Captain America: The Winter Soldier: written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; based on characters and concepts created by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Ed Brubaker, and others; directed by Anthony and Joe Russo; starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/ Falcon), Georges St-Pierre (Batroc), Toby Jones (Arnim Zola), Emily VanCamp (Agent 13) and Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill) (2014):
Having Georges St-Pierre play long-time Captain America foe Batroc as a monosyllabic murderer pretty much encapsulates the Marvel movie approach to its comic-book properties. It’s all business. Batroc is a Chatty Cathy in the comic books, a mercenary with a comical French accent who generally avoids killing people. Here, he’s a surly plot device — the first guy Captain America has to punch out on his way to the showdown with the Big Boss.
The Marvel Studios movie model has been, for the most part, breathtakingly efficient in its approach to making money from competent superhero movies. And it sorta has to be efficient: the two biggest draws on the Marvel Comics card, Spider-man and the X-Men, were optioned to other studios prior to the creation of Marvel Studios. It’s as if Time Warner were stuck making DC Comics movies without recourse to either Superman or Batman.
Cinematic style is very much secondary in these movies. Perhaps tertiary. The Winter Soldier‘s directors are veterans of TV (including Community!). The plot chugs along from Point A to Point Z. There’s a fight every 10 minutes or so, or an explosion, and a climax that goes on for the last half of the movie. You will be entertained if these are the things you seek in an entertainment. The 1940’s-infused visuals that previous Captain America movie director Joe Johnson worked with are gone, replaced by an occasionally murky, thoroughly contemporary movie palette.
The biggest plus the Captain America movies have is Chris Evans as Cap, and if someone had told me this would be the case when he was cast four years ago, I’d have laughed. However, asked to assay a character as tricky as DC’s Superman, Evans has delivered. It’s not easy being a superhero whose primary attribute is Goodness. Evans sells it, partially with humour, partially by looking like a Jack Kirby Captain America as inked by Dick Ayers come to life. The rest of the acting is competent as well. Every time Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow talks, though, I marvel at how the character apparently erased all traces of a Russian accent from her delivery. That’s committment to your adopted homeland!
So, you know, it’s sorta fun. There’s nothing epic or poetic here, just a solid franchise film meant to get you to the next franchise film. Given that Marvel Studios does such an efficient job of making blockbusters that are essentially big-budget TV episodes, its failure with its actual TV show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., seems doubly baffling. Lightly recommended.