Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Best of 2014: #8: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Make the Sequel Totally Different: What I liked most about this movie was something that was equally true of Apes: It was sequel that bore almost no resemblance to the original.

Where do they get this notion that we want a retread? As I wrote about with Pacific Rim, setting the dial back to zero before the credits roll sabotages the first movie and the second one.  This movie, I’m glad to say (as opposed to Iron Man 2 or Thor 2) doesn’t have the slightest bit of retread to it.

The previous movie created a pure hero for a pure war, and it must have been very tempting to inject cynicism or subversion into that narrative, but instead, they set themselves the challenge of playing it totally straight, and knocked it out of the park. When I heard that the first movie was going to be set entirely in World War 2, I was baffled, because that would miss half of the appeal of the character: the “man out of time” aspect.  But as it turns out, that was exactly the plan.

Marvel plays the long game, and by devoting a whole movie to half the appeal, they guaranteed one hell of a sequel once they finally cashed in all of that potential energy three years later. This movie mercilessly plucks that idealistic hero out of his place, time, and comfort zone, thrusting him into a new world that makes his code, his methods, and his beliefs appear to be totally obsolete.  Refreshingly, the goal is not to impeach or degrade those ideals (as many modern movies do) but to put them to the ultimate test, which makes it all the more thrilling to see the hero win. It’s hard enough to fight true evil over there, but it takes so much more courage and cunning to fight true evil over here, which made this the ultimate escalation.

Tomorrow: A movie that really, really should have sucked. 


Bill Peschel said...

There was a lot of good fun in that movie, but it amused me that the ambush of Fury's vehicle was so over the top, so impossible to believe, that it threw me out of the movie. I didn't have that problem with "The Avengers" -- which I love (and I'm not a fan of capes in general -- I guess because they still found ways to surprise me, to make me wonder how they're going to pull that impossible feat off. But a bunch of baddies blasting away with rockets at an SUV repeatedly? in the middle of DC? with absolutely no police presence? really? really guys?

j.s. said...

Fury's sufficiently advanced S.H.I.E.L.D. technology isn't exactly indistinguishable from magic -- it does break eventually -- but it's certainly magical compared to current known armoring materials. And isn't that kind of the whole point of a comic book universe? I thought that scene was one of the more exciting ones in the film.

Superhero films usually bore me to tears but this is one of the better ones I've seen. I admired the way the writers/directors didn't try and pussyfoot around issues like PTSD, how Captain America was forced to relate to contemporary soldiers coming back from wars that couldn't be more different from his experience of WWII. I also appreciate the inspiration that the storytellers took from much smaller artier paranoid thrillers in the 1970s like THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, even going as far as casting Robert Redford, the iconic star of both films.

Matt Bird said...

I didn't really have a problem with that scene either, even though I've been infuriated by similar scenes in previous movies, such as "Knight and Day".