Following the events of not only Captain America: The First Avenger, but also the entirety of the Phase One series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film sets the pace for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron in more ways than one. S.H.I.E.L.D. is put under the microscope and in a time where everything is a different shade of gray, it takes a man out of time who bleeds nothing but red, white, and blue to set things straight.
I was personally eagerly anticipating this and expected it to be amazing. Thankfully, it did not disappoint.
It's time for another REVIEWPOINT as we break down the film's hits and misses.
As always, let's start with the bad news first.
I'm pretty much grasping at straws to find anything to put in the Miss category. The music served its job well, but I can't remember any of it as standing out, so if I need to put anything down, that would be a slight misstep. Then again, I'll be listening to the soundtrack again in the future, and outside of the context of the film, I might have to even remove this Miss down the line.
2. NO CROSSBONES REFERENCE
Unless I didn't see it—and if that's the case, please let me know in the comments below—at no time in the film was Brumlow referred to as Crossbones, nor did he wear his trademark mask. That's a shame, but hey, nothing can be entirely perfect, right?
1. AMPED UP TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Nothing in this film felt as though it was a step back. Even the flashbacks themselves were all about pushing the story forward, rather than trying to relive some former glory. On top of it, everything stepped up. I actually think Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the weakest entries in these connected Marvel films due to a rushed pacing, lack of character development, and so on. This manages to not only accomplish those things that they failed at doing before, but surpass them and have enough of a self-awareness to up the ante and make things more grandiose for the second go-around. Why bring back the old uniform? Not just because the old suit was better than the one in Avengers, but because he didn't have his stealth suit anymore (awesome use of that costume, by the way) and because it served a functioning purpose to influence Bucky's memory banks. Speaking of references...
2. CHARACTERS, CAMEOS, AND NO MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
One of my biggest complaints in superhero films is when there are new characters created for the movie, but people from the comics could have filled that spot. This film acts as though it was written by true fans of the comics and throws that nonsense out the window. Any time they had a chance to toss in a reference, they did—but not at the expense of the film itself. There were absolutely no moments in this that felt as though they were there simply for fan service and got in the way.
Introducing Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) as the new best friend of Steve Rogers is fully justified, considering their relationship in the comics. We needed another person to tag along and who in the climate of this film would be better than Natasha Romanoff, which means not only does the female audience have a legitimate badass representative that they can identify with, but it also ties into their relationship with the Avengers. Numerous mentions of Tony Stark also help this out, but it doesn't stop there with the connections to Iron Man and the surrounding characters from both these movies and from the source material.
You need a corrupt politician? Bring on Senator Stern from Iron Man who we were supposed to hate. If you're looking for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that we wouldn't expect to be bad, but they are? Jasper Sitwell can fill that role. Want a Captain America villain to fight him at the beginning of the film? Batroc the Leaper! Sharon Carter would obviously be the person that Captain America is flirting with. Crossbones is the perfect choice for a strike force villain. My God, they even were able to get Dr. Arnim Zola's television head in this movie and make it work!!
3. STEPHEN STRANGE
This deserves its own section, just because of the magnitude of the quick reference. As much as I thought it was cool to see DC Pierson and Danny Pudi have cameos, the fleeting "blink and you miss it" cameo that resonated the most was definitely this shout out to Dr. Strange. With Sitwell mentioning that he was a threat for the future, every fan in the audience knew what was coming in Phase Three.
4. SERIOUS TONE
Too many superhero films think that they need to be pessimistic and—forgive me for continuing the overuse of this phrase—"dark and gritty" in order to not come off cheesy. Worse off, some of them think that this is all silly and they should go campy, which just backfires. This movie keeps a serious and realistic tone without abandoning the fun of the superhero genre.
The Falcon is a pretty ridiculous character in the comics, but they went the perfect route by having him be a soldier with access and training to a form of specialized paratrooper equipment. The comedy was not over the top like in Iron Man 3 or from what we are seeing so far with Guardians of the Galaxy, but rather just there to help ease the tension and keep the thrill ride from being all doom and gloom. Plus, the comedy was more witty and realistic than silly as well.
5. SMART STORYLINE
This could have very easily just been a movie about an assassination attempt on Nick Fury or Captain America fighting a whole bunch of bad guys simply because S.H.I.E.L.D. told him to. Instead, the plot stands on an interesting political question of whether or not you should sacrifice freedom in order for security. Steve Rogers has seen the worst war ever, and even he is able to resist the corruption and fall into the same mentality as the villains. From the very beginning of the movie, a storyline is introduced about not knowing who you can trust, and boy does that thread weave its way through this film in a great way that pays off in the end. Never sacrifice your ideals, no matter what you're facing.
6. FANTASTIC ACTION
Every action sequence in this film was awesome, whether it focused on Captain America himself or revolved around Nick Fury, Black Widow, Maria Hill, etc. Naturally, the highlight in my mind was watching Cap actually kick some serious ass like he should—and that, he did. The opening set piece with the boat was by far the coolest in showing that off and finally letting us see Captain America the way he is in other media. Gun fights, car chases, close-call knife fights, aerial battles, espionage....this movie has it all.
100%, absolutely, no questions, yes, without a doubt, go watch this movie. This is either on par or better than Iron Man as the best in the franchise and you don't need to be familiar with the Winter Soldier character or storyline to eat it up, either.
If you want to check out some more comic book film Reviewpoint articles: Man of Steel | Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox | The Wolverine | Kick-Ass 2 | Thor: The Dark World | Justice League: War | RoboCop