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.
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.
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.
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.