“There’s nothing glaringly wrong with The Winter Soldier, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything different here.”

Before I settled into watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I viewed six preceding trailers, three of which were for Marvel movies due out later in 2014. I remember during my childhood, not too long ago, superhero films were maybe a once-a-year thing. Ever since around 2008, Marvel has been on an inconceivable roll, churning out several superhero films a year, many of which have gone on to be some of the highest grossing films in history. An article came out several days ago that showed Marvel had a steady business plan of what franchises they were going to expand and begin until the year 2028, assuring that they’ll remain ahead of longtime competitor DC by a long shot.

I respect Marvel quite a bit because of the fact that they’ve churned out so many films within recent years but kept some sort of quality-control in place, meaning no single film has been abysmal (although some have been average to slightly below average). However, as much as I respect the industry giant and its prolific qualities, I’m growing weary of it and its products’ ubiquity. With three more superhero films poised to open this year, one possibly starting a whole new franchise, it seems it’s going to be another long fourteen years when it comes to these pictures.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Directed by
Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Joss Whedon
Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson
Release Date
4 April 2014
Steve’s Grade: B-

There’s nothing blatantly wrong with Marvel’s latest picture Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I’m beginning to wave the white flag in defeat. The film will undoubtedly cater to hardened Marvel fans and fans of the patriotic hero, but personally, this is an interchangeable endeavor that plays the same instruments, preaches to the same choir, and offers little besides elements we’ve seen in other superhero films within the last eight years or so – the only difference is it doesn’t seem as fresh this time.

The story concerns Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) two years after the events of The Avengers, still working for the superhero agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., lead by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). This time, however, it’s the Winter Soldier who’s the villain, an elusive assassin who manages to corrupt the agency’s communication system, severely injure Fury, and come between society’s trust of superheros and their underlying motives. Rogers, known as “Captain America” by the people, teams up with the sassy and sexy Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in order to take down the Winter Soldier.

When it comes down to the quality of The Winter Soldier, I resort to only talking about certain scenes and aspects I enjoyed rather than the film they make up. The sequence when numerous policemen attempt to take down and exterminate Fury by filling his impenetrable Chevy with bullet holes is a thrilling chase through the city. Not to mention, Fury is more prominent here than he has ever been before, further showcasing the character’s sly, one-step-ahead-of-you attitude with a great sense of charisma and mystique. Then there’s the fact that Robert Redford shows up as one of the villains in a superhero film in a role that will definitely turn heads.
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As I’ve said, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with The Winter Soldier, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything different here. The good guys have some sort of struggle attempting to fit in with the public, the villains consistently walk around in circles in public or in nice, sixty-to-seventy story office buildings while delivering overblown monologues about society, their own personal plans, and what-have-you, and even the action sequences are getting to seem like excuses for costumed-characters to rough-house. Indeed there are hints of conspiracy, espionage undertones that are employed, but when you get down to it, so much of “The Winter Soldier” has been seen before that there’s little to remark about it whatsoever.

I’m uncertain at where that leaves Marvel in my own personal book. I’m anticipating films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and the rumored Nick Fury film, where instead of watching the umpteenth film focusing on a mainstream character, I can sort of ditch all preconceived expectations and learn about characters and heroes I never really came to know. However, audiences will continuously propel these sequels and heavily-marketed superhero films to the top of the box office and I’m content with that; superhero films provide an incredible release from the conundrum of real life, even if their stories often bear undertones to present day society, and I’ll always appreciate how children can dress up like their favorite hero and think they’re actually the real crimefighter. I must reiterate that any Marvel or Captain America fan will be delighted to see this film, but to people like myself, who feel the genre has been on a roller-coaster going very high for quite sometime now, the direction seems to be noticeably changing right now.

NOTE: Also, I still have one question about Captain America: The Winter Soldier that I need answered and it’s one not pertaining to our titular character’s origin. How did Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the directors of this film, go from directing small-scale comedies like Welcome to Collinwood and You, Me, and Dupree to a $170 million superhero film?

Review by Lead Film Critic, Steve Pulaski