Guys, it's been a rough week for Chris Evans fans. I like to believe he fell under the evil influence of Jeremy Renner. What is inexcusable, however, is his love of Cool Ranch flavoured Doritos. Cool Ranch is the worst flavour of anything ever, so I guess it would never work between us. Shame.
This "Countdown to Age of Ultron" project has been immensely satisfying for me because I wasn't really blogging any more while these movies were coming out. Of all the films I didn't get to write about, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the one I regretted the most. As you can imagine, long time readers of this blog, when they announced the full title of the second Captain America movie at Comic Con all those years ago, I was extremely excited. I probably blacked out. I've had a mad crush on Winter Soldier since the character's creation ten years ago.
So I went to the theatres with high expectations for this movie, and they were exceeded. I think I had a smile on my face from the opening seconds of the film when we see Steve lapping Sam Wilson in front of the Washington Monument. It's just a fantastic movie, and Dave feels the exact same way. Get ready for a ton of earnest gushing.
DH: Let’s get this out of the way right up front--this is my favourite superhero movie, period. I would probably even go so far as to call it one of my favourite action/adventure movies, even though it’s barely over a year old. When we went to see it on opening night, my girlfriend Hillary turned to me afterwards and remarked that it was as though someone had written the filmmakers a letter asking them to put all my favourite things in a movie--1970s conspiracy thrillers, Arnim Zola, the Falcon, Batroc the Leaper, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack--and the filmmakers happily complied. This film also captured what I always loved about Captain America as a character--the man out of time wondering if he still has any relevance in the modern world, forced to go up against his own country when it no longer represents the ideals he stands for.
RG: Yes! Where Captain America: The a First Avenger was everything I ever wanted in a 1940s Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier is everything I wanted in a modern day Captain America movie. Both movies are incredibly satisfying. I would say the pair of them are my favourite movies of all time. I've thought about it. Sorry, Clueless.
RG: Everyone is so great in this one. I just wish we could freeze Chris Evans so he can continue playing Captain America forever.
RG: I was so happy to see this movie deal with Steve Rogers' loneliness and his struggle to find his place in this new world he is living in. Where The Avengers took place maybe a few months after he is defrosted, this movie takes place a couple of years later. In The Avengers he is mostly confused and angry, but trying to put on a brave face. Now he has been adjusting, but doesn't have friends and isn't sure he's even fighting for the right cause any more. Something that I think is interesting about Captain America as a character in both the comics and in these movies is that he has never really had an opportunity to just enjoy his life, and he has been government property since 1942. I don't think it ever occurred to him to not continue to be a soldier after S.H.I.E.L.D. defrosted him.
DH: The opening scene that introduces Steve to Sam Wilson gets everything off to a great start. They instantly have great chemistry together, and you totally believe them hitting it off. Also, I love that Steve inspires Sam to push himself even farther and faster while he’s running--the ability to inspire others to better themselves being, of course, Captain America’s unofficial super-power.
RG: I love this movie's interpretation of Sam Wilson. I love that he's a veteran and a counsellor. I love the suit, but we can get into that later. The opening scene is just fantastic. You love Sam right away, and so does Steve! He's just a great guy, and, yes, has a lot of awe and respect for Captain America, but also recognizes that he's lonely and faces the same demons that so many modern day soldiers do.
The moment where Steve is walking away after making a bit of small talk and Sam decides to throw him a follow-up question is really nice. Like Sam recognized that Steve was looking for someone who could relate to his problems. It's a small moment, but I think it's maybe a turning point for Steve, where he can start to realize that he can actually relate to some people in this time. He's not a complete freak.
DH: That first action scene on the Lemurian Star...man, I love how Cap’s fighting style has evolved over these movies. The fight choreography is wicked--if there’s any CGI shenanigans, they’re tough to spot. The way Cap uses his shield in so many different ways, mixing it in with all these disparate fighting styles, is perfect. I was so happy to see Batroc in here. It would have been a bit much to have him with his mask and his little twirly mustache, but his uniform was a nice compromise between the comic and realism.
