Movie genres come and go. Thankfully we seem to be over the whole teen vampire game, but could you please take the found-footage “horror” films with you? And, hey, whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned romantic comedies?
One constant, though, has been superhero films. And not only are they still around, the genre is unarguably in its heyday as we speak. Four of the biggest opening weekends of all time are held by superhero flicks. In the top spot? Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. By far.
Still don’t believe me? Fine, but when May 1 of next year of rolls around, and the second Avengers movie comes out, don’t say I didn’t warn you. In the meantime, we have Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the ninth entry in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the last appetizer we get before next May.
Chris Evans is back as the man in red, white, and blue, still adjusting to having his world fast-forwarded from World War II to present day. After a whiz-bang prologue that has everything superhero fans could want (short of the onscreen POW! and BANG! balloons) we settle into the story– the global protection agency SHIELD has been covertly infiltrated by bad guys. Lead agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is trying to find out by whom, with the help of SHIELD higher-up Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and the good Captain himself. And, oh yes, fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is along for the ride, too.
And with that, I’ll stop with the plot outline. There are so many twists and turns (an ‘old friend’ back from the dead! double-crosses! a shocking death! new alliances! the end of an era!) that it’s best to just go and let it all wash over you.
The fraternal directing duo of Joe and Anthony Russo (You, Me and Dupree) have managed to integrate themselves quite nicely into the Marvel universe– crafting a film that mirrors Iron Man and The Avengers in terms of supremely entertaining action, while at the same time continuing the feel and themes of 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the team who wrote the first Captain film and the second Thor film) has just the right balance of clever, Wheedon-esque wit and cheese-ball superhero-ness to never drag, even with its 136-minute run time. In fact, the sum-total of all that transpires in The Winter Soldier may well leave you gob-smacked. And that, folks, is not a term I throw around loosely.
Evans, who I consider as brilliant a casting choice as Robery Downey Jr. was for Iron Man, continues with his gruff, no-nonsense demeanor here– though it’s nice to see him thaw a little, too, particularly in his scenes with Johansson. Their acting chemistry is just the final piece in a darn-near-perfect puzzle.
p.s. In patented Marvel fashion, not only is there a mid-credits bonus scene (directed by Whedon), there’s a second bonus scene at the very end, so stick around. Captain’s orders.