Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened last week to record breaking box office results (for April) and positive reviews. After seeing it last night with the family I'd say it's well deserved, but that was my impression going in. I could get used to getting what I expect from a movie and being pleased by it. The movie had huge implications for future Cap films, Avengers 2 and... well, if you watched MAOS last night you've seen it'll resonate though pretty much the entire MCU.
There's a lot to like about this movie, so I'll get right to it. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
A big problem many of this type of movie suffers from is trying to cram too many characters or content into one film and biting off more than it can chew (Spider-man 3, X-men Origins: Wolverine). At this point in the MCU, it's much less likely for that to happen because of the rich tapestry they've created where storylines, characters and random throwaway lines can all pass seamlessly from film to film. Well, maybe not seamlessly every time, but it's all still connected. CA:TWS started out exactly where Avengers left off as far as Steve Rogers is concerned. He's working for SHIELD, butting heads with Nick Fury and generally having a difficult time fitting in to the modern world. Luckily, he has the support of a friend and comrade he doesn't trust, accompanying him on missions while trying to set him up with every female that comes within five feet of him.
Also, she just looks great.
Having these characters appear in multiple movies means that they can continue their character development without having to eat up a lot of each individual film to do it. As it is, this film furthers both Fury and Black Widow's story arc and character interaction with Cap and each other, but it introduces new, complex villains and a new ally who is a welcome addition to MCU.
Anthony Mackie does a great job establishing Sam Wilson as a individual and as someone who has a lot to offer this world of super heroes. To me, the comic characters with the least power tend to be far more interesting and able to operate on many more levels. The Falcon has potential in this department, walking the line between being a good soldier and being a good man. An ex PJ who became disillusioned with finding meaning in being a soldier, gets a new sense of purpose by hitching his wagon to the last real boy scout. If you want to help people and hand out justice filled flying drop kicks to those that deserve them, signing up to be Captain America's partner seems like a way to achieve your life goals.
Robert Redford is as charming as ever in his role, he doesn't come off as cartoony even when he monologues and you can't help but see his point of view even though you don't agree with it. The film also does a fine job setting up villains and NOT killing them all off! As a comic fan, seeing characters like Batroc (the leaper!) and Crossbones show up is a nice treat and they don't feel shoehorned in. The real treat is the biggest spoiler in the movie, but not really if you're familiar with the source material, or watched Agents of SHIELD last night. Hydra is back.
This is a real game changer for both the films and MAOS, because now they know who their enemy is and it could be anyone. Finally the show will have the villain they should have been fighting against for the entire first season, or at least they'll know they already were. It answers many questions through out the series and the films and puts a great many things into perspective, like Senator Stern desperately trying to turn the public against Tony Stark in IM2 and get hands on his tech. The entire movie felt like a turning point in that regard. The films like to throw out little easter eggs, seeds that can grow later on or act as a trail back to previous events and this one does this quite a bit. The difference is that these things no longer feel like throwaways for fan service. A character from the first Captain America film had a direct influence on the creation/evolution of one in this film, while showing up in a new form that puts them more in line with the comic counterpart and sets up the story for Avengers 2. All while providing a setting for another possible television spin off (if Agent Carter gets off the ground) and providing pay offs for those who watch the One Shots. To me this film really is Captain America's answer to The Empire Strikes Back. There is no resolution in the end and the world that was created by the events in Avengers has changed again and the characters need to deal with this new world and find their place in it.
The movie itself is pretty tightly put together, but it creates a mess that will not be easy to resolve and yet isn't so huge that it would change the world for every person in it... yet. Ripples will be felt in any film or show that takes place on earth in the MCU and possibly beyond and a lot of bad things are going to happen.
Even if the world is changing and these characters are adrift in it, they still remain true to the source material and that is a testament to their longevity and a reminder that you don't have to completely recreate a character to put them on the big screen for modern audiences.
"Seems to be an awful lot of Avengers in this Captain America movie. Can't Black Widow get her own?"
Yes, as others have said this movie further illustrates that Black Widow and even Nick Fury could easily handle their own movies and not have to only keep popping up in other character's films. This movie really shows that Marvel can pretty much do whatever style of movie they want. They've done a period piece war movie and a tense political thriller dressed up as super hero action flicks now and that's just the two Cap films. Let's see the events of this spin out and take Natasha and Nick in opposite directions with similar goals. Comic fans will know that Fury can be at his deadliest once he's gone underground, so let him attack the roots of Hydra's organization with nothing more then his own very unique skill set. And Natasha's life has been made very public, past enemies could start coming out of the woodwork for payback. A cat and mouse story with her trying to carve a new path while digging up secrets from her past and being pursued could be a great chance to let the character really fall far and start on her personal redemption.
Of course, it wasn't a flawless victory. There were little WTH moments here and there, one of my favourites being the file Natasha gave Steve at the end of the film. The winter soldier went from a "ghost most of the intelligence community doesn't think exists" to a full file a fresh publicly burned double agent only had to call in a couple of favours to get.
And how about Steve's genius solution to hiding the jump drive. Good thing no one else went looking for a Hubba Bubba fix before Natasha. Though I did get a kick out of both of those.
Issues aside, this is a real win for Marvel and leaves a lot of threads to pull on in the future. I for one can't wait to see more from the Winter Soldier and the fall out from "the algorithm" and I'm hopeful they'll keep Falcon teamed up with Cap, or give him his own time to shine. I'm not greedy though, just throw him in wherever he fits well for now, like Black Widow and build him to a point where the demand is high and the time is right.
With Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist all prepping to be the onscreen version of the Defenders, Ant Man moving forward and Agent Carter and Doctor Strange still being thrown around, the MCU is poised to get really explode. And that isn't even considering what's happening outside of Earths atmosphere. The bigger and more complex this beast gets, the more impressive it is that they can balance it all and pull it off.
As a solo film it had a lot to offer. Flashbacks, monologuing villains, grappling hooks, the Matrix giving birth to Skynet, sexual tension(?), bromance, car chases, Sam Jackson, purple wearing comic book villains, product placement, whispering and Scarlett Johansson.
Oh, and Captain America is in it too.
One thing's for sure, you're going to see a whole lot of these for the next little while...
I'm looking forward to Marvel's attempt at making Star Wars in August and seeing "The Twins" again in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
I'm also looking forward to seeing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
I won't even start on what I would've liked to see from LEGO for this movie. If the Winter Soldier and Cap in his Steve Rogers: Agent of SHIELD outfit show up at some point as minifigs, I'm down.