Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So much to say about Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Beware MAJOR SPOILERS. What follows are the reactions of a life long fan of the character to the movie, and to the social media commentary I've come across this week.

First let me summarize my feelings about this film. SQUEEEE!!!!!

Loved it. No quibbles of plot shortcuts. No nitpicks. As flawless of a story as one can get. I dare say it's the best Marvel Studios movie thus far. I accept their apology for torturing me with Iron Man 3. 

I want to go in time to 1990, to talk to that despondent young man who'd just been forced to watch the direct to video Captain America movie piece of shit, and tell him, "It's okay. Just wait. It'll be okay."

I know you've read enough gushing praise to this film by now. It might be hipper to find things to complain about, but sorry. I really can't. It was everything I could have wanted out of Captain America movie.

Specific points where I marked out the most were 1. Arnim Zola and 2. The Falcon.

Though I should perhaps add, seeing Captain America himself come to life on the big screen. Even though we already got that in First Avenger, it does not get old. I fully admit to sitting there in the theater, grinning like some goofy little kid during the opening scenes of Cap clearing the deck of that ship like a boss, and whuppin' Batroc's ass.

I have always gravitated towards the "non-powered" superhero. The guy with the confidence to charge into impossible odds and the very real chance of death and say, "Bring it!" They have always been more exciting to imagine in action. The fight and chase scenes actually managed to live up to my wildest dreams.

Quick tangent... Marvel Studios has been blessed to have a generation of actors who were born to play their roles. Robert Downy Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans have all been inspired casting. I was thrilled to see Black Widow continue to get a big spotlight. I'm really looking forward to her feature film.

So anyway, first geekgasm moment... the big reveal. I can't claim to have been a big fan of Arnim Zola from the comics specifically. Though again, speaking of inspired casting, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Toby Jones in the role. Some may say that his performance was over the top. But that's exactly what the role called for. He was spot on. Another shining example of how Marvel Studios succeeds because they show such love for their source material. No matter how "silly" something might appear to modern audiences, they make it work.

Toby Jones as Arnim Zola as depicted in the 20...What had me staring wide eyed at the screen with that goofy grin back on my face, though, was the plot reveal being delivered in such classic Bond comic book villain fashion. The line in particular that got me was the bit about how Hydra was formed because they believed that people could not be trusted with their own freedom. But WWII taught them that they could not take it by force. So they devised a way to get society to give up their freedom willingly.

That whole scene was brilliant on so many levels. It presented Zola in a way that looked cool even to this often-jaded silver-age-bashing modern day fan. The plan itself made for an intriguing problem for Cap to face -- namely having to fight SHIELD (and by extension his own country). And even if you take all of the trappings of the superhero genre out of the mix, it sent a message that resonated with anyone who has followed any news about loss of privacy, especially the NSA scandal. I remember reading one article where the writers said that the Snowden thing happened during filming. Talk about life imitating art.

This was a serious comic book story for grownups. And it was being presented in a way that lost none of what comic book fans loved about the series as kids.

Cap's reaction to the news was beautiful, too. Black Widow said something to him about how he's being pretty chipper for a guy who just found out he died for nothing. That's not how he saw it. There was no angsting. No hand wringing.  He knows who the enemy is. Now let's fight it.

It was the polar opposite of anything Nolan or Goyer would have come up with.

Longer tangent... As I'm sure you know, the Hydra plot twist directly hooked into the last episode of Agents of SHIELD. This lead to some interesting thoughts on the whole concept of "spoilers".

Personally, I was completely surprised by the Hydra reveal. Maybe that makes me an idiot. Sue me. But I doubt I am alone. The unwashed masses who have never set foot in a comic store, I guarantee did not see it coming either. So I know that had I watched that episode of AoS first without seeing the movie yet, I would have been supremely pissed. I can't believe ABC did that. It's bad enough they showed so much footage of the movie a couple weeks back that they spoon fed the entire Winter Soldier back story to us. Again, I feel sorry for those who did not read Ed Brubaker's legendary run on the comic, and were told the Winter Soldier's identity flat out. That much was not a spoiler for us fans. But still. Not cool.

And so when I read some comments about how some folks thought the events of the show were not all that spoilery, I call bullshit. Some even went so far as to say that the entire concept of spoilers is silly. Hindsight is definitely 20/20. But I find it hysterical how people act like the plot was so predictable anyway. Bullshit. It wasn't. You just like looking smarter than everyone else.

Every commercial gave away more about the Winter Soldier side of the plot. And about the general theme of loss of freedom. Something bad happened that crashed a helicarrier. That's all we were told. I did not see one remotely subtle hint about Hydra in any of those trailers. I would sincerely rank this plot twist up there with the likes of Fight Club and The Usual Suspects. It was beautifully executed, and the viewing experience would have been lessened by knowing it was coming.

I loved this movie not just for Cap. Not just for seeing a favorite comic book come to life. The story had an insanely tight plot, great dialogue, great chemistry between characters, and shitloads of incredible action. And even for a political thriller with such intense themes, it never stopped being FUN.

Which leads me to my other geekgasm moment. The commercials gave us a nice glimpse of The Falcon in flight, but seeing the full extended sequence of him dodging missiles and fighting bad guys... OMFG. If only they could have put a hint of red somewhere in his "costume" it would have been perfect. But it was gorgeous. Looking forward to seeing more of him in Cap 3: The Winter Solder Part II.

I am also so looking forward to May, 2016, when Cap 3 opens on the same weekend as the Superman / Batman film. Which I doubt I can bring myself to see after Man of Steel slapped me in the face.

The box office results in two years and one month will tell me if there is hope for comic book fandom. In one corner... Truth, Justice, and the American Way. In the other corner... Superman. We will see superheroism and excitement clash with cynicism and disaster porn. Please world, don't let me down.
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