Released in 2014 and taking place two years after the events of The Avengers Assemble Chris Evans once again returns as Captain America/Steve Rogers with Scarlett Johansson and Samuel Jackson returning as Black Widow and Nick Fury. This time Rogers must face the prospect of enemies lurking within Shield itself and must battle the mysterious Winter Soldier who seems to be as strong and fast as Rogers himself.
So Iron Man 3 was set on Earth, none of the other Avengers appeared and it massively dropped the ball, Thor: The Dark World was set mainly in Asgard, didn’t feature any of the other Avengers (apart from that great cameo) and picked the ball back up again. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set once again on Earth, features some of the cast of Avengers, so is it going to give the Marvel Cinematic Universe another great edition or another bump in the road??
Let’s find out…
It is two years after the Battle of New York (the final battle in Avengers Assemble) and Steve Rogers is working for Shield and is still trying to adapt to the modern world. He learns that Shield has three new helicarriers that they are planning on launching in the new future. Whilst on a mission Steve witnesses Black Widow downloading something on to a flash drive but no one will tell him what was on it.
As he tries to find out what is happening, he starts to see corruption within Shield itself, Nick Fury is attacked by a mysterious figure that later attacks Steve and is able to catch his shield which is something no one else has been able to do before.
With his own organisation on his tail Steve learns that Hydra, the organisation Steve thought he destroyed in the Second World War may not be as dead as he thought it was. Steve, Black Widow, and a new friend of Steve’s Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) must unite before those loyal to Hydra can destroy everything in the modern day that Steve thought he destroyed in World War 2.
Critics of the original claimed that it was basically a filler film, it was designed to simply set up the Avengers and that is certainly possible because we knew that Steve ended up in the modern world at the end so we didn’t see earlier adventures before Rogers ended up in the ice. Personally I didn’t see it that way and really enjoyed the first chapter of the life of Steve Rogers in which we saw how he became Captain America.
Here we are seeing the next step in Steve’s life and the film works hard to show just how out of touch he still is with the world around him. After befriending Sam we see a list in Steve’s hand with a number of films and TV shows listed on it, the contents of the list actually changes depending on which country the film is being seen in, so the British get a list which includes Sherlock on it but the Americans get a list with American shows on it, which is a nice touch. Steve visiting his love interest Peggy Carter from Captain America (Hayley Atwell reprising the role and obviously made to look older) is particularly effective because we see the only person that Steve has a connection with but she is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease so at the beginning of the scene she knows who he is but then later she is surprised to find him sitting beside her bed. It really demonstrates just how out of place that Steve is and why he focuses on his work with Shield having very little to no life outside of that.
The Winter Soldier is a curious title because although The Winter Solider is in the film he is not really in it enough to be in the title. Plus anyone who has read the comics or even seen any of the cartoons will know exactly who the Winter Soldier is (it is Steve’s friend Bucky by the way) and what I always find bizarre is when a character’s identity is unknown or supposed to be unknown to the hero and of course the audience they wear a mask. But when we know who they are, they don’t bother any more. For the first part of a film The Winter Soldier wears a mask, when we learn who that mysterious figure is, he spend the rest of the film no longer wearing the mask. After being confronted by Steve, Bucky starts to remember who he is and the audience sees how he became the Winter Soldier and how he has survived to the modern day.
Once again none of the key Avengers appear, so there is no Bruce Banner or Hulk, no Iron Man, and of course no Thor. The Winter Solider is a skilful assassin but the film doesn’t use him enough, and in the final battle between him and Steve, Steve simply refuses to fight his former friend and allows himself to be beaten to a pulp. In the climax Steve drops his iconic shield into the river but he still manages to save the day as Bucky starts to remember him again.
The cast all do well and Robert Redford is even on hand to provide yet more A-List Hollywood weight to a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Samuel Jackson is at home in the role of Nick Fury, and despite his “death” the trailer showed him after his apparent demise so I spoil that with absolutely no problem at all.
It is a shame that The Winter Solider does not feature more prominently because this is what I was getting at in my Thor: The Dark World review. In that film Thor was up against other Gods and enemies that had strength and powers that made them a significant threat and might even outmatch Thor’s own powers. I said that in films like that, the film makers need to either have heroes and enemies of similar strength or reduce the power of the main hero to up the threat level. In Winter Soldier the way that Hydra deals with Steve is to just throw more and more men at him that he effortlessly paints the walls with. Did you ever watch Futurama?? There is an episode of that series in which the “legendary” Captain Zap Brannigan defeated an army of kill bots and do you know how he did it?? He knew that kill bots have a pre-set kill limit, so “knowing their weakness [I] sent wave after wave of my own men at them until they reached their pre-set kill limit and shut down”. This seems to be the mentality of the higher-ups in Hydra’s structure, keep sending men after Steve until he eventually gets tired or one of them lands a lucky shot. Two of my skin sack’s friends were extremely excited by the fact that Georges St-Pierre was in this film, apparently St-Pierre is a mixed martial artist and the former three-time Welterweight Champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship having won the title twice in 2006 and 2008 (thanks Wikipedia). They were hoping he was going to be one of the henchmen who would go up against Captain America and hold his own because, well to coin a phrase, he is just “double hard”. St-Pierre is in the opening sequence and battles Captain America on a ship and whilst he seems to be doing well for a bit he is swiftly defeated and is then not seen again through the remainder of the film.
The Winter Soldier was an enemy that should have had a greater role and after it is revealed that the reason he has lived this long is because he is frozen and thawed out when Hydra need him and has been brainwashed so he doesn’t remember who he is. There was a great opportunity for him to slowly regain his memory as Hydra were forced to leave him out of the freezer for longer than they ever had before so he can deal with Captain America. This would have worked much better. Have his memory slowly return throughout the course of the film rather than him fighting Steve a couple of times and when Steve remembers him and refused to fight him Bucky’s former memories start to return very quickly.
The final climax is very entertaining, but again the trailer does spoil a few of the details. In that trailer you see the helicarrier crashing and of course you are meant to think that the helicarrier that appeared heavily in Avengers Assemble might be blown up. Yet pretty early in the film we learn Shield actually has three helicarriers so it is pretty obvious that it will be some helicarrier that we have no emotional connection to that is going to be destroyed during the film.
Steve’s friend Sam is a welcome addition to the cast and has a badass flying suit that enables him to aid Steve in the final battle when Hydra makes its move.
The tongue in cheek humour is here but unlike Iron Man 3 where the humour was out of place, and Thor: The Dark World where they fitted in well with the story, Captain America: The Winter Solider is a grittier story so the jokes are not featured especially frequently which is properly for the best considering how flat it fell in Iron Man 3.
I do like this film but it does miss a few good opportunities to really flesh out the character of The Winter Solider and of course having no one really capable of taking down Captain America means that you don’t really get the impression that he is ever in real danger.
Still, the film is not getting away without a recommendation, the film still has a few issues but thankfully they don’t take away from the overall enjoyment. Yes it would have been better if this St-Pierre guy was in it more and was better able to fight Captain America or The Winter Soldier himself but sending an army to deal with him seems to the next best thing.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier gets a Thumbs Up because whilst it is good there is room for improvement, so I wouldn’t say it is as good as Thor: The Dark World it is far better than the disappointing Iron Man 3.
7.5/10 – On par with the first film because like the original it does some things really right but a few things that are a little lacking. Still at least the cast and film makers are still clearly making an effort which I really didn’t think was at the forefront of the minds of those making Iron Man 3.