danish version? The British one had Sherlock and the South Korean one had Oldboy and DDR (the North Korean one was just Kim Jong-Un over and over).

    • Sofie Liv

      Yeah, action sequences, I like.
      When it really looks like those characters get hurt while being smacked around, so much so you automaticly whince your own face a little bit, it’s done right.
      And yup… Holy shit Nick Fury… you’re just having one of those days don’t you..

      SPOILER; I did thought think it was pretty damn obvious that he didn’t really die. There was just no way he was dead for long. And well, I just accepted that for what it is, this is a superhero movie, produced by Disney, which is also why I like this movies so much, because they maintain their sense of fun and adventurer without trying to be to realistic or dark and gritty and stuff. END SPOILER.

      You’re right about the movies having way to many ideas, thus never find the time to get more than just skin deep with any of them.
      the social commentary was intriquing, but needed more in depth time, to just frame what a rotten world we now life in where this is… pretty accurate in fact.
      And that would also have helped the villains motivation as well, if we had gotten the time to be shown.
      “This is what our world has become now! This! this thing were we relie on lies and secrets! But we can fix that! We want to fix that for you! Just let us!”

      Of course, their way of fixing it is stupid for way more reasons than should be bothered to be counted I mean jesus… No, no, no.. There is NO way of telling who is going to turn into a psykopath and who isn’t based on school grades and DNA tastes.. shesh man.
      But then again, I suppose you’re the ones whom are the actual psykopaths, so that’s oki I guess… maybe…

      • There were quite a few points where Cap’n kicked a guy into the wall of the ship near the beginning where I started to wonder if they’d ever get back up. This movie was more violent than The Dark Knight.

    • Nessus

      This may be a bit of a reach, but I suspect they may have chosen the Winter Soldier for the villain here at least in part because of his name.

      Hear me out on this:

      “Winter soldier” is a real world term (albeit a not often encountered one) for a soldier who makes a point of standing up for his/her duty or morality in the face of systemic corruption within his/her command. The term was coined during the war crime hearings following the Viet Nam war in reference to US soldiers who testified against fellow soldiers or their commanders. Basically it’s the opposite of the phrase “fair weather friend”, but for a soldiers’ higher duty instead of friendship.

      In the context of the film (from what I’ve gathered: I haven’t seen it yet, so my impression may be totally wrong), Captain America disagrees with and tries to change what he sees as a culture of ethically and philosophically sketchy methodology within SHIELD. The trailers pretty much make it out to be “Captain America vs. the FUD doctrine”.

      With this in mind, I think the title of the film may have an intended double meaning: referring to both the villain and Captain America himself. The Winter soldier may have been chosen to be the dragon for this movie (no way he can be the main villain, as he has no will or agenda of his own) in part because of this.

      The main villian has to be someone else, but the movie is concerned with this guy instead, so though I haven’t seen it yet, I’m guessing the main villian here is only dealt with as a hook for another movie. Kind of like how Avengers was all about fighting off Loki in the moment, but Loki’s invasion was really all just a setup for Thanos to show up in a later film. The Avengers mostly gets away with it because Loki is a fleshed out and charismatic character in his own right, but the Winter Soldier… isn’t, so using him as a dragon without the real villian having a notable presence (’cause he’s being saved for later) leaves an emotional void in the film, which I’m speculating may be what Sofie complained about.

      AAANYway, they wanted to make a story about the ideological conflict between Cap and SHIELD, with the outside threat of the villain being the catalyst rather than the primary dramatic conflict. And they wanted to double up by making the outside threat be a stepping stone for another villain to come later. Any villian would do the job, so long as it was one associated with Cap, and who was lower tier than they guy he’s supposed to be the opening act for. They picked Winter Soldier because 1) he’s a Cap villain, 2) his backstory ties him directly back into the first Cap movie, 3) he’s literally tailor made dragon material, and 4) his name makes for a nifty poetic double meaning with the Cap vs. SHIELD story.

      Like I said though, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I could be totally wrong. This is just spec that’s been floating around my head since I first saw the trailer months ago.

      • Sofie Liv

        Woooow… you’re sure you havn’t seen the movie? You are spot on in.. every-thing really!

        Thanks for making me aware of the double meaning of “Winther soldier.” I did not know that, but yes! Yes I think the title is definetely refering to the cap himself, huh. That’s clever!

        Yeah, if you read the comic book, you know why the character of the winther soldier is supposed to be an emotional thing for Steven, and the movie tries, it really does.. but it just never reaches beyond skin deep unfortinately, and yeah.. every-thing just feels like a set-up towards some-thing entirely different, as if this movie all-ready knows it’s just a side note in a grander scheme, so lets focus on the scheme instead of myself.. sigh.

        • Nessus

          I’m an American, so It’s not out where I am yet. Most of that is in the trailer though. Like I say, the trailer heavily emphasizes Cap’s conflict with SHIELD’s way of doing things, in terms that none-to-subtly echo the rhetoric of arguments over Bush II-era security and foreign policy that have been roiling for the last decade here in the US (Nick Fury all but quotes Dick Cheney at one point). I’ve been looking forward to the movie coming out here just so I can eat popcorn while I watch the media crap itself like an exited puppy as people argue over the movie’s alleged politics.

