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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Captain America is easy to dismiss as a super-powered boy scout, tiresomely attached to outdated notions of honour, duty and that old contemptible, patriotism. Captain America: The First Avenger avoided that problem by emphasising the absurdity of the character, the very identity of Captain America a tool for propaganda within the film’s narrative. Captain America: The Winter Soldier makes a virtue of its protagonist’s datedness by inserting him into a conspiracy narrative, where he does not know what is going on anymore than the audience do. This blend of 1970s-inflected conspiracy with the requisite action of the superhero genre is the strongest element of Joe and Anthony Russo’s film. Unexpected combinations are a recurring feature, as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) must decide his allegiances with faces new and old, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johannson), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), and adapt to digital warfare and new social expectations. These combinations sometimes lead to a lack of emotional impact, as certain twists and revelations do not come as a surprise and the intimate is overwhelmed by the operatic. At other times, though, the film is genuinely surprising and manages to disrupt the Marvel universe in daring and unexpected ways. Much as Iron Man Three engaged with post-traumatic-stress-disorder, CA:TWS has a more serious tone that its predecessor, concerned with issues of surveillance and a Big Brother society, and this does not always sit well with the bombastic action. For the most part, it’s a solid superhero adventure, but smoother integration between its different elements would make  it more satisfying.

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5 Comments

  1. […] explored questions of esteem and choice and even prompted tears. Other superhero outings (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past) failed to successfully merge their disparate elements, but much like […]

  2. […] between spies as well as between agents and informants. Earlier in the year, I criticised Captain America: The Winter Soldier for its failure to successfully marry its conspiracy and superhero elements, the film feeling like […]

  3. Second viewings can cause a major re-evaluation, and in the case of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, watching it for a second time on Blu Ray helped me get past the problems of the first viewing. Whereas I previously thought the film failed to deliver emotional impact, I now think it gets the balance right. “CA: TWS” benefits from being more spy thriller than superhero adventure, as the superheroics are relatively reserved since our heroes are Captain America and Black Widow, super-skilled, faster and stronger than the average S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but relatively unpowered in relation to Thor, Iron Man or the Hulk. The bombastic action does not detract from Steve Rogers’ emotional torment, because he does what he knows in a world that has become increasingly untrustworthy. This desperate hold on certainty as the ground crumbles beneath you makes for an emotional journey after all. Certainly, the year’s biggest re-evaluation.

  4. […] Captain America: The Winter Soldier […]

  5. […] the film’s greatest strength is its blending of genres. Much as GOTG was part space opera and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was part conspiracy thriller, Ant-Man plays largely as a heist/caper film. The (clichéd) band of […]

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