By G. Michael Dobbs
This week I ventured back into a theater for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Every time I see the trailer for a new movie based on a comic book superhero I think of how the success of the Christopher Reeve “Superman” movie changed everything.
Prior to that film, comic books were not considered to be the subject of adult, big budgeted films. One only has to look at the only Superman feature that was made before the Reeve movie, “Superman and the Mole Men” made in 1951. A terrible cheapjack production in which modified vacuum cleaners were passed off as weapons of the future and the flying sequences were embarrassing, this film was little more than a B-movie. It was essentially a pilot for the George Reeves television series.
Comic books were the stuff of movie serials in the 1940s and 1950s – inexpensive films aimed at children.
Today, however, comic book movies are big business and the studios have realized that people who enjoy action films, rather than comic book fans, are the market that has embraced such productions. It’s no an issue any longer to admit you enjoy a film about someone in a costume performing heroic acts.
Today there is a publicity swirl about the current cinematic “Marvel Universe” and the success of many of their films. Inside the comic book community, people argue about how DC comics have handled their movie franchises, mostly recently the reboot of “The Man of Steel” and the Christopher Nolan “Batman” trilogy versus the interlocking plots and characters of many of the Marvel films.
The latest Marvel movie is the second in its Captain America franchise. The first film, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is my favorite of these Marvel adaptations as it was character-driven in a way the other films have not been. Its direction by Joe Johnston hit all of the nostalgic notes that I needed as well as keeping the story of a man desperate to serve his country very grounded.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the second film as it continued its man out of his own time theme. Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) still wants to serve his country and is now doing so by working with the international intelligence organization S.H.I.E.L.D. but he is having difficulty accepting the kind of moral and ethical compromise that characterizes the politics of the 21st Century.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have brought forth a superhero movie that has a meaningful subtext to it, which for me was a pleasant surprise.
Rogers must not only cope with what happens to S.H.I.E.L.D., but also the emergence of a near unbeatable assassin known as the Winter Soldier. When Rogers realizes the identity of the mercenary it is devastating to him.
The performances of the cast are standouts with Evans not only handling the action sequences very well but also displaying superior acting chops. Scarlett Johansson as the Captain’s ally, fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent The Black Window, also has a more developed role than we saw her the last time in “The Avengers.”
I admit I never would have thought that Robert Redford would make one of his now infrequent movie appearances in this type of film, but he takes the role of Alexander Pierce seriously.
Although clocking in at two and half hours, the pace of the film is quick and it never drags.
If you liked the first “Captain America” outing, you’ll enjoy this second film. And be sure to sit through all of the credits for two additional scenes.
If you are so inclined and want to honor the creators of the characters, the late Joe Simon and Jack Kirby – their estates do not benefit from this film – consider making a donation equal to what you spent on movies tickets to The Hero Initiative atwww.heroinitiative.org