          I’m not even familiar with the comics. Basically I just looked up and skimmed the Wikipedia article about the Winter Soldier comic book character right after seeing the trailer six months ago or whatever. The rest is just math, as it were.

          • Sofie Liv

            Urghh… politics.. it aint never going to be easy.
            And hell! I am in a privilieged spot! as a white, blond blue eyed person, I should be in the clear. but nope, not really.. different nationalities will apparently always be an issue.

            I havn’t seen to much rage raising with this movie, but maybe it’ll come now it has come out in the US cinemas.. I don’t know.. you can just never tell with these god damn things what is going to course and uproar and what isn’t.

            Hell! I know that for myself! i’ve been putting things out, fully exspecting to piss people off, and nothing happened.
            And i’ve been putting things out that for me, was just a throw-away silly joke that some-body took very seriously and gave me serious flack for.

            You can sincerely, never ever tell what is going to piss people off!

            So hell, in my opinion.. why bother worrying about that or aiming for it deliberately?
            Just aim at making the best possible entertainment, and let the rest just be it.

          • Richard Eriksson Hjelm

            so captain america hits theater in europe before it does in america? that’s rather funny

          • Sofie Liv

            And the first Cap America movie did that to, yeah, the humour was not lost on my back then either, it is pretty funny.

            It is because Disneys release stragedy is to release ALL their marvel movies a bit early in europe, so the hype can build itself up for great ticket sales ones the movies hit the US cinemas.. but it is still kind of humourus X)

      • Muthsarah

        ‘”Winter soldier” is a real world term (albeit a not often encountered one) for a soldier who makes a point of standing up for his/her duty or morality in the face of systemic corruption within his/her command. The term was coined during the war crime hearings following the Viet Nam war in reference to US soldiers who testified against fellow soldiers or their commanders. Basically it’s the opposite of the phrase “fair weather friend”, but for a soldiers’ higher duty instead of friendship.’

        That is friggin’ awesome. All the moreso because A) I didn’t know that, and B) by logical extrapolation, I’m going to assume 90% of the audience didn’t know that either. And C) they didn’t bother to explain it; the title of the movie was an inside reference/easter egg. Can’t not love that.

    • Muthsarah

      The action was frequently terrible. I expect shaky-cam from the Bourne movies and their adoptive children, the new Bond flicks. They don’t ruin the movies, but they frequently get in the way of them, and turn the exciting bits into blurry headaches. Every fistfight in this movie was too distracting to follow (I’m SO happy I didn’t watch in it 3D). Yeah, they’re punching each other a lot, great. Too bad when the fight’s over, I don’t remember a single specific thing that happened. With all their money, you’d think they could find a better way to get around this than setting the camera in a paint-mixer. Then again, martial arts flicks may have just ruined me for everything.

      The film worked a lot better during its slower moments (even the gunplay/vehicle scenes were a lil’ better), and was overall, a pretty good movie. I’m just disappointed whenever the action is the worst part of an action flick. Marvel’s still getting a lot of mileage from their great casting; if I didn’t like the characters, this one coulda been a chore.

  • Muthsarah

    Why, Sofie? Why are you dangling this in front of all of us who don’t have the opportunity to see it yet?

    • Sofie Liv

      This article is even up pretty late, I wrote it like a week ago, Albert decided to time it like this so it would actually fit with your release over there.

      Also, don’t complain to me! I still don’t get any muppets movie in Danish cinema, at all!
      For some reason those movies just don’t like me :,(

  • drumstick00m

    That is a pity that we once again do not get even a decent re-occurring minion out of another marvel film. Real pity Fantastic Four took both Doctor Doom and Nemor.

    • Sofie Liv

      Doctor Doom is admittedly a villain that is in fact, extremely difficult to pull off, so even if Disney did have him.. i’m not sure they would use him.
      Nemor? .. who’s Nemor, I compleately forgot.

      • maarvarq

        Hi Sofie, removing the conflation with Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, that would be Namor the Sub-Mariner who is basically the Marvel Universe’s Aquaman, although much less of a wuss. Sue Storm, for one, gets all tingly when he’s around :-)

        • Sofie Liv

          Ooohhh… Yeah, as much of my comic knowledge are from Tely shows and movies.. it is rather holled in some way.

          Since DC had the better show I grew up with, my knowledge is far greater in that area where I actually bothered making research into the characters appearing in that show that intriqued me..
          And then the comic book went ahead and rebooted itself so my knowledge of this univers suddenly became a lot less impressive… thanks DC.. just.. Thanks..

      • Namor the submariner – Marvels version of Aquaman (If Aquaman had problems with constipation at least).

    • Thomas Stockel

      Do you mean recurring villain? Because Loki seems to fit the bill quite nicely, having been in three movies.

      • drumstick00m

        In popular knowledge, Marvel (every team) need another bad guy besides Loki. He is really the only one they have who is instantly recognizable and who evokes ambivalence, besides Magneto (somewhat).

