MANILA, Philippines – Captain America has always represented the paragon of patriotism, a soldier with uncompromising loyalty. But while casual audiences have unceremoniously nailed the Captain to his straight-edge boy scout image, Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows us that there’s more to the man behind the shield.
The Winter Soldier continues the ongoing story in the Marvel universe, a comic-book-born master plan that resulted in the assembly of the Avengers. But while The Winter Soldier acts as a harbinger for the rest of the Hollywood summer, the film packs more than the expected set of explosions. While it does deliver on the usual serving of set pieces, it focuses its attention on expanding on a comic book character that has long deserved it.
S.H.I.E.L.D, the agency responsible for bringing Captain America (Chris Evans) back, is taking precautions to make sure the world is safer from the larger dangers that now threaten it. At the forefront of this initiative is Project Insight, the brainchild of S.H.I.E.L.D senior agent Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). The initiative, overseen by agency director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), is a network of fully armed helicarriers with the capability of identifying and eliminating potential threats.
But for Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, this pre-emptive peacekeeping is a step against freedom, instead of a means of protecting it. When Rogers discovers a conspiracy to that compromises Project Insight, he finds his loyalty torn between his agency and his country.
More than just stars and stripes
What makes the Captain particularly endearing isn’t his unflinching devotion to his country, but rather, his unwavering loyalty for what his country stands for. Captain America is a trained soldier, but his discipline to follow orders never supersedes the principles those orders are supposed to uphold.
In his comic iterations, Captain America has been depicted as traditional, loyal but relentlessly uncompromising. But his youthful looks and chiseled physique are his true deceptions. As Steve Rogers, Captain America is an old soul, a man displaced in time.
While The Winter Soldier boasts some impressive pyrotechnic work and some dizzying hand-to-hand combat, it’s Rogers’ small scene with old flame Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) that is the film’s real gem. After failing to make good on their promised date more than fifty years ago, Rogers is reunited with Peggy that provides more closure than hope. It’s a scene that is long overdue, but still stunningly appropriate. For fans that pick-up on the scene’s context, it provides some well-deserved illumination for the stouthearted Captain America.
All fight, no bite
Despite the film’s emphasis on character, its plot doesn’t hold up quite as well. The Winter Soldier provides many twists and turns to its story, but a majority of its surprises are disappointingly predictable. Fight scenes are fast, kinetic and especially robust, but the dizzying camerawork makes it difficult to track the often meticulous fight choreography.
In the film’s opening action scene, Captain America joins a handful of S.H.I.E.L.D agents to free a hijacked military ship. The ensuing fight scene succeeds in showing the Captain’s fighting prowess, but it doesn’t do a good job of showing who’s hitting who, with what. The problem snowballs throughout the rest of the film, with the occasional wide shot to provide just a little bit of context.
Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and newcomer Falcon (Anthony Mackie) share some entertaining screen time with Captain America. But outside of some split-second moments of satisfaction, neither of them is given a set piece that helps them truly stand out from the noise and chaos of the film.
A bigger, better soldier
Still, The Winter Soldier is arguably superior to Captain America’s last solo film, The First Avenger. This time, The Winter Soldier sheds the pulp-inspired trappings of the first film while making the world of Captain America more grounded in the slowly expanding universe of Marvel. But instead of doing away with the cartoonish plot of the original film, The Winter Soldier picks through its most important moments and uses it to build something bigger and better.
The Winter Soldier isn’t so much an effective action-thriller as it is an appropriate character piece for one of Marvel’s most important, but often misunderstood characters. While there’s still more to the Captain than The Winter Soldier lets on, it’s at least a step in the right direction to finding out more about the man behind the shield. – Rappler.com
All photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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