RG: I can't get enough of that action scene. This movie, more than any other superhero movie ever, did a phenomenal job of bringing a character's power, speed and strength to life. I am struggling to find the right words to say this, but it's just...I can't remember ever watching a superhero movie before where I felt overwhelmed with happiness because I was witnessing something that I had previously had to imagine. It had been confined to the page. To see how fast he is and how hard he hits, and how expertly he fights and uses that shield...I don't know. It was just a crazy feeling and I still feel it every time I watch this movie. So thank you, movie.
DH: I’m going to say something here that’s probably a bit controversial, and at first seemingly unrelated, but hear me out. I think Spider-Man 2 is a bit of an overrated movie. There are endless scenes of Peter Parker talking to everyone he knows about how he has a friend who’s all conflicted and he doesn’t know what to think or whatever. It’s the whole middle section of the movie! This film has a similar central conflict for Cap, but they get it all out of the way in the first twenty minutes--and, all these scenes have another point to them, whether it’s catching up viewers who haven’t seen the first film (that Peggy Carter scene is heartbreaking!), or setting things up for later (like establishing that his old uniform is waiting for him at the Smithsonian, or deepening his friendship with Sam). Then we get down to the business of action, action, action!
RG: I 100% agree with you on Spider-Man 2. The last time I watched that movie I was stunned by how boring most of it was. So much moping! I had remembered it being one of the best superhero movies ever made (and, let’s face it, at that point it was) but MAN.
The scene with Peggy is even MORE heartbreaking after having watched Agent Carter. It’s just agony. Can you imagine witnessing his FIRST visit to her in that hospice? I’m crying just picturing it. And he still carries the compass with her picture in it around! Sob!
RG: The underlying, extremely sad theme of this movie is Steve’s loneliness. They open on him jogging like a maniac by himself, then immediately getting called in on a mission, then visiting his own museum exhibit to hear about all of his friends being dead, then visiting the love of his life who is now in her nineties and on her deathbed, then going to visit Sam at the VA meeting and admitting to him that he doesn’t know what makes him happy anymore.
RG: Throughout the movie you have Black Widow suggesting women he should be asking on dates (all of which he rejects), and at one point we see Steve make an extremely clumsy (but sweet) pass at his neighbour who TURNS OUT TO BE A SECRET AGENT. And then one of the few familiar faces in his life, Nick Fury, gets shot, and it’s revealed that the organization Steve works for is possibly evil and now he can’t trust anyone. And, of course, there’s the cruel punchline with Bucky later. It’s SAD.
DH: I’m a big fan of An American Werewolf In London, and as such, I’m stoked that Jenny Agutter is in this and The Avengers. Also, that she gets to have a fight scene!
Robert Redford deserves a round of applause for this movie. I kinda figured he would be in maybe one or two scenes, but he has a substantial role and he in no way phones it in (like a certain Anthony Hopkins I could mention over in the Thor films). It might seem like stunt casting to include him, based on his appearance in stuff like Three Days Of The Condor or All The President’s Men, but I think it adds a cool dimension to it. He’s almost like an older, more cynical, more compromised version of Steve Rogers. If they had made a Captain America movie in the 1970s--a good one, mind you, not that two-part TV movie with Reb Brown--he would have made a pretty swell Steve Rogers.
RG: Oh yes. Agreed. Redford was a stone fox in his day. And totally all-American.
DH: I would have liked to have seen Nick Fury’s car fly at some point, but this movie establishes a certain level of realism that would have rendered it out of place. Granted, it goes to some pretty over-the-top places, but not right away. The action scenes in this movie are incredibly fluid and easy to follow. For a couple of guys best known for TV comedy, the Russo Brothers sure did make the transition to big-screen action directors seamlessly. Fury’s “death” was teased so much in the trailers that I never believed it--they obviously wouldn’t give that away so early on. But that’s probably a function of me just watching too many movies and movie ads.
RG: Yeah, I figured Fury was still alive. Goes along with the everyone-you-think-is-dead-isn’t theme of the movie (Fury, Bucky, Steve, Zola).
DH: I love how disappointed Cap looks when he realizes what’s going on in that elevator. It’s like another piece of his innocence has been chipped away. Everything about that elevator fight, and the bridge escape where he takes out that Quinjet, is 100% badass.
RG: I like that he notices what's going on in the elevator so quickly! He is so good at reading situations!
