Film Analysis #1 – “Captain America: The Wonder Soldier”

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The stars of Paramount Pictures’ logo flies across the screen. This time, those stars are more than visual flair because the film that follows is one of the stars and stripes, American pride battling a threat greater than any terrorist could fathom…a false sense of freedom. That was immediately the idea presented when “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” first started promoting itself. Now the idea of a monitored society is nothing new. “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” did it last year, but what separates “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is that it doesn’t have to go to extreme lengths to prove its point, nor does it rely on teen angst as a counterbalancing storyline. Probably the biggest part…the main character here cares about what happens around him.

For this film, with the most morally-grounded of the “Avengers”, we find our world brought to eerie life. Everything is monitored, lives are expendable, and at the center of it a man who knows who he is, but doesn’t know how to be that in a modern world. Raised in the idealistic 1940’s where it simply was about combating evil, we find Steve Rogers/Captain America faced with the fear of becoming that evil. A watch dog for the government who stops any threat that he is assigned to stop, facing off multiple times with his morally ambiguous team mate Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff on what are the right choices to make. Why does all this matter? Because all these opposing elements and gray areas allow for a truly brilliant spectacle. A film that relies not on special effects as what makes the hero special and makes a good guy a good guy. That is a major issue I have with many films nowadays. There seems to be an overwhelming desire for anti-heroes, people who borderline are bad themselves but the story makes them out to be the lesser of two evils. Here it is indeed a breathe of fresh air to see a classic hero of moral principle battle the worst of the world, making you care more for their well-being. Steve Rogers is literally a blast from the past.

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Don’t worry, the film is filled with action such as a truly mind-blowing hand-to-hand fight between Rogers and the titular named Winter Soldier who, let’s face it everyone knew, is Bucky Barnes back from the dead. Rogers old friend from back when he fought in WWII. Fists fly in close range as blows, knifes are juggled in the brawls, and the brilliance of classic action films fuse with a modern twist of hovercrafts and pathos up to yin-yang. See that’s what makes Rogers step out is everyone else is a product of modern society, he is not. In a way, Rogers demonstrates just how much we’ve changed since the WWII era where the bad guys were as clear as day. The biggest joy was seeing Rogers face his own past. Without revealing too much, you find out his past is very significant to the story.

Dead again, as Marvel is showing with the ever-growing expansion of their Marvel Cinematic Universe, everything is connected. We see a familiar face from “Iron Man 2”, in a way redeeming the relevance of what is considered one of the weakest entries in the MCU. We see a plot thread that is explored in the TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as well. Why does all this make the film great? Because the film does what many films fail to do…throwing your own world in your face and making you see the ugly side of it. The side that we sometimes find ourselves running from. It helps in the story that Rogers encounters Sam Wilson/Falcon, a former pararescueman who uses a specialized set of wings to soar through the skies. Again, another well-utilized character. In fact, here’s how I see it. Romanoff represents Rogers moral-ambiguity, Wilson represents his inner soldier, and Winter Soldier, if you know his identity from the comics, is what sends his morality into a chaotic spin.

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At this point, I’ve simply told you elements of the story, but really what more is there to say. Let’s be honest, the minute I found out Captain America was coming to the big screen back in 2011 with “Captain America: The First Avenger”, I almost cheered. In fact, funny story, when I went to go see the first one in theaters, as the Paramount logo came up a man in the audience shouted “America!” leading to everyone around me clapping in pride. Captain America represents something deeper than any of the other Avengers. Tony Stark/Iron Man is a man of technological savvy and ego who strives to undo what he did as a warmonger in the past. Thor is a Norse god who finds the world worth saving because of his love for a human woman humanizing his once pulsating ego. Bruce Banner/Hulk really doesn’t know how to see himself and doesn’t want to although it seems, thanks to the new friendships he has made with the team, he’s on his way. Romanoff and Clive Barton/Hawkeye are spies who follow orders and believe that they are doing the right thing because they trust Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

And Rogers? Well, as Chris Evans once described him, is “good for the sake of being good”. He was already a good man before he was given a super soldier serum. As the scientist who made the serum told him, it amplifies what is already there. Rogers was a hero before he ever donned the shield. He is the Superman of Marvel, a force of pure good, incorruptible. He is what we all are. In the comic books, apparently he is so worthy of being a hero he can lift Thor’s hammer. Rogers is heroism incarnate and that is why this new installment doubled at the box office from the first one. The same reason that man cheered in the audience 3 years ago, because the hero is in all of us. The will to do good is in all of us. Killing and fighting in rage do no one any good, which is why, by the end of the film, Rogers may of possibly saved a piece of his soul. The ending is alone worth seeing the film as it all builds to a perfect plateau of morality, friendship, and the next mission. Captain America, as you can guess, is my favorite Avengers and one of my favorite heroes. Truth be told it’s easy to play an anti-hero where you are more focused inward, but it’s hard to play a good man who you care about as he rides into danger over and over again. This film shows that we need more good in the world and that it’s there.

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Not only do I recommend “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, which stands on it’s own without having to use too much from “The Avengers” or the first installment to form a story here, I demand it. It’s time for good men to take the center stage again in film. It’s time for people to start deciding what they stand for, something we tend to avoid because it means having to look deep into your soul to see who you are. Don your shields boys and girl, Rogers is already set for a third film after “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Bet you can guess what I’m looking forward to.

