Saturday, April 5, 2014


This isn't intended as a full-fledged movie review. I'm not sure if I'll ever get into that line of posting. But I just have to gush, at least a little bit, about CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Yesterday was the film's opening day here in the United States, and I attended a screening last night. This movie is amazing. It sets a new bar for the solo (non-AVENGERS) Marvel Films movies.

Marvel has said that their goal with WINTER SOLDIER was to produce a political thriller that just happens to be a superhero movie, and they succeeded in spades. This movie has that sort of gritty, paranoid feeling that you get from the very best such thrillers, and features a "trust no one" atmosphere that was especially prevalent in some of the great movies of the seventies. The level of suspense is just about perfect, the action scenes are wonderful and well-placed, and it's all accomplished without betraying Captain America's character to make him fit the story.

Best of all, WINTER SOLDIER accomplishes a much-appreciated feat that neither of the other solo films since AVENGERS have managed: it feels important, completely integral to the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe. IRON MAN 3 was all right, but a little bit of a dud for me. And it was way too "stand-alone" coming on the heels of AVENGERS. There were a few references to the previous year's blockbuster, but nothing happened to move any of that movie's over-arching plots forward. THOR: THE DARK WORLD was a little better as an AVENGERS sequel simply due to the return of Loki, and the mid-credits scene helped to set up GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and likely AVENGERS 3, but while I liked the movie very much in general, it also felt mostly unimportant to the ongoing narrative.

WINTER SOLDIER, on the other hand, worked beautifully as a solo outing for Captain America while also functioning as a massive status quo shifter for the entire Marvel franchise -- including the AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, which had just become good again leading up to the movie. I look forward to seeing how the show incorporates the events of WINTER SOLDIER into its plotlines, just as I look forward to seeing the film's repercussions in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON next year. Plus, if ever there was a time to get to work on that NICK FURY solo film Marvel has bandied about over the years, this would definitely be it.

So bravo, Marvel, on a job well done. WINTER SOLDIER is easily the best solo character entry in the tapestry of Marvel movies, and sets a standard of excellence in both story and continuity that I hope subsequent installments, for all characters, will strive to live up to.

Lastly, for those interested in seeing the material that inspired the movie, Marvel recently released a WINTER SOLDIER hardcover volume collecting the original storyline from 2005. But I would also recommend NICK FURY VS. S.H.I.E.L.D., a hardcover collection featuring the 1988 limited series, which seems to be at least something of an inspiration for the movie's tone and plotlines. The volume can be found at bargain prices through various online dealers, and is well worth a read.

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