By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
Sometimes the Marvel universe isn’t as Marvelous as we’ve come to expect. While Captain America: The Winter Soldier packs more punch – literally – than most comic-based action movies, it could have been far more enjoyable if there had been a compelling story to go along with all the sound and fury.
Speaking of fury, ol’ eye patch-wearing Samuel L. Jackson is back as S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, along with Scarlett Johansson as Natasha/Black Widow. These two characters, along with Anthony Mackie as Captain America’s new buddy Sam Wilson/Falcon, bring a few crumbs of spirit to this otherwise steroidal fist-fest.
To catch up: At the end of the first movie, 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers/Captain America (referred to as “Cap”) wakes up from a 70-year deep freeze. It’s now two years later and Cap is living in Washington, D.C., working with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. But he’s still having a hard time adjusting to the 21st century. He finds an understandable kinship with Mackie’s Sam, a modern-day war veteran who counsels other servicemen who are attempting to acclimate back into society. When a lethal threat arises (oh, doesn’t it always?), Cap has to face a masked villain who’s a similar super-human specimen. It turns out that while Cap was enjoying a three-and-a-half decade long slumber, Sebastian Stan’s half-masked Winter Soldier had been making a career in dealing out death and destruction.
Excuse me, but Winter Soldier is no Bane who’s forced to rely on his mask to survive. Here, the premise is ridiculous: If any sane human being had a lifelong friend, and that friend showed up wearing a black mask that covered the lower half of his face, wouldn’t the eyes, forehead and physicality be instantly recognizable? Especially since this masked, um, stranger, hasn’t aged whatsoever? Cap may have been in a coma, but there’s no indication that he awoke with dementia to boot.
This muddy screenplay represents the work of Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, creators of the far superior original. (That said, this sequel features different directors; instead of the first film’s helming by Joe Johnston, this sophomore version is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo.) And speaking of brothers: the trope of good versus evil siblings or best friends isn’t exactly new to the superhero universe. Think Thor v. Loki, Logan/Wolverine v. Victor/Sabretooth and Peter Parker/Spider-Man v. Harry Osborn/New Goblin.
While this reviewer will not engage in spoilers, it bears mentioning that many story details have been given short shrift over the mind-numbing assault of assault.
But we can still love the hero: Chris Evans plays the Dudley Do-Right-esque super man with appropriate sincerity, answering to his own impeccable sense of square-jawed incorruptibility. As his crime-fighting partner, Natasha’s moral nonchalance brings a fine balance. Debuting as Falcon, Mackie’s breezy humor – ultimately fused with unwavering support – makes for a welcome addition.
On the other side of the spectrum, Robert Redford as the head of the World Security Council looks increasingly awkward as his character is obligated to give one rambling speech after another. As for The Winter Soldier, he is as bland as he is masked — bringing home the point that unless the enemy reveals some kind of character, we simply can’t care.
Sure, there are a gazillion effects and lots of bullets, kicks, fiery explosions and impossibly airborne flights and fights … but rather than delivering a bit of wit, along with a finely attuned story, this sequel presents us with a project that’s much more akin to a video game.
Given the beloved 2012′s The Avengers, as well as the rest of the recent movies populating the Marvel galaxy, starting with 2008′s Iron Man, it seems that Captain America: The Winter Soldier could have benefited from an injection of the aforementioned iron. Anemic? Steve Rogers that.
Rating on a scale of 5 Winter Soldiers of Misfortune: 2.5
Release date: April 4, 2014
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, with Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time: 136 minutes
Here’s the trailer: