Steve Rogers (Captain America) struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier. (from IMDB.com)
Ever since Marvel Studios launched their ambitious and incredible series of films that intertwine with each other and epically unite in Avengers (and its upcoming sequel), the world of comic books has opened up to all new audiences who may have never stepped foot into a comics store or cracked the binding on a single issue. While I did read some comics as a kid, they were never of the superhero variety, so Marvel's films have largely been crash-courses in some of their characters that I otherwise never would have looked into before. Following the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, I sought out the comics for Cap because my interest in the heroic, self-sacrificing super soldier had been piqued. After 2012's Avengers, the next series of films, dubbed "Phase 2" by Marvel and their fans alike, began to film immediately after Avengers shattered the box office with Iron Man 3 being the first release the following year. Thor: The Dark World released later in 2013 with plans for the next Captain America film to release in 2014. Once I heard the title announced as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I did a little research and even picked up the comic books that boasted that story line. And it's a fascinating one.
It's tempting to spill exactly who The Winter Soldier is here in the review, but I'll save it as a surprise for those who haven't looked into the storyline too deeply. While some may then find it to be a bit contrived, going back to watch Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers will reveal a bit of how this was in the works from the beginning (in fact, the commentary for the 2011 film, which hit DVD and Blu-Ray that October, has the director talking about The Winter Soldier character and the little set-ups in The First Avenger for it. Clearly, Marvel's been planning this, and it's brilliant). The film Captain America: The Winter Soldier is just as much a sequel to The First Avenger as it is a third movie in a trilogy of The First Avenger, then Avengers, and then Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The 3 movies work almost seamlessly together, and if you liked either of those, chances are you'll love the direction that Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes.
But the tone of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is incredibly different than any of the other Marvel films. Sure, it has its big action moments that feel more like an Iron Man movie or Avengers, but it has an overall more serious tone and it also is a bit darker. Some have described it as a "political thriller" masquerading as a superhero film and that's not a bad description of it. In fact, parts of the movie almost have the drama, action and grit of a Jason Bourne vehicle. It works for bringing realism to the story, and it's just stinkin' awesome to see Cap in action, whipping that shield at really, really bad guys. What might be most surprising, though, is just how much Captain America: The Winter Soldier relates to the 2011 film, The First Avenger. Without spoiling anything, it just really makes great use of the story that was set up there and carries it through to fruition here (and includes a certain cameo from Iron Man 2 just for fun). The film is a game-changer, too, so it's exciting to see where it will go from here.
The content may surprise some Marvel fans--particularly the younger ones. While I mentioned the grit of the Bourne films, it really translates here. There are large, loud, violent action sequences where many people are killed and gunned down and many (MANY) bullets are fired. One intense sequence has a character trying to survive being run off the road by multiple vehicles while having their vehicle riddled with bullets. They're then pursued even more before having their vehicle hurled in the air by a bomb. Other scenes show The Winter Soldier brutally executing people, via gun, just off screen, while other miscellaneous characters are gunned down swiftly by enemy forces or held at gun point. (They even show a villain gun down his housekeeper!) It's pretty much an all-out action film with superhero characters and not for the faint of heart. By the end, some characters are quite bloodied and we sometimes see some characters with cuts on their head and face with small stitches on the wounds. Language is mostly mild, consisting primarily of "h*ll" and "d*mn" and 2 uses of the "S" word (the second is sort of cut off, and the first is slightly muffled by action sounds), and one "Oh my G-d." There is hardly an sexuality, while Nat kisses Cap to blend into a crowd and later they discuss the fact that it was probably his first kiss since before he was frozen.
Darker and more serious than most of the Marvel movies (but no less fun -- there's a fantastic opening scene where Cap infiltrates a ship and takes out a mess of terrorists on his own), Captain America: The Winter Soldier captures the tone of the Cap comics well, teasing fans with familiar characters new to the cinematic tales and letting things build momentum for future stories (be it Avengers movies or Captain America sequels). The Winter Soldier has a great, intricate plot that is intriguing and entertaining, not to mention, emotional at the right moments. It's a solid comic book film and the best of the post-Avengers films thus far. Oh, and if you do see the film, there's a mid-credits additional scene that teases something for Avengers 2, while a second scene after the credits are all over, teases the future of one of the characters in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/4/14)
Deleted/Extended Scenes (3:36): There are a total of four deleted or extended scenes with optional commentary. In the first one, Agent Hill is told she'll be sent to NYC due to her loyalty to Nick Fury. The second has Cap being chased. A SHIELD tactical team is tracking him by way of his suit and ends up finding it in a gym where Cap had left it to throw them off. It also explains where he got the outfit you see him in at the hospital. Next is a scene underground between Fury and Black Widow who are both injured, talking about him not telling her everything regarding his plan. Lastly, there's an extended sequence (but not by much) from near the end of the movie where Widow is being taunted about the deeds of her past (more specifically).
Gag Reel (2:37) - This consists of mostly line flubs, but some are pretty funny. There are at least 5 bleeped-out uses of the F word and some other bleeped-out profanity. The best one has Robert Redford accidentally saying "Krypton" during a scene, and then realizing he's got the wrong comic franchise altogether.
On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America's Battlegrounds (10:11) - This is the main featurette about the crew shooting on location in Ohio once again, and how much the on-location shooting added to the film. The short behind-the-scenes featurette then covers Scarlett's return as Black Widow, the intense Nick Fury car chase, the fight in the first action scene involving a professional MMA fighter, and Bucky coming back as The Winter Soldier.
On the Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check! (1:55) - This may be the most frivolous of the extra features. It's all about how Anthony Mackie, who played Falcon, would say the catch phrase "Cut the check!" after every good take, signifying the end to a fruitful shoot (and him getting paid). However, it was evident that he massively overused it, but the cast and crew talk about it here all in good fun.
Steve Rogers' Notebook (2:26) - The very first scene of the film has Cap meeting Falcon, and when they chat, Falcon recommends an album for him to check out that he missed during his time being frozen. Cap then pulls out a small notebook and adds it to the list, but viewers can see other things on that list as well. This featurette focuses on the other items on that list and how the lists varied per country the movie was shown in. They also had people from their respective countries vote for which things were most popular during that time period (and therefore should be on the list).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/24/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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