Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Part of the reason I wanted to have a blog was so I could go nuts when I have moments like these. Usually, it’s long after the thing I’m excited about has faded from relevancy (I don’t go to the movies too often) but not this time. Just to be clear, I spoil just about everything below.

I didn’t expect much when I went to see the second Captain America movie. I was one of the few who didn’t really care for the first one (I actually preferred Thor). They did a lot more with him in the Avengers, but even then he just wasn’t as interesting as the other characters.

So believe me when I say I am surprised, not only to say it is great, but is also my favorite Marvel movie next to the Avengers. It topped Thor, the Hulk movies, even Iron Man. And in comparison to the Avengers, that’s just because the Avengers was damn near perfect.

One of the things they’ve always tried to do with Cap was have him be a man outside his time. Not only in interests and knowledge, but in his view of the world. He’s a genuinely good, sincere character that never feels self righteous or hokey. Well, not too hokey, and usually then it’s only for genuine comedic effect. They really draw this out in the movie. There are some serious themes, with a government agency riding the line between protection and tyranny, and Cap takes a genuine look at this. There’s a great part where Nick Fury points out some of the the things Cap’s unit did in WWII. Not only doesn’t he deny it or reason it away, he admits that he’d done hard things for reasons he thought were right. He acknowledges that some times the horrible things Fury is contemplating are justified, but the motives always need to be considered.

What this movie did better than the others though was in the action. From the very first scene, with Cap effortlessly clearing the boat of terrorists, to every time he throws his shield, he comes off as a superior fighter with a truly kinetic display of skill. They do a good job of balancing things too, because he never feels too strong, just the perfect human specimen, the potential of humanity incarnate. That’s great because with all his power, he’s still weaker than the rest of the Avengers and yet somehow feels stronger.

The plot was better too, and tied really well into the Agents of Shield. To see this government agency that tied this whole endeavor together actually be a nefarious scheme was genuinely unsettling. Robert Redford does a great job, because up until the point he meets with the Winter Soldier, I was truly unsure whether or not he was the villain. And then when he was, it was refreshing to see an intelligent, efficient plan with a cogent motive. There was no mustache twirling or grandstanding, he barely even monologue. He had a plan and he did everything he could to see it through, driven by an eerily convincing argument that brings home many of the things we are seeing in the real world. If this isn’t an analogy for drone warfare and the NSA, I don’t know what is.

The only real negatives I could assign are minor. Scarlet Johansson does a serviceable job but her portrayal of Black Widow is more capable in the Avengers and sexier in Iron Man 2. The Winter Soldier didn’t quite live up the hype either. He really isn’t important enough to warrant the subtitle, and in a movie where everything is just so much more interesting, his blank stare was boring.

Overall, this was a great movie. Cap has finally come into his own and I can’t wait to see where they take things for the next Avengers and the third installment.

 

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was great and there are several reasons why. It’s a great action flick, it has great humor, a fantastic plot, and does what the others have done so well, just better. Everything the second did wrong, it corrected. Everything the first did, it improved upon. I don’t know if I’m willing to say it was better than Avengers, but it was certainly close.

And while there is a lot to this movie, what I want to discuss is the twist. It’s not really a review. If you want a review, well, it’s great, go see it. Done. If you don’t want to know anymore, don’t read any further.

Really, don’t.

Everyone who hasn’t seen it, just to make sure, you’re gone, right? Cool.

Anyway, so it turns out the Mandarin is a fake and Guy Pierce’s character is running everything as a puppetmaster behind the scenes, using his own custom designed Bin Laden as a scapegoat for everything he’s doing. It’s a good, imaginative plot, but there are two things I really love about it.

One, it’s ambitious as hell. Imagine if the Joker from the Dark Knight had been fake and all a part of Harvey Dent’s plan to become Mayor. That probably wouldn’t have been as good in that case, but that’s the extreme they went to. They took the single largest villain from the Iron Man universe and did away with him. And they did a really, really good job of replacing him with an interesting villain of their own design.

And that brings me to the second part. They didn’t half ass it. The marketing was all about Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. Even if you watched the trailers multiple times, you barely even see Guy Pierce. They chose a triple A actor to play a character that isn’t a big deal and then they did what no one in Hollywood is willing to do. They cut the trailers so it would appear as something other than what it was.

And then we fell for it.

They do that all the time, but usually it’s to make a crap movie look good. They made a great movie look just good. It was a big risk, but well worth it and I am just so impressed that they had to good judgement to not give it away in the advertising.

It’s something I’d like to see more of in Hollywood.