There are a lot of bigger, better, corporately sponsored websites & blogs out there covering pop culture, movies, and comics that get the scoop long before a movie is commercially released. They get to sit down with the creators, pick the brains of the actors involved, and visit the sets to see whats going on. They get to critique the films with early viewings, sometimes being able to watch the movie multiple times even before it gets released. And that is all fine and good... there is a place for that. But this is not that kind of place. I am just a regular schnook, running a regular blog from my house... and the closest I can get to a scoop is watching the movie at a midnight showing the day it comes out. That is good enough for me, and often leads to some of my aforementioned CCD RANTS by Mike D. They are often cathartic for me, and they get a bunch of my readers and friends to comment about my pros & cons. Today, the morning after watching Marvel's latest opus 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', you guys get another rant from me.
You're welcome.... you're all WELCOME!!!
So here it goes. My Pros (many) & Cons (a few) of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Enjoy it (or rip it apart) after the jump...
OK, lets get started. First, a brief summary: I pretty much loved this film, and just upon a first viewing (obviously I reserve the right to change my opinion after multiple viewings in the future) I would say it would have to fall somewhere in the top 3 Marvel flicks so far. So cool, the people in charge really drilled this one. The performances were great, the old characters were improved, the new characters were even cooler, and the action was amped up to a billion! Yup... I kinda liked this one. But seriously, I will explain just why I think this movie is so great and the few mis-steps that Marvel may have taken. So here we go....
Oh, SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!
Pro's: (In No Particular Order)
1) The characters (both new and old) were executed PERFECTLY!!!
Very rarely does a movie, especially in comic movies, do the film makers and writers get character attributes and performances perfectly right. Captain America: TWS is that film. Cap, Black Widow and Nick Fury were all fantastic. They all gave their best performances to date, with Scarlett Johanson surprising me the most... and that is mostly due to the fact that Sam Jackson & Chris Evans have been great throughout their runs as Cap & Fury. Johanson has been adequate thus far, but she actually gets to shine a bunch during this film and looks great doing it. I also love the Armin Zola character that gets a toss back in the film (more on him later. Oh, and Cobie Smulders has Maria Hill down pretty solid.
As far as the new characters, they are all pretty great too. Falcon couldn't be cooler (more on him later to). Robert Redford was fantastic as the bad guy in disguise as a good guy Alexander Pierce. And Sebastian Stan as Bucky aka The Winter Soldier.... wow. All I can say is wow. I haven't seen deadness and despair in a character like that in a long time. He was epic as a villain, and made you feel like Cap & the crew were truly in danger throughout the film. The cast was extremely solid, and it showed in the execution of the film.
2) Cap's message has never faltered since day 1, and it ultimately comes to complete fruition:
Ever since Evan's Cap was busted outta that glacier & graced the big screen he has been preaching the tenants of freedom and liberty... something very fundamental ingrained in a character like Captain America. And most of the time all the other characters (both Avenger's and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents alike) kind of role their eyes at the nativity that they feel Cap possess since he was gone all that time. He belongs to another era, another generation and a way of thinking. Fury and the new gang, especially after the events in Avengers (the Attack on NY), are more about prevention BEFORE crimes even happen than they are about combating it AFTER it occurs. This has always troubled Cap, but where else but S.H.I.E.L.D. can he call home after being frozen for 50+ years? He has always bitched and moaned about "liberty's virtues" and the like, but hates Fury's unscrupulous tactics and plan execution that is often deemed for the good of everyone involved. Cap's vocalization on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s questionable tactics and plans becomes even more fervent in this opus, and is proven to be wholeheartedly correct with the uncovering of the infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. by H.Y.D.R.A. all the way up to the highest levels. And Project Insight is the highlight of just how wrong Fury and the rest of the Marvel Universe has been and how absolutely correct Cap has been.... always listen to the old dudes, those cats KNOW STUFF!!!
Truthfully, I think this is important because it drives home how morally perfect Cap is and shows he doesn't care if his opinion is unpopular. He holds on to his beliefs, and knows that in the end they will be proven to be righteous. Cap is that guy... always has been, always will be.
3) It's The Little Things....
