Postmortem: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Have you ever seen a movie, like “Prometheus,” for instance, in which you were blown away when you first saw it in the theaters, only to see it again and wonder what the whole point was?  In this edition of ‘Postmortem’ I take another look at “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a movie that I enjoyed the first time around, though I wanted to see it could stand repeated viewings.

I divided it up into six areas:  3D, Violence, Acting, Villains, Heroes and Story.

  • 3D

When I caught the 3D version of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” having already seen the non-dimensionally enhanced version two weeks earlier, I did so primarily to see if it holds up to repeated viewings though I was also curious as to whether the 3D was necessary.  And for those individuals that haven’t seen it in 3D, don’t worry about it.  It isn’t necessary and doesn’t add much in the way of value, though in scenes where large machinery was in play, like with the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers, or when there are explosions with lots of debris it was very interesting.

Other scenes, in other words most of the movie, not so much.

Verdict:  “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” isn’t markedly different–with the exception of a few scenes where it really pops–in 3D.  Check it out if you’re curious, but your money could be better spent elsewhere.  

  • Violence

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is without a doubt an action movie.  There’re numerous fight scenes early on, and they tend to be very visceral and physical.  Is it as violent as “Man Of Steel,” which for me sets the benchmark for superhero movie violence (including movies like “Kickass” and “Kickass 2,” though they differ in that gratuitous violence is what they’re selling to an extent.  Both are bloody and so over-the-top that they play more like a cartoon than anything else, which is their whole point)?

I’d have to say, No.  Captain America is violent, without a doubt, but that violence is of a more “realistic” nature and focused on individuals, as opposed to hundreds or thousands of people.  The scale of the violence in ‘Winter Soldier,’ as well as the way it’s edited,is focused less on the destruction itself and more on the athleticism of armed and unarmed combat.

Verdict: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is an action film, but one that’s on a very human scale.  As a result, comes across as thrilling, as opposed to gratuitous.

  • Acting

As anyone who has read this blog is probably aware, I am not particularly fond of Keanu Reeves’ acting (or lack thereof).  Everything he does has this wooden quality, as if Reeves himself were somehow emotionally neutered.  At first glance, it’s possible that someone my assume the same for Chris Evans’ performance though they’d be wrong because Evans plays a person, Steve Rogers, who’s barely able to separate himself from the persona of Captain America.  Rogers is trying to make his way in a world that is no longer as black and white, as clear-cut, as he remembered.

Now everything is varying shades of gray, a difficult proposition not particularly adept at subterfuge.

Evans plays him as earnest, with an almost innocent quality that works well for the character.  In fact, there doesn’t appear to be anything beneath Evans performance because everything that Steve Rogers/Captain America is is is laid out for the world to see.

There’s a purity to his reasoning and actions, which isn’t to say that the character is naive, only that compromise and an increasingly nuanced world isn’t something that he particularly understands or relates well to.  This makes Evans portrayal of Captain America as essentially an overgrown boy scout a fitting and compelling one.

Verdict:  While no one will be winning any Academy Awards, the acting is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is solid and everyone brings their A-game

  • Villains

Some on the Interwebs complain that the villains in most Marvel films aren’t terribly memorable, and in some instances they’re right.  After all, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), from “Thor: The Dark World” is barely there, even when he’s on screen and (Fake) Mandarin (Guy Pearce) was an interesting character, but not terribly memorable, but the Winter Soldier/James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is another matter.

In my view he’s quite possibly one of the best villains to appear in any superhero movie, perhaps rivaling Christopher Nolan’s portrayal of Joker (Heath Ledger) from 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”  Sebastian Stan plays the character as a tragic, virtually unstoppable force who kills because he was brainwashed to do so, more than any particular animus against those he faces.

Verdict: The Winter Soldier will go down as one of the most dynamic villains in any Marvel Studios feature

  • Heroes

Captain America was cool, but the Falcon/Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) threatened to fly off with the movie.  The character is dynamic, and is a perfect addition to the cast because he brings a welcome levity–without being silly–to the proceedings.  The Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has grown considerably since her introduction in “Iron Man 2” and if there’s going to be a character given their own film, the Widow should be on the short list.  While Cap was very ‘what you see is what you get’ the Black Widow was a bit of a cypher in that she’s so morally malleable that she was whatever was needed in any given situation.

Which was why she made such an interesting contrast to Captain America.

Verdict: If there were awards given for Best New Movie Superhero, the Falcon would be the inside favorite

  • Story

The story, as has been mentioned elsewhere, is evocative of films like “Three Days Of The Condor” and to my eyes, “Marathon Man.”  In both cases an individual is plunged into circumstances that are rapidly spiraling out of their control, and they have to marshall all their resources to not only survive, but to stop a terrible event from happening.  The flow for the most part is pretty even, though there are moments when you can sense the gears and wheels turning to get the story through to its penultimate destination.

Verdict: The story is ambitious for a superhero movie, but manages to make sense.  It’s also engaging enough–for the most part–to hold the interest of younger viewers, while also being engaging enough for adults.  

In conclusion, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” stands up well to repeated viewings, though if you haven’t seen it before, are going to see it again, skip the 3D because it’s not worth the extra money.  And while it may be at times a little intense for younger children, teens shouldn’t have any problems.

The movie takes itself seriously, though that’s not to say that it’s humorless, which is mainly of the situational variety.


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