Marvel seems all over the place with their cinematic universe as far as style of film goes. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers certainly broke records but Iron Man 3 didn’t seem to shoot for the stars and I didn’t appreciate some of the shortcuts taken. Thor: The Dark World was impressive for being big, loud, and intergalactic but if I’m nit picking, I’d have liked a Warriors Three sub-plot. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a conspiracy thriller that might even spark the interest of Ed Brubaker. I believe it to be the James Bond of Marvel movies and the first in its series to unravel in the same manner as its comic counterpart.
The movie opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) running laps around both the Washington Monument and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Sam is a PTSD Counselor now but has had two tours as a paratrooper trained by the military. He lost his partner on a mission so Steve relates with him on that personal level since he lost Bucky Barnes back in World War II. Cap is assigned to help save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel that has become compromised by Algerian pirates. The pirates are led by Georges Batroc (UFC champion Georges St. Pierre), which is a cinematic spin on Batroc the Leaper, a French mercenary specializing in Savate kickboxing. Mark Waid often compared Batroc the Leaper to Jean-Claude Van Damm. As nice of a casting as that would have been, someone along the way said, “I want to see Captain America fight a UFC champion,” and so it was written. The fight scene between these two characters was a great way to set the tone for the rest of the film right out the gate. It gave us a clear expectation as to the level and technicality of the choreography going forward. What was surprising about this opening scene is that it doesn’t just serve as a hook for the audience. We get the first piece of the puzzle when Cap catches Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johnansson) extracting sensitive S.H.I.E.L.D. data from the ship’s computers. The big surprise isn’t that Black Widow is a double agent working for Russia. The secret is that she’s stealing intel about S.H.I.E.L.D. for Nick Fury (Samual L. Jackson), the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Steve learns from Nick that S.H.I.E.L.D. is about to begin Project Insight and certain changes in the system have led him to believe there might be something sinister afoot. Project Insight will launch 3 satellite-connected Helicarriers into the sky to hover over civilization and it was designed to preemptively eliminate criminals before enacting their crimes (Minority Report style). Nick is unable to retrieve the data from the USB stick provided by Romanoff and, in route to meeting Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), is attacked by a S.W.A.T. team of police officers, only they obviously aren’t really who they pretend to be. This scene with Nick Fury desperately using every aspect of his tanked out Escalade to protect himself is easily one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It has so much technical defense, it made me wonder what Barack Obama rolls deep in and if his windows can take as much of a beating as Nick Fury’s can. In any case, no reinforced vehicle could hold up against the Winter Soldier, who blows the SUV up with ease. Nick knew when to throw in the towel and got the hell out of there.
Fury shows up at Rogers’ house and gives him the thumb drive. He only gets a few words out before being shot several times through the window. Steve pulls him to safety and goes after the shooter, who turns out to be Winter Soldier. Nick Fury is taken to the hospital where he is pronounced dead. This characters death serves as the match that lights the fire in Maria Hill, Natasha Romanoff, and Steve Rogers. The next day, Steve is called to meet with senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). By the end of the conversation, Pierce believes that Rogers is withholding intel, which he is, and brands him a fugitive from S.H.I.E.L.D.
The way this movie unfolds felt just like a Captain America comic. We get a whole lot of clues throughout the movie that should be used to understand an underlying scheme. They setup the conflict of the story early on: there’s corruption within S.H.I.E.L.D., and someone needs to find the source. What you won’t know until the middle of the film is that the corruption began a very long time ago and it’s had its hand (or tentacle) in a lot of terrible things that have happened within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film felt like the first 100% adult oriented Marvel movie unlike any other. It’s clever when it needs to be, it’s sneaky when it needs to be, but it’s all encompassing the entire time. It makes for a police cork board for all the crimes and mysteries that have been mentioned in all the other Marvel Franchise films.
Every dog gets its day in this movie. Nick Fury obviously has far more screen time than he has had in the past but Natasha Romanoff damn near stole the lead on a few different occasions. I’ve never liked Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow as much as I did in Winter Soldier. Her charisma, attitude, and seductive voice really shined through and I officially want to see her in her own feature film. This movie should be proof that her character deserves it. Falcon (Anthony Mackie) was a great addition to the group because it clarifies that the world didn’t have a lack of heroic identities between WWII and the awakening of Steve Rogers; even if they did stay out of the lime light. He might not deserve his own movie, but he definitely deserves his own action figure. Winter Soldier is eventually revealed to be Bucky Barnes and if you didn’t see that coming, you really shouldn’t be reading a review on a site called Nerdlocker. I was absolutely ecstatic when Sebastian Stan was cast as Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger. He hadn’t done much by then but he played a very good villain in The Covenant. The movie could have been better but I remember being impressed with Stan’s performance. He showed a lot of class portraying Bucky in the first movie but all of that is wiped away along with his memories when he becomes the Russian Super Soldier.
This movie is chock full of action and intrigue and it doesn’t skimp around on the Easter eggs. I didn’t do any counting but it certainly felt like this had more hints and mentions than any other Marvel movie. The CGI was so well done that I was constantly wondering what was real and what was made using computer graphics. One particular scene where we see Steve Rogers as a skinny young man again had me astonished at how far they’d come with that technique since I wasn’t exactly impressed with the CGI in the first film. The plot definitely out shined the graphics because it was just that good. For the first time in my Marvel Movie going experience, I completely forgot about the Stan Lee cameo because I was so enveloped in the story. Not to mention how interconnected this movie was to the rest of the franchise even going as far as having a big subplot entangle with Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
For keeping this geek giddy for the entirety of its 136 minute runtime, I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier 5 out of 5 Nerd Skulls.
For a different opinion, check out what Cubby had to say!
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