Another year, another addition to Marvel Studios’ Avengers canon. This time around, we are treated to the much-anticipated Captain America sequel, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. In the sequel, Captain America is becoming acclimated to 21st century life. Things change, however, when he finds himself caught amidst a scandal within S.H.I.E.L.D. and a ghost from his past is revealed. The film does not deviate from the standard superhero-film formula, as expected, but it does offer an entertaining ride that delves into the humanity of its protagonist and makes some incisive comments about contemporary politics.
It should be fair to say that any superhero film must provide thrilling, even sometimes suspenseful, action sequences to satiate fans’ desires. These sequences also satiate the desires of the producers wanting to provide a grand spectacle that earns a profit.
Well, no one needs to worry about this sequel coming up short. Marvel diehards get what they want and the producers at Marvel will earn their profit easily — it’s another win-win situation for both sides. Each sequence is as explosive as the last, but the film never tries to outdo itself. Not only do writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely create an entertaining atmosphere in these scenes without completely distracting from the overarching narrative, they also do a nice job of properly pacing each action sequence in relation to the film’s more dramatic moments. This allows the viewers some respite before sending them into the next barrage of violence.
There are a few moments of well-done deadpan humor in the script, as well. Some attempts feel forced and fall flat, but others work well within the context of the scene. The script is not perfect — as exemplified in its subpar dialogue — but it respectfully stays within the lines of a superhero movie.
Having exciting action sequences is a must for superhero films, but the script cannot do them justice without a few additional elements for the film’s benefit. First of all, Markus and McFeely create a script that explores, if briefly, the more human side of the film’s protagonist. Anyone who saw the first film should know that the film ends with Captain America waking up in modern times after crashing his plane in the Arctic. Although he never seems to struggle with catching up on history, the audience does get a sense of his displacement from an era more natural to him. Additionally, as the ending of the first film shows, Captain America sacrificed more than just his life for his country.
The scene where he visits with a sickly Peggy Carter is appropriately emotional, pulling on the heartstrings of any sentimental viewer. It paints a broader picture as to the dedication he portrays, transcending the typically patriotic nature of the character. Although any sort of exploration into character depth may end around the film’s midpoint, the additional context to the humanity of the character was refreshing.
Possibly the most unanticipated aspect of the film was its commentary on the U.S. in a post-9/11 surveillance society. Producer Kevin Feige said that those at Marvel wanted to create a film that blended the superhero film with a 1970s political thriller vibe. It succeeds in capturing the distinctive paranoia of that era of filmmaking. Before watching the film, one might be hard-pressed to call “Winter Soldier” a film more about surveillance than about Captain America’s battles with the titular antagonist. Following the tragic events of 9/11, the language surrounding surveillance took on a more positive tone, with many believing that increased surveillance measures are a proper tool in the fight against domestic evils. The plot deals with a new S.H.I.E.L.D. program which exploits the new values of a panoptic age, and those values are the biggest indicator of Captain America’s displacement from the modern era. He instantly recognizes that these new technologies promote fear rather than freedom, and his realization relates to the suspicions of those who live in a society with high levels of surveillance as the norm.
With no stiff competition in the coming weeks, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will see a successful run in theaters as anticipated. A third film in the series is slated for a 2016 release with the Russo brothers directing once again. The Marvel cinematic universe, starting with “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008, has become an unstoppable force in modern film — one which shows no signs of slowing down. As long as they keep making movies of this quality, it isn’t as if people will be complaining about it.
Rating: 3 out of four stars