In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Captain America: The Winter Soldier?
The movie opens with Captain (America) Steve Rogers jogging laps on the National Mall. His “jogging,” as a superhuman recipient of Dr. Abraham Erskine’s super-soldier serum, amounts to a full sprint for an Olympic athlete. He laps another jogger, a young, fit man, so many times that the other guy gets pissed off and tries to sprint to catch him, which progresses to two army veterans talking about war, which is ended by S.H.I.E.L.D. picking Cap up in a fast car. Solid intro.
The intro of Steve Rogers jogging says something important about the character: He actually needs to exercise and train to maintain his strength. He’s strong and great, but still pretty normal. I was amazed when Marvel took Captain America, clearly just the worst superhero ever when I was nine, and made him into one of the most appealing franchises in movies today. Nine-year-old me thought he was stupid because basically he is just in really good shape with a weird shield. Superman is invincible and Batman has an endless supply of cool toys, so what’s in it for a Steve Rogers fan? The appeal of Captain America, aside from the movies doing a great job focusing on the human side of him and helping audiences empathize with his life, is that he is the absolute, be-all end-all specimen of human perfection, but his superpowers end there. He’s the ultimate athlete, the ultimate patriot, and the ultimate gentleman, but he is still fundamentally human, unlike Superman, who has to shave with laser vision.
This is either the dumbest or the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.
The fast car takes him to a jet which takes him to the location of the first action set piece. These set pieces are the definite high points of the movie. They are most of what the movie is, and for each and every one, I was literally leaning forward thinking, as much as I thought anything, “yes yes yes yes yes” on repeat until Captain America stopped slamming his shield into people’s faces. The combat is more complicated and varied than that, though. One scene in particular that stands out is an amazing car chase through Northwest D.C. with Nick Fury at the helm of an SUV that’s so well-equipped it’s really more of a spaceship. Samuel L. Jackson truly lives up to his laconic badass persona in this role, participating in one of the most exciting parts in a movie filled with super-soldiers. Marvel has been doing crowd-pleasing action for years now, and they have become exceedingly efficient at it.
Pictured: Stan Lee
The plot is believable and full of suspense. It never drags or makes you roll your eyes, which is admirable when a plot is serving mostly as spackle between action scenes. The twist (SPOILER – there’s a twist) is pretty horrifying and plausible when it happens, and gives Captain America plenty of opportunity for research on the relative durability of shields versus faces (hint: in 9 out of 10 studies, the shield demonstrated higher levels of durability). There are certain things that, if you think really hard about them, seem to not quite fit together right for plausibility or continuity, but if you’re thinking that hard about it, you’re doing it wrong, anyway. They’re seriously minor things that I hate myself for noticing, and you won’t think about them. This is not the awful era of the horrendous post-Keaton late-90s Batman movie. This is not Ben Affleck in Daredevil. Superhero movies are A Thing now, and any plot holes that exist aren’t big enough to fall through unless you dig them out yourself.
Should you see it?
You should definitely see this movie. It is one of the best vehicles for action scenes this year, and it achieves what a lot of really impressive action movies don’t: Those over-the-top scenes are actually tied together really well with a strong story. Yes, the exploding and shooting and hitting are definitely the focus of the movie, but their weight doesn’t shatter the rest of the film into kindling.
Andrew Findlay has strong opinions about things (mostly literature) and will share them with you loudly and confidently. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.