Saturday, 29 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In recent years MARVEL has been dominating the film industry, delighting fans and coming out on top of the worldwide box office for both 2012 and 2013. Such success is most probably down to the cock-sure Iron Man and perhaps not the substantially less exciting Captain America, whose standard powers and unestablished personality contrast significantly with the other heroes. Although we want to like Captain America, almost as the good natured underdog, there is simply nothing to root for, he's a 'clipart' image of a standard superhero cack-handedly flung onto a cinema screen, who together with his attempted espionage story-lines leave us with a familiar sense of deja-vu. 

Following the events of The Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans) is working for Shield, cracking cases, finding files and generally carrying out superhero duties, this is until The Winter Soldier turns up, a seemingly unstoppable Soviet Agent, who turns the life that Captain America knew upside down. The initial plot is perfect,a change from the formulaic structure of: crisis, injury, big battle, victory, which also fits in with the past of Captain America, carrying out field duties as per usual. This is shown from the very beginning which perfectly sums up what the film should've been. It was fast, exciting, intriguing but most of all it did something that neither the first Captain America nor the Avengers did, it established his character, demonstrating his physical power with quick, painful action scenes as well as his inner personality, showing his charisma and decisiveness as the plot began to unfold. 

The fantastic tone that this opening set was almost immediately abandoned  with both Captain America and his equally as boring female partner Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) returning to their bland roles as monotone vehicles for the story. In fact the supporting roles of both the consistently interesting Nick Fury (Sameul L. Jackson) as well as new hero Falcon (Anthony Mackie) easily outdo that of the two protagonists, with Falcons character being fairly well established given the lack of screen time he's allotted; resulting in his character being far more interesting than that of the leading man. The villians, alike the typical workings of the franchise, remain problematic, with Robert Redfords performance of a sinister politician initially showing massive potential, only to be let down by a story which soon runs out of steam. The Winter Soldier is oddly similar to Captain America being wildly bland and easily foreseeable, ultimately holding little value in the film as a whole...why his name is in the title we will never know .As mentioned the story shows to be equally as tired after clinging on to all the sincerity it had for as long as possible until it was replaced by mind-numbing action, the selling point of the film. The action however,despite the quality of story, upholds its quality from previous MARVEL instalments being fun, realistic and at some points oddly gritty, a nice change from the usually soft fight sequences of the character. 

On the whole however the film is a hugely frustrating watch. The first half or so is fantastic and for perhaps the first time in MARVEL movie history, the audience is put into a position where the outcome is totally unpredictable. Then the plot is completely inverted. Suddenly we're reminded that this is 'just another' MARVEL movie, in comes the grandiose final sequence, bringing the unbelieveably foreseeable end, quickly turning the film boring. The classy first half of slick action entwined with intelligent political espionage becomes infested with cheap cliches and horrible one-liners which are about as eloquent as a doner kebab. Attempts to inject the childish second half with any kind of intelligence go laughably wrong, thinking the more politicians they add the more brain cells the film will have, when in reality this simply makes the story so much more of a mess. One sequence especially which showed the Captain walking through a museum showcasing his old life, was notably awful, lasting for far too long, serving only the purpose to provide needless exposision, furthermore as if the audience were blind a voiceover mimics the on screen action, delving deep into the Captains past with such detail that no voice-over man, no matter how talented, would know.

This is a film of two halves. The first highlighting the very best of MARVEL with a sophisticated narrative,  blended with exciting action and the second highlighting the very worst, abandoning the narrative and taking the action to utilise until it was all out of juice. Captain America:The Winter Soldier is the first film to show cracks in the MARVEL universe playing it far too safe, fixing no previous faults of the ongoing franchise. The Guardians of the galaxy, and in fact the three upcoming films in the franchise, couldn't come sooner to add a bit of flavour to the now bland tasting MARVEL universe.

6/10- With initial potential to be MARVELS best, it soon fatigues and resorts to familiar cheap tricks.

Calum Russell

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