Ten Deep 4.10.14: Top 10 Reasons Captain America: The Winter Soldier Rules
Posted by Mike Gorman on 04.10.2014
From Chris Evans' performance and Scarlett Johansson's work as Black Widow to the end credits scene, the politically-charged storyline and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 reasons that Captain America: The Winter Soldier rules!
"Top Ten Reasons Captain America: The Winter Soldier Rules"
FIRST! This article will contain some pretty major SPOILERS for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, read it at your own risk!!!
I had several different topics in mind for this week's column but they all fell to the wayside when I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier this weekend. In my opinion it is one of, if not the strongest of the entries into the Marvel Studios shared universe that we have witnessed so far. The unofficial 11th item on this list is of course the box office haul of the film for its opening weekend. It has put April on the map for openings! There however ten other items and people that I feel are perfect examples of why this film excelled. We'll start with one that is not related to the film's production, but to its reception.
10. Robert Downey Jr.
Now Robert Downey Jr. is not in this film, but you may have seen on a variety of social media platforms this past week that he was a part of the film's opening press. Downey Jr. gathered a group of about 20 kids on the day of the film's release, which also happened to be his birthday, and treated them to a private showing of the film. While yes, I know it was an orchestrated publicity event, it also was a great bit of synergistic advertising for the film and proof that the studio was willing to put all of its resources behind the film's success. I mean, if Iron Man himself likes your film, that seems to be a good thing!
9. Measured Humor
While The Avengers used a fair amount of humor to set its tone, what I greatly appreciated about Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the humor was played down to put a focus on the more serious elements of the story. That is not to say that there were some recurring comical moments, like "On your left" & the seemingly random casting of NBC's "Community" star, Danny Pudi, in a bit part, but their usage was so measured that they had impact but did not distract from the pacing of the story. Comic Books aren't always (or usually) about quips and gags, and this film showed that to be true.
8. Stephen Strange
One of the things that comic fans look for the most in big screen adaptions of comic properties are the "Easter eggs" that suggest the shared universe of the films or the hints at the existence of other characters. Since we know we are dealing with a truly shared universe already with the Marvel films the "Easter eggs" become more particular and relevant as they are not just shout outs but possible hints at things to come. For me, and most of you I am sure, one of the biggest in this film came when a character was talking about who the crazy AI algorithm would target for destructions. There was a list of names being rattled off and one stood out in particular, Stephen Strange. He is of course Dr. Strange and rumored to be getting the Marvel movie treatment very soon. This name drop gave us hope that the mystical side of the Marvel Universe would so be getting under way.
7. Robert Redford
While there have been some pretty big names bouncing around in the Marvel films so far, Robert Redford's presence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier definitely raises the bar and somehow to me opens the doors for these films to be taken more seriously. Yes there is a strong, committed fan base already but Redford might draw in some people who would have otherwise over looked a "superhero" movie. I see his appearance in a central role of the film as a step towards dissipating any remaining negative connotations to the "superhero" genre. Besides, while this film does have its fantastic elements the next item on the list speaks more to its tone.
I hope that this one will make some sense because it is not exactly the inclusion of politics as a story point that I am referring to here. More so I mean the way the setting of a charged political landscape sets a distinctive tone for the film that separates it from any of the Marvel films we have seen so far. This really is more of a political thriller than a traditional superhero story and I think that it is an awesome thing. What does set it apart from other films of this type is the fact that all of the political wrangling is about a governmental agency that oversees security in a world that is full of superhuman beings, gods, and incredible technology. Whereas a traditional thriller of the sort would target corruption in the CIA or FBI, here S.H.I.E.L.D., the organization that helped found the Avengers, is the target. It is that blending of the real with the super that crafts this film's tone.
5. The Credits
We all know at this point to expect a post-credit scene when it comes to the Marvel movies but this time we got not one but two scenes, and each provides a glimpse into what will be coming soon. Now the first scene ties directly into the next film in which we will see Captain America himself, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The clip gives us our first glimpse of "The twins," aka the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The next scene is the Winter Soldier himself visiting his past at the Smithsonian implying he may have his memory back. Do you need to have waited to see these scenes to enjoy what is to come? No. But are they a lot of fun and keep you engaged as a fan? Certainly so. These two clips answer questions and raise new ones in a way that it seems only Marvel is doing of late. The other benefit of waiting to see the scenes is you get to see the film's closing titles that were visually quite stunning and reminiscent of a James Bond film opening or the art of a graphic novel.
We have discussed "Easter eggs" and the way they can blatantly drop hints about future happenings, but here I am referring to the more subtle hints this film drops all over the place. One of the big questions about the next Avengers film is how its main villain, namely Ultron, will be created and come into play. I feel like we started to get some references to this development in Winter Soldier that were not so glaringly obvious but seem like planted seeds. Specifically I refer to the reveal of Arnim Zola and S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra's ability to turn a human brain/personality into a computerized entity. Then we also had glimpses of the advent of the artificial intelligence in Zola's algorithm and how it challenged the Black Widow at the Apple store. I have a strong feeling that we will see these concepts revisited in the next film.
3. The Black Widow
In several other Marvel films we have seen Scarlett Johansson done the Black Widow's tights kicking butt and taking names along the way. Up until now though, she really has been a bit player or second tier character at best. This all changes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as she steps to the center stage and proves that she does also figuratively kick butt as well as literally. The Widow we see in this film is more human and layered than the one we have seen before, and she also is just more fun to see in action because of this. Before this movie I would probably have said I was not at all interested in a Black Widow solo project but now my opinion has completely changed.
2. He Fits the Suit
When Chris Evans was first cast as Captain America there were more than a handful of naysayers bemoaning the choice. The majority of them pointed to his previous turn as Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four as the prime reason he should not carry Cap's shield. And yes, I suppose a previous attempt to take on an iconic comic book character could be considered somewhat troubling, I think we can now put to rest any and all concerns. In The Winter Soldier Evans makes it clear that he now owns this role and has truly brought the somewhat stiff but action oriented Captain to life. Evans seems more at ease in the role in this film and it shows in how his performance unveils itself.
1. Everything Has Changed
If you're not a comic book fan, you may not be aware that very often the "big two" companies, DC and Marvel, make promises that the next issue of a comic or the next companywide crossover will "change everything you know!" and all too often those promises are short lived or fall flat. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier however, the powers that be at Marvel Studios allowed the writers to craft an event that will truly change the universe that they have been building since Iron Man opened. The bedrock of their shared universe, on film and television, has been S.H.I.E.L.D. and now that agency is no more. This week we started to see the ramifications of this on the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it will clearly impact the next wave of Marvel films as well. I think this was a bold move to take this path and to have it happen in a film that many did not have the highest hopes for after the first Captain America. The dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. sets the story tellers free in many ways as they are definitely going "off book" now. I, for one, cannot wait to see where this goes!
In closing this week here is a video that takes a look at the end credit scenes from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and breaks them down for those of you who might not be so familiar with the Captain America and general Marvel properties. There is a lot on the horizon and if the quality of this film is any indication we have some awesome movies coming down the pipeline!
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