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has worked so well because they figured out a way to make it all work together. All the films tie in to each other, and provide little nods and clues as to what will be coming up. The nods can be obvious (such as Thor's Hammer in Iron Man 2) or not so obvious to anybody besides comic book nerds like me (like who the fuck was Benecio del Torro supposed to be in the post credit sequence of Thor 2: The Dark World) in the movies. But most of these little surprises often would come in those aforementioned post credit sequences. Lately Marvel has been working in more and more winks and nods right into the films themselves. Need proof: Lets just look at S.H.I.E.L.D. Strike Team leader Brock Rumlow. Throughout the movie he was Cap's main foil, a former supposes ally of Caps that turned his back on him once Cap is deemed a national threat. To the regular movie viewer he is just the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent/ HYDRA plant that leads the team up against Cap & his cronies. But comic nerds will immediately recognize Brock Rumlow's name as the same name of villain CrossBones. This is an even bigger deal because Rumlow is dragged from the Triskelion building wreckage and seems to be clinging onto life by a thread. Chances are he will be re-conditioned and brought back by HYDRA as CrossBones in a future Marvel movie. Oh, and Batroc the Leaper was a subtle touch. Nice, but very subtle. And Zola finally becoming an AI technology with his face on a screen as opposed to an actual human? We are one step closer to the 'Krang' type body suit with Zola on a TV head made famous by the comics. That is coming, I just know it....
Also, I love the passage that is quoted on Nick Fury's headstone. Ezekiel 25:17... you know, Sam Jackson's famous bible quote from Pulp Fiction? Yup, they quoted Sam Jackson's most memorable character on Sam Jackson's characters headstone. Brilliant. I like the inclusion of Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernandez) from the S.H.I.E.L.D TV show as well, and the little name drops (Stephen Strange... anyone else hear that one) when they are mentioning people who could be dangerous to HYDRA according to Zola's algorithm. Oh, and how about the post credit sequence featuring Baron Von Strucker, Quicksilver, and Scarlett Witch? Wow....
4) The fighting in this movie was absolutely epic:
Whether you like this flick or not, all will have to agree that the action was ratcheted up to a billion. But what impressed me the most had to be the hand to hand nature of the fighting. The epic melees between The Winter Soldier and Cap/Black Widow/Falcon were amazing. Especially the fist fight between Cap & Bucky. TWS posses and armored arm technology that is eerily similar to the tech that Deathlok employees in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. And it helps even the playing field when fighting the Super Soldier himself. Not to mention that Zola worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. after infiltrating them as a supposed turncoat only to help HYDRA spread throughout the ranks. That means that he probably injected Bucky (as well as others) with concoctions based on the original Super Soldier serum. Batroc certainly put up a hell of a fight against Cap on the boat... a much better fight one would expect a real mortal regular dude would. And Rumlow also seemed to full of a bit more of the old 'piss & vinegar' than other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Maybe he was on some of Zola's old 'Super Juice' mixture himself? But all the fights were really cool, as were Widow emasculating as many dudes as she could. And Falcon.... wow. He gets his own section of praise....
Yup, perfect idea and execution for the character. Anthony Mackie was perfect for the part of Sam Wilson, downplaying just how special of a soldier he was during his tours in the Army. His patient and tactical nature was perfectly translated to the big screen, and the Falcon suit was so fucking cool. I wish they would have made the wings red (I am a comic nerd... lol) but it was realistic, which is what immediately popped into my kind as a potential problem considering what his costume in the comic books. They made him look tactical in the vein of what they did with Hawkeye, and it works well. Also, I like his choice in mini uzi's that are small and light, making him able to use both hands to fire. Pretty sweet, looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.
6) The Tech... OHHHHH THE TECH!!!
The tech in the film is great, but that is to be expected. This is S.H.I.E.L.D. after all. But all the big stuff (like the next generation helicarriers, the satellite powered weapons systems, and the masking apparatus Widow wears to fool Redford) were all very, very cool. But the thing that really got me was the individual weapons. Cap used his shield like never before on film, routinely bouncing it off walls to carom and take out baddies. Widow had plenty of toys, but the ones I liked the best were when she used her shock gauntlets (not used nearly enough) and her electric charged EMP discs that she even uses on her self. Falcon we have already touched on. You gotta love the old school mixed with new school tech for Armin Zola's computer lair... it was retro but functional. I also dug the submerged docks for the helicarriers on the water surrounding the Triskelion, and the World Security Council's 'Jedi Council-esque' holographic generators they used for meetings. Oh, and the Winter Soldier had some cool tricks up his sleeve to. The arm was amazing, but I liked his array of small weapons (knives, guns, grenades, grappling hook, etc) that he used for every unique situation that was presented to him. I also like the way he used his handguns to set up his punches against Cap. Oh, and Loki's staff at the end as the potential source for experiments conducted by HYDRA that seem to be leading to the creation of 'Miracle' people like the twins Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch). Cool shit throughout.
