Some spoilers, mostly minor.
I’ve been seeing a lot of people say Winter Soldier is the best Marvel movie. I wouldn’t go that far — nothing here blew my mind — but it was pretty darn good.
Captain America was my least favorite Phase One Marvel movie, for the simple reason that the plot pacing was nonexistent. I am a stickler for pacing. That problem was fixed here… There are a lot of elements and subplots, but they’re balanced well. I was never confused, but I never felt like I was being lead through it either. Some of the dialogue was less than artful, the movie’s anti-surveillance message is waaaay out there in the open, but at the same time that’s a totally on-point discussion to be having and I didn’t feel like it was so heavy-handed as to be ineffective or unrealistic.
I like that the movie follows through on that discussion and actually allows changes to be made, rather than just playing with it and then returning to the status quo. I’ll have to catch up on the last few episodes of Agents of Shield before Tuesday, because a lot of stuff went down with Shield in this movie and I want to see the fallout. I won’t give details, but I will say that I’ve only read a smattering of Marvel comics so I don’t know if this movie’s content follows any particular storyline, but it does seem very Marvel-ish in tone and treatment of its superheroes.
As I expected, the Winter Soldier himself is more of a subplot than a supervillain. In the title and the trailers, he serves to distract the audience from the heavier discussions and main plot of the movie. I’m okay with that, because he’s still awesome, and an important subplot for Cap himself. On the whole, this movie really let Cap shine. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but he’s not squeamish. He’s honest, but that doesn’t mean he’s weak — he has a commitment to the truth. His super-soldier skills are on display throughout the movie, hopefully proving his worth to all y’all who thought he was superflous in the Avengers. Honestly, the man fights like a dancer and he knows how to arrange his troops.
There was such a great female presence in this movie! Black Widow is a vital and constant element, Agent Hill is great, and there’s another cool female agent. All three of them are distinctly different women without being stereotypes of anything, all three of them have serious commitments to their work, and none of them are shown in superfluous states of undress. (Not shown in states of undress at ALL, as far as I remember.)
Various ladies are suggested as romantic partners for Cap, but it’s done in a natural and mutual way. (The suggestion is simply that he might enjoy having a social life, not that women will faint all over him or that he deserves a “reward” or anything.) There’s no indication from anyone that because there are women in the movie, one of them must sleep with Cap at some point. They’re there to do actual significant things which they have chosen to do, which matter to the fate of the world, actually.
Beyond all that, there’s a consistent female presence in all the group shots: working on computers, working in Shield, being Shield agents, being henchpeople, being on the World Security Council, attending group meetings of military veterans, just being everywhere, and all completely not sexualized. That’s just totally awesome.
There are two prominent characters of color in Nick Fury and Sam/Falcon, both of whom are amazeballs. In addition, I don’t know how well they qualify as characters with disabilities, but Nick Fury has his eyepatch and the Winter Soldier has a totally rad prosthetic arm.
Several Spoilery Questions:
Where was Tony Stark? Cap and Natasha are running around trying to get someone to help them hide/decrypt some super-secret programming, and they don’t even try to contact Tony? Especially after he was the one suspicious of Shield in Avengers in the first place? He could’ve been a big help.
More importantly, if Hill was always going to blow up the helicarriers after Steve was clear, why go through all that brouhaha to reprogram them first? I could understand if they didn’t WANT to blow them up, it looks like they did a ton of damage falling out of the sky and who knows how many crewmembers were killed, but that is clearly not the case. Blowing them up was part of the plan.
Aside from the Tony Stark question, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World both did a good job of keeping the other heroes out of the equation in a believable way. In TDW only a few minutes of serious action happened on Earth. In Winter Soldier, most of it’s secret, so again the big fight only takes up a few minutes. I don’t know where Hawkeye was, but the others probably wouldn’t have known or been able to get there in time.
I prefer the crazier end of Marvel, with gods and magic and aliens, so maybe that’s why I don’t think this is the greatest Marvel movie yet. All the same, it is really good, and satisfying on many levels. It’s packed with action, but thoughtful too, and it’s not afraid to make big changes. The characterization is all spot-on, and the pace is good. Go see it and let me know what you think!