I had serious issues with ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. What started as a really incredibly mapped out origin story (with some superb visual effects) fell flat in the end as it tried to cram everything into the remaining minutes, making the film come off rushed and unfocused. I just couldn’t rally behind it, and despite all the raves and beloved notices from fans, I was left feeling it was below its potential and a wasted effort.
In fact, most of the recent Marvel outpourings have left me feeling like they were wasted opportunities. It’s not that I hated them, but the massive amounts of buzz and legions of fans had me always expecting something more than I got.
You know, except for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which was a masterpiece of genre.
So it was with this expectation of being underwhelmed that I sat down with the bestie to watch ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’. Yes, I was seeing it for the hype, despite my adverse reaction to the hype of its predecessors. Yes, I was seeing it for the reviews, which were remarkably good. Yes, I was seeing it at the prodding of the guy sitting next to me on the couch. But let’s be honest here; I was seeing this for Scarlett Johansson.
I have to say, this far surpassed my low expectations. It was far more focused throughout than the first film, and while some it felt a little overlong (I guess that would be the opposite problem than the first film), it all came together in a really tightly wound and visually expressive package. The choreographed fight scenes were astonishing, the detailed visual effects (those explosions, car chases and superhuman abilities) and most importantly, the expertly handled storyline give ‘Winter Soldier’ an edge over the other superhero sequels that were polluting the theaters this year. Anchored by a real superhero (which I am fully convinced Chris Evans is) and littered with great supporting performances by Johansson, Jackson, Mackie and a surprisingly loose Robert Redford, ‘Winter Soldier’ has a lot going for it.
And let’s just establish now that this contains the greatest car chase scene in the history of modern cinema and one of the coolest elevator sequences ever included in film.
I admit that I’m not the greatest judge when it comes to Marvel films, since I really have only loved two of them (‘Spider-Man 2’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), but I have to say that ‘Winter Soldier’, while not perfect, feels like top tier Marvel. With a plot that feels gritty and honest, falling more in line with a ‘Mission Impossible’ type spy film and less in line with an over-the-top nature of most Marvel films, this is a film that has a real punch and is one that I’ll remember for it.
I give this a B+. It's a solid, really solid superhero flick that will keep you guessing and glued to what's happening next (I could get into the plot, but this is actually one that HAS a plot and a plot that is best left for you to find out). I hope that Oscar gives this some attention in the Visual Effects category, but I have a feeling that this is looking at a big fan zero in the Oscar nominations department.