7) Laying out the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:
They definitely closed out some great ideas and storylines with Cap 2. Fury is supposedly dead, so he is stalking HYDRA in secret. Widow is out of S.H.I.E.L.D. and on her own. Cap is about ready to go looking for Bucky, and Bucky seems to be looking for some answers himself since he did rescue Cap before leaving the scene and then resurfacing at the Smithsonian looking for answers about himself. Von Strucker is shown continuing the secret cell work of HYDRA, and he seems to be in control of some powerful potential weapons in Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch, as well as CrossBones. Not to mention the ramifications of the Hydra infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. will have on the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show. After all, Sitwell is an intricate part of what has been going on with Agent Coulson and his crew. His outing as a HYDRA agent and subsequent death (at least he looked to be dead) at the hands of Bucky must be addressed on the show. And all the proof that there are tons of important folks in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that would be threats to HYDRA (aka potential superheroes and good guys). Thanks for getting all that in there. Now I am even more eager to watch the films that are coming up...
And now, the cons... not nearly as many, but a few that bothered me:
1) Who the hell was Robert Redford supposed to be anyway:
Well, at the start of the film we know he is a very high ranking government official for the US. He hired Fury tp head up S.H.I.E.L.D. long ago, and is the US representative on the World Security Council. After the film, we now know that he was one of the highest ranking HYDRA members that infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and many other governments. But just who is Alexander Pierce? I was convinced that there would be a big reveal that Pierce was some high ranking HYDRA operative. Maybe Baron Von Strucker (we see him later in the flick, so no)? Or Baron Zemo (not yet... )? Or perhaps The Red Skull... yup, that was the one I was banking on. Why you ask? Well, Hugo Weaving did not enjoy playing the Red Skull and did not want to reprise the role. Truth is, Weaving's actual face is supposed to be a mask that he wears over his hideous skull face. The red faced skull is the characters ACTUAL face... so any human that plays him is really just a disguise. So in essence Redford could have been the Skull, just in a face mask posing as Pierce. It would have been perfect, and make a lot of sense... and it would also re-insert Red Skull back into the mix without needing Weaving for the role. But instead we just get a vague villain with no real back story as to who he exactly is in the grand HYDRA infiltration scheme. That is a shortcoming of this story.... but maybe it will be cleared up in the future movies or the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV Show.
2) Why was Arnim Zola so forthcoming with information to Black Widow & Captain America:
This one really threw me and my buddy Tommy Lombardozzi for a loop. When Cap & BW find the hidden bunker of Arnim Zola they are greeted by the computer animated voice of the Nazi criminal. He promptly begins weaving the tale to the clueless BW & Cap about the fact that he became an ally of S.H.I.E.L.D. aftre WW 2, that it was all part of a big plan for HYDRA to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. all along, and how they plan on finally executing the infiltration with the implementation of Project Insight. He also tips them off about the potential 'targets' of Insight, the fellow special people that would be a threat to HYDRA. Cap & Black Widow are both completely slack jawed and in awe about how deep the conspiracy runs... which begs the point: Why in the COMPLETE FUCK would Zola tell them anything truthful? The explanation in the movie is simply Zola is "wasting time" while the impending drone missile could make its way towards the bunker to kill Cap & Widow. But couldn't he have just told them some tale about nothing instead of giving them all the info they had NO CLUE ABOUT on the off chance that both (or at the very least one) of them might actually survive the missile strike? This is just lazy screenwriting and a way to further the plot. It is dumb, and it is just unnecessarily cliche. The typical ranting Bond Villain speech that has undone a million baddies before him. Even if Cap & Widow escaped, they would have very little information to go on, and probably never would have gotten to Jasper Sitwell. Therefore the film could have never unfolded... but that is not my problem! That is their problem as writers, and they should have just done better.
3) Where THE FUCK ARE ANY OF THE OTHER AVENGERS?
I can understand that this is Cap's movie and that Black Widow is an intricate part of the story... but if there was a major catastrophe going on involving S.H.I.E.L.D. than surely somebody would show up, no? I can come up with a valid excuse for Thor (he is unaware re-building Asgard) and even Iron Man (he has no armor left after Iron Man 3)... but S.H.I.E.L.D. members Hulk & Hawkeye should KIND of be around, or at the very least explained OUT of the story. If you explain it, then I have no problem with it. But it takes only a short little convo to explain it all away. If not, then I see NO REASON for Hulk not to start smashing the shit out of those helicarriers and the HYDRA twerps occupying them!
So that is it. Overall, I liked it very much. But it could have been a tad tighter. So once you have seen it, what did you think? Where do you stand on the topic? Weigh in below and let me know what you think I got right and what I got wrong. This has been another CCD Rant by Mike D, I hope you enjoyed it!!!