Idealists are few, and unflinching ones rare.
Too many are loath to commit.
More often, agendas too secret to share
Give heroes good reason to quit.
Yet, sometimes a principled stalwart of right
Is wise to not trust quite so much,
So when the agendas collapse in a fight,
There’s something still solid to clutch.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Before I review Cap’s third awesome outing in Civil War, I thought I should cover the only major Marvel movie I haven’t reviewed yet. (I’ll get to Thor 2 eventually.) The First Avenger was a pitch-perfect origin story for Captain America while The Avengers paired the patriotic hero with his super-powered team, but it was The Winter Soldier that brought the 1940s Steve Rogers into the modern world.
After adapting to his new century, Steve Rogers butts heads with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, who gets to do more in this movie than in most of his cameos), only to uncover a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, going right up to its president Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford in rare villain mode). With help from Scarlett Johansson’s ever-resourceful Black Widow and new ally Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Cap faces off against the mysterious Winter Soldier and tries to contain the damage of the inevitable coup. Oh, and a gut-punch twist reminds everyone that no one but villains really die in these comic book movies.
Though The Winter Soldier has a reputation for being better than its predecessor, I do prefer the nostalgic action of The First Avenger more. Nevertheless, the second Cap film features one of the most significant plots of any Marvel film with some of the deepest ripples through the MCU. Not only is Nick Fury “killed” and HYDRA resurrected but S.H.I.E.L.D. is effectively toppled as well, and the film builds on the first film with its revelation of the Winter Soldier’s tragic identity (which I knew going in since it reflects the comics, but it was a genuine surprise for my VC). Being a fan of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I find it amazing how the events of the film were incorporated into the TV show’s concurrent first season (such as the appearance of Agent Sitwell), and the entire second season continued to incorporate elements (like the face-changing mask) and dealt with the fallout and the need to rebuild S.H.I.E.L.D.
There’s really very little negative that I can say about The Winter Soldier. The action and special effects are as spectacular as Marvel’s best films, especially in the slightly numbing final battle. Every actor is on point, and it was an odd pleasure seeing Johansson’s confrontation with Redford, considering he gave her one of her first major roles when they co-starred in The Horse Whisperer. The only bad thing I can say about The Winter Soldier is that its overall product feels rather generic (car chases, fist fights, etc.) compared with Marvel’s more inventive or colorful adventures, like Guardians of the Galaxy or even The First Avenger. It’s nonetheless an essential installment of Marvel’s canon and a highly entertaining one at that.
Best line: (the end of Cap’s speech to S.H.I.E.L.D.) “I know I’m asking a lot, but the price of freedom is high. It always has been. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay. And if I’m the only one, then so be it. But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining The First Avenger)
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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