Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2014
If the Marvel brand was slightly tarnished by the failure to capture the public imagination of the SHIELD TV show, then there’s little evidence of misplaced confidence in the second offering of the Captain America franchise. With a well established universe to play with, what’s frustrating about the smash and grab of the new film is that it offers much of the same treading of water as the tv show: essentially another Rosencrantz and Guildenstern number from the sidelines: not much happens but the way it happens is expensively and elaborately wrought.
One of the charms of the first Captain America film was the period setting. With the Captain (Chris Evans) freshly up to date via The Avengers, there’s still clearly a lot of catching up to do. But Anthony and Joe Russo’s new film updates him not to the modern world, but to a 70’s conspiracy movie, as evidenced by Robert Redford’s presence in a vague administrative position. With SHIELD infiltrated by HYDRA, Captain America doesn’t know who to turn to: disappointingly, he finds his salvation in Anthony Mackie in a rubbish-looking flying costume.
The Captain’s need to deal with modern times led to some neat gags in The Avengers, and there’s a few more funny digs at his lack of cultural knowledge: he’s noted down Star Wars and Star Trek on his ‘to do’ list. But his mission to save the earth from HYDRA resolves itself with a series of explosions aboard the same floating airships as features in Avengers Assemble: part of the problem here is that outside of his origins story, the Captain’s lack of a compelling back-story to inform his actions makes him a weak link in the franchise.
Scarlett Johansson provides some continuity as Black Widow, and there’s various jockeying for position involving Nick Fury, but weak villains and overwrought plot twists, obvious from the imdb cast billing, mean the new film don’t add up to much other than CGI spectacle. Not quite as inconsequential as Iron Man 2, Captain America; The Winter Soldier is still something of a time-waster, good to look at but lacking in character and consequential incident.