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Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 5:06 PM  Comments (2)  

My Favorite Movie Ever? “Spider-Man 2”! Why? Because I Believe!

“I believe there’s a hero in all of us that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”

– Rosemary Harris, “Spider-Man 2”

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There comes a time in every person’s life when they decide who they want to be and what they stand for. When I saw “Spider-Man 2” for the first time in theaters I was expecting it to be an inferior follow-up to the smash hit wonder that was the first “Spider-Man” and not only was I taken aback by its actual superiority to the original but I also came to find it summed up everything I wanted to be. See the main character of Peter Parker is not an award-winning scientist who has the girl of his dreams. He is a man broken in two by the responsibilities of his two alternate lives. There is his life as the noble, yet tortured, mild-mannered student Peter Parker. He struggles in classes not because he can’t understand what he is being taught but because he struggles to balance that life and his life as the hero Spider-Man. See Peter Parker represents to me what people should be. He tries to do the right thing even at the cost of his own happiness. While that may seem dim, it is only that way because he can’t use his heroic cause as an excuse. For, like in this world, there are bad people looking for a chance to take advantage of such secrets to harm people who stand in their way. If he were to reveal himself, the people he loved would be hurt. His aunt, his friends, and, of course, the woman he loves Mary Jane Watson.

When Peter was told “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” I found the uncle wasn’t just teaching him a lesson but us as people in general a lesson.For we all have the power inside of us to do great things but we have a responsibility to not let that power hurt others. And that is where Doc Ock comes into play as not necessarily a villain, but an anti-hero who simply wishes to accomplish greatness to take great pride in. However, that becomes a corrupted ideal as he finds himself having to do worse and worse things to accomplish his dreams. What gets me the most is the film manages to be a superhero film but also manages to capture real life. For none of these characters get an easy way out. They have to fight through hell to make it like we do in real life and the film even ends on a somewhat real sense. See Peter Parker doesn’t get a great job in the end, nor does he end up at the top of his class. He simply gets the one thing he needs to survive and nothing more, the love of the girl next door. And this is life. It’s a bumpy road here and there but life does throw us a bone every once and awhile. It’s not out to get us but, as Peter showed throughout the movie, sometimes we get hit hard by life and, like us on occasion, this character begins to let life weigh him down as he slowly loses his powers by losing his will to keep fighting the harsh world. I mean he even retires from being Spider-Man and the city suffers for it. And worse, when he tries to be a hero again as just Peter Parker by saving a kid in a burning building he discovers that one person didn’t make it out. As Spider-Man he could have saved that one person. It finally takes a reminder of the force of good he is to make him realize that only through doubt can he fail which is what he has let consume him throughout the movie.

It is the simple love of his Aunt May and her wisdom, the quote that is at the beginning of this post in fact, that he finally realizes that to be something great we have to sacrifice things in this life. That there is no incredible miracle to save us. That it is only our will to thrive in hard times that we can make our lives better. See I know a lot of you just thought I loved this film for it’s action. Don’t get me wrong, I find this film best balances it’s visual and action elements with it’s character elements better than any film I’ve ever seen. I just love this film for inspiring to be great by just doing the best we can with what we have. Peter Parker may be a superhero, but he is also a man who bleeds like us and dreams like us. The villain of the story, Doctor Otto Octavious, is one who realizes as well these moments from a different perspective. That being great isn’t just about doing great as much as it not abandoning what you stood for and the reason you were trying to be great in the first place. Doc Ock sought to change the world for the better, but lost himself in his pride whereas Peter Parker let his pride wither so he couldn’t even do what he needed to do to protect the people he loved. While they were at opposite ends of this spectrum they both needed a reminder to both be great in the end.

No doubt the final point that knocks it home why this film is truly the greatest film ever in my eyes is the scene after Spider-Man stops a train from running off the end of a track WITH HIS BARE HANDS. He passes out in pure exhaustion, unable to go any further, his mask having fallen off after a short circuit lit it on fire moments earlier and he had to remove it to see. Instead of being alone as he has been the people carry him into train and he wakes up, his face exposed to the world. The people around him shocked to find he is just a kid. And yet two small kids move through the mob of people (Tobey McGuire’s real half-brothers I might add) and hand him back his mask, speaking for everyone they won’t tell anyone and that it’s good to have him back. It was that moment I realized that we struggle in our lives so hard that a simple act of kindness is all we need to realize that what we are doing for others isn’t a mistake. It brought a tear to my eye to be honest and I take pride that it did.

We go through life wondering if we will ever get the things we want but what’s the point of getting those things if we can’t look ourselves in the mirror afterwards. Like Peter, I’d rather stand for something greater and sacrifice for others then get ahead and leave others to suffer in the wake of that decision. “The Dark Knight” may be a truly dramatic and beautifully filmed psychological and analytical take on heroism, but “Spider-Man 2” approaches life not like a grand opera, but a small glimpse of life for everyday people. And you know what? I do believe there is a hero in all of us that gives us strength and keeps us honest. Sometimes we have to give up what we want the most. This is true, but what’s it matter if you end up changing the world even on a small scale. I guess it’s movies like this that continue to give me hope that people can change the world and that in the end everyone’s a hero deep down. We just need the will to find it.

Published in: on February 3, 2013 at 12:46 AM  Leave a Comment