Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Cinema Review

'hides a formulaic plot full of failings Marvel has had since their beginning, behind the guise of revolution'

Marvel's first real miss-step since Iron Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the studio at their most uninviting. Yes, this has the explosions and the chases but it's also joyless and humourless, hiding a formulaic plot full of failings Marvel has had since their beginning, behind the guise of revolution.

It is perhaps that failed revolution that promises the most and delivers the least. The suggestions before the film and within the trailers were that this was to be a Marvel outing that had some sympathy with a public concerned with government surveillance, Big Brother and the nanny state. On face value it does, but as the film digs a little deeper and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) uses his ample abs to uncover the truth, it becomes clearer and clearer that Marvel have thrown us a dummy. 'There's nothing really wrong with how our overlords do business', they suggest, before presenting us with a handful of rotten apples to blame for the limited, admittedly high stakes, failings. Marvel would say that this film is culturally relevant. I would suggest that this is a big studio thinking that it is being culturally relevant.

The plot though is, at most, half of a good Marvel film, which ultimately, in some way or another, is going to boil down to good vs evil. How well does The Winter Solider do that? In some ways it does fine. The titular aggressor provides a worthy nemesis and some of the action, particularly two surprisingly good car chases, are entertaining. But the rest feels very flat. In the run up to the film's release the nice folk at Lego's PR department sent me some Cap Lego, replete with smiling Steve Rogers. I would suggest that this type of expression crosses the real Captain's face precisely zero times, throughout the inevitably inflated one-hundred and thirty-six minutes. More than that: there's no relief from from the seriousness. Where is the sweet and funny Peggy Carter equivalent? Where is the sometime-funny gang of supporters? Where is the gruff Tommy Lee Jones-alike, likeable superior character? They've all gone, all elements which made the first film great, dropped without a trace. The one exception is 'a moment' for Jenny Agutter, a brief glimpse of the Marvel machine at its most gleefully silly.

There is also a wobbly core here in the shape of the script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who after doing so well with the first film, had a mini-wobble in the directorially-challenged Thor: The Dark World and here have had a major one. Time after time characters show up to announce something that doesn't need announcing, which Might Be Important Later, particularly the case when it comes to discussing The Winter Solider himself later in the film. At one point Steve sits down next to Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and asks her how she is. She spews forth a huge load of unprompted but extremely important information. There's perhaps nothing lazier though than the introduction and development of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), which relies on more coincidences and leaps of trust and judgement than most of the Marvel franchise put together.

There also remains for Marvel this continuing problem with being able to let go of any character even tangentially related to its current output. There is just no loss or risk in any Marvel production whatsoever: nothing is at stake. The Winter Soldier even manages to feature a minor character comeback for Peggy, the franchises' previous best attempt at handling loss. They just cannot let go and it is now seriously hampering their film's ability to generate investment.

All of that would be at least partially forgiveable if this managed to be a fun action romp, but directors Anthony and Joe Russo seem determined to keep things as straight-faced and explicitly serious as possible, right down to the second of two post credit stings, which is utterly pointless, a very far cry from Avengers' falafel or the joyous introduction of Nick Fury, all that time ago.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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