Friday, March 28, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - co-starring the Black Widow

This is going to end up part review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and part a look at the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now that we're only one film away from Avengers: Age of Ultron, because to say that Winter Soldier upsets the cart a little is underselling just what the films does. As such I step away from my usual spoiler-free as possible stance, and here I'm incredibly spoiler heavy.

I make no bones about the fact that I loved Captain America: The First Avenger. I felt it pulled the period piece of brilliant. It was as exactly as pulpy as a Cap War film should be. And that's something Marvel have done really well. They don't just make superhero movies, but superheroes in other genres, which most of the best comics do as well. This time Cap was shifting away from pulp to my one of my most favourite genres. That of super spies. This film has a lot to live up to.

It does. Unfortunately, as good as the film is, I felt I was watching it for the second time. I know it's a problem of modern cinema that trailers give the story away, but Winter Soldier is possibly the worst in a long time. You watch Steve get onto a lift and you know what's coming. The slow build up of people sent to fight him is funny , but the fight is inevitable and you know what happens at the end. He's the only one standing,and he kick flips the shield back onto his arm. You just get to watch the fighting in-between. Unfortunately, that is representative of the whole film. The Fury car chase was almost spectacular, but you're just waiting for the Winter Soldier to throw that mine to flip the car. Cap was always going to fight SHIELD. A helicarrier was always going to crash in a body of water. Watching the film felt like just putting the puzzle pieces together, far more than any trailer has made me feel in a long time.

That said one or two things did still come as a surprise, in particular Robert Redford's part in proceedings. That's one thing the trailer hid well, obscuring it in truth, which is amazingly appropriate. But I have to reiterate, it is still a great movie, one I thoroughly enjoyed, and the fact it is basically a super spy flick with some fancy uniforms didn't hurt either.

Also their stunt co-ordinator needs a special shout-out. As unfortunate as knowing that the Falcon was going to have to jump off an in-flight helicarrier, backwards, without his wings deployed while dual wielding, the majority of the fighting was spectacular. Any time Cap, Widow or the Soldier started to take names it was a joy to watch. Cap just never stopped moving. Running, tumbling, and taken out each bad guy with efficiency. Widow was similar, and also kept the same fighting style you saw in Iron Man 2. If any of the three of them stopped to actually have a fight with someone, you knew it was a big deal.

Speaking of Black Widow, Scarlet Johansson was incredible in this, despite that wig. It could almost be called Captain America and Black Widow so important is she to proceedings.

It has also one of those great interconnected moments that Marvel do so well. The Senator who was giving Stark such as hard time in Iron Man 2 returns here, his role in the previous film explained a little more. With a bit more consequence is Jasper Sitwell. A character who originally turned up in one of Marvel's Blu-ray one shot specials as someone for Coulson to talk to. It was early days in those one shots, so costs were being kept down and we didn't want to use anyone with name recognition. Sitwell became a bit more of a major player in Agents of SHIELD, showing up not only as a trusted ally of Coulson, but mostly whenever the team headed towards a big SHIELD facility. It made his betrayal in this film hit that much harder. Which brings me nicely to the examination of the MCU post Winter Soldier.

Cap 2 has shifted the MCU like no other film with a singular hero. Possibly more so than even the Avengers. Sure Tony's destroyed his armour and removed the arc reactor from his chest. Thor may have moved from Asgard and Loki took the throne. But rebuilding an Iron Man suit is no biggie, the last film had about 42 of them. The Bifrost bridge isn't closed, and Thor dealing with Loki is a one film affair. We already know what Thor 3 is going to be, basically.

Steve, Natasha, Nick, Maria and Sam fully dismantled SHIELD. This completely changes the entire landscape of how Earth operates. The film ends with a montage of where everyone ends up, and people are scattered across the entire MCU, most of them in places that are more mundane like the CIA and FBI, though Hill thankfully ends up at Stark... well I say thankfully, with no more Iron Man films planned I'm going to worry a little about just where we're next going to see Hill, especially as her second cinematic outing proved just how awesome she is. I want more Cobie Smouldering Hot.

But the taking apart of SHIELD can't be under-estimated. Without this organisation we would never have had the Avengers. In fact everything in the MCU so far has been touched by them to some extent. Suddenly that's a force that is gone. There's no longer a government agency that deals with superheroes. Part of me is wondering if someone has this planned as the emergence of HAMMER, but with no Norman Osborne available to Marvel/Disney, who is going to be in charge?

Maybe this is Marvel saying that SHIELD is no longer needed. The heroes are here now. They're going to do the job. This film alone adds two, with Falcon partnering Cap and Bucky being debugged. Not to mention the sneak peek at Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch we get.

But there is something who does need it. That little show on ABC that has its name as part of the title. Where does Winter Soldier leave Agents of SHIELD? Their entire infrastructure has just disappeared. There's no one left to back them up, and the organisation that 90% of the crew but their faith in has proven to be rotten to the core. Which is sort of amusing considering how the last episode ended.

Most of the viewers who stuck with Coulson's little team have wondered whether it will get another season or not (personally I'm thinking it will), but if it does, where does it go? Does it change its name? How the hell with the team afford all the jet fuel, never mind everything else? Personally I foresee Coulson saying something along the lines of “Fine. SHIELD's gone. SHIELD wasn't what we all thought it was. But we're still here. There's still work to be done. From now on, we are SHIELD!” In other words, this little group of five keep the dream alive. And I'm putting money on Bill Paxton being Hydra.

Back to Captain Amercia to wrap this up. Because it sets up so many films as well. It's almost astounding to me that the next earth bound film is the Avengers 2. I feel Black Widow absolutely positively needs her own film now. Cap 3 is set up to be fantastic, quickly followed by a Winter Soldier stand-alone. I want to see what Fury gets up to in his hunt for Hydra, though I feel that one will be just the start of Age of Ultron. Hopefully now that that it's been stated that there's loads of Hydra cells out there to deal with, Coulson will have a more decent bad guy for season 2 than the Clairvoyant has proven to be. Of course, Cap's mid-credits scene does wonderfully set up Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I can't wait. Even if I think there should probably be one more earth-bound film in between.

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