        Even little kids know that is not how it is. All problems do not get solved by getting a Hulk to smash the guy with the horns on his head.

        Superhero myths are troubling for many reasons, however this is one that should not be too hard for people to change.

        • I actually would love to see MODOK in a movie. I have this weird urge to see what CGI effects could do with that character…

  • $36060516

    Sofie, you say that the Winter Soldier is a boring villain and might be more exciting in the comics. I think you’re right about that (not that I’ve seen the movie), because the main gimmick of the Winter Soldier is that the character of Bucky died in a comic book appearance in 1968 and then Marvel kept him dead until 2005 — almost 40 years. It was something they made a point of for a long time — seemingly any other hero or villain could come back from the dead, but Captain America’s sidekick would never come back — until they finally did it. Since there are only about two hours of movie appearances of Captain America between the time Bucky’s death and return, it can’t have anywhere near the impact as it did in he comics, where there were hundreds of issues of Captain America comics in between Bucky dying and returning.

    • Sofie Liv

      It is supposed to be very emotional.

      And to the movies credit, they DID set him up in the last movie, Steve was established having a best friend called “Bucky.” we met this guy, Steve and him was best friends even before the war, and Steve went to safe Bucky most of all in his first solo mission, then we saw Bucky did. All that happened in the first Cap movie, so clearly this was the plan, and it was supposed to be the emotional centre of this movie.

      But… unfortunately the movie is so busy with every-thing else that this so called emotional core.. never becomes more than just skin deep and feels more like a casual set-up, than an actual emotional tragedy.. as it seems though, he will show up again in the future, so that’s fine I suppose.

  • Joseph Patrick

    “Captain America: Winter Soldier” has got to be my favorite superhero movie in a long time! It hit all the right beats, had a plot that didn’t get convoluted, and heroes that I could root for. Even in “The Avengers,” I felt that Nick Fury didn’t get a chance to be the secret-agent badass he was in the comics. In this movie, they take advantage of that. Also while giving Steve and Falcon great chemistry and a team-up that didn’t feel forced. I loved this movie every bit as much as I loved watching “The Dark Knight” and “The Avengers,” which is a big thing to say since I felt that “The Avengers” would be the last superhero movie in years to measure up to!

    One thing I’m going to have to disagree with you on is that the villain was more than just the Winter Soldier; who even then I didn’t think was boring. Without spoiling much, there are other people and organizations in the film that had a big maniacal comic-book feel to it. It’s also a twist that I would not have seen coming. Unlike Iron Man 3, you had a feeling that Ben Kingsley’s character wasn’t the mastermind. Particularly because it was shown already that the extremis formula was uncontrollable. So having a character to take the blame for something uncontrollable was a good red herring…. And that’s exactly how it played out predictably. With this twist, it has a reason for happening that isn’t too far off and actually makes sense in relation to the movie.

    Again… no spoilers. Watch it. Watchit,watchit,watchit!!!!

    I also never had a doubt in my mind that the Russos could not pull this off even though they came from television. As a long time fan of “Community” and a somewhat fan of “Arrested Development,” I know that they can deconstruct what works about certain clichés and tropes for genres.

    Also the end credits scene is a great homage to Jim Steranko’s artwork!

    It’s got great action, great suspense, a great teamup, a great cameo by Danny Pudi, and a great Captain America movie that I might just as well like more than “The First Avenger!”

    A plus… A plus, plus PLUS!!! It left me with a big ol’ stupid grin on my face from start to finish!

  • To be honest, I enjoyed the first Captain America movie a bit more than this one. This one is entertaining, don’t get me wrong, and one could do worse than spend some time in the theater seeing it. But I enjoyed the first one for the same reason I like “The Rocketeer” – it just felt more… wholesome? Is that the word I am looking for? No idea what it is, but I felt that this movie wanted to be an action movie, a spy movie, a commentary on modern day America and a setup for Avengers 2 – and when a movie has that many masters, the soul of the movie is gonna get short shrift.

    Still… I guess it was better than most movies out there.

  • Kanonite

    I loved this movie and had no problems with the villains. Mainly cause I adore mundane-looking/functioning heroes and villains. And I liked that they pushed the envelope somewhat without being on the nose about it.

  • William

    I liked it. Was expecting a more straight-forward superhero film, but this sufficed.

  • ‘If you skip The Winter Soldier, you really won’t have missed all that much in the grand scheme of things. It’s just a good movie, and that’s about it.’

    Really?! So I guess the fact that SHIELD was basically destroyed doesn’t really affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe bit?

    • Adam Robert Sherman

      Considering they decided to retcon that in Agents of SHIELD…

      • … erm, no they didn’t?!?!?

        • Adam Robert Sherman

          Fury’s having Coulson rebuild SHIELD underground as its new Director.

          • That’s not a retcon!
            The word you’re looking for is ‘reset button’. And it’s not even that, because SHIELD won’t be back by the next movie, and it won’t be the same. So no.

          • Adam Robert Sherman

            Fair enough. My bad.