The action scenes in this movie somehow manage to keep outdoing themselves. That elevator scene is incredible, and again shows how formidable a threat Captain America is if he needs to be. Hydra had a well thought-out plan for that elevator attack. They brought tools! And he still destroyed them, jumped possibly dozens of stories into a lobby, and took out that Quinjet in the craziest way. Just completely awesome.
DH: I love the chemistry between Steve and Natasha in this movie. His naivete and her cynicism make for some great back-and-forth. “We’re borrowing it, take your feet off the dash.”
RG: Yeah, they straight stole that pick-up truck. They never returned it. Cap is a liar and a car thief. I think he’s also lying to Natasha about that not being his first kiss since 1945. Who, Steve? Who? That’s what I thought.
And he is 100% still a virgin.
RG: I am so happy they decided to include Black Widow in this movie. We really got to see a lot of character development for her. She’s very different from Captain America, but, like everyone, respects him and values his respect and trust.
I love the scene at the mall when they realize there are Hydra agents in there with them. Steve is just terrible at espionage work, so it’s Natasha’s time to shine! I like that his plan is to beat up a bunch of people and like smash their way out of there, and her plan is for him to put his arm around her and pretend to laugh at something she said (also, his fake laugh is hilarious). The whole scene in the mall is very funny, with their undercover mall clothes, and D.C. Pierson’s cameo in the Apple store, and Natasha making Steve kiss her on the escalator. Just great. I’m glad they become such good friends.
DH: Yeah, I love how lousy he is at being undercover. His weird delivery of “We’re getting married…” is great.
RG: I've read a lot of interviews where Chris Evans complains about Captain America being a straight man who doesn't get to crack jokes, but I think he, and the writers, bring a great dry wit to the character. I mentioned this when we were talking about the first Captain America movie. He and Black Widow have a real bone dry battle of wits in this movie.
I think it's a real testament to how great a job this movie did establishing Sam Wilson's character right away that Steve and Natasha would show up at his house seeking refuge, and that completely makes sense to the audience. No question, Sam is a guy that Steve can trust. I love the whole scene at Sam's house: the sleeveless conversation between Steve and Natasha, Sam making them breakfast, Sam telling them about the suit and where it's located, and Natasha and Steve just look at each other like "No problem. We'll get it." And I love that they don't even show them getting the suit.
Since I have been very good about not being lecherous at all yet, I'm going to now get totally lecherous. Chris Evans looks fantastic in this movie. Do not love the new hairstyle, but whatever. Do not love that he keeps his shirt on for the whole movie, but at least we get a tank top scene.
I do like that Steve has learned how to dress himself since The Avengers. I like to think Natasha took him shopping.
I love the new suit. Very, very becoming, Cap. Really emphasizes your perfectly triangular torso.
Sebastian Stan also looks very sexy in this movie, despite also looking pretty haggard. He gets his shirt off, so that's nice. I am looking forward to more of him in the next movie.
Anthony Mackie, also very attractive. Attractive enough to hold his own in scenes with Evans.
And ScarJo is just cool as shit and I want to be her best friend except she would definitely hate me.
DH: That Arnim Zola scene...I remember seeing that little camera on top of the computer in that bunker and getting really excited because I could tell where it was headed. Like Batroc, they found the perfect compromise between the character’s batshit-crazy comic incarnation and a more grounded reality. Y’know, considering he’s a mad scientist whose brain has been stored in a room full of old-timey computers, if you can call that grounded. And man, what balls this movie has to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D. the way it does! Right around the time most movie franchises are playing it safe, Winter Soldier goes on ahead and shakes everything up. I can’t imagine this twist was something that Marvel had planned before this movie, but in re-watching them all while knowing about it...there isn’t really anything in any of them that contradicts it, either. Lucky for them, I guess!
RG: That scene was very cool, and, again, a great way to give us some exposition in a non-boring way. I love that Winter Soldier killed Tony Stark’s parents. That might add to the growing tension between Cap and Iron Man later.
Every time I watch this movie I basically forget that Winter Soldier is in it until he shows up. And then I shriek with delight. I LOVE Winter Soldier as a character in the comics and seeing him brought to life in this movie is just crazy. He really looks fantastic, especially when he finally unmasks.
The fight scene on the bridge is awesome. You really get to see what a brutal and efficient killing machine the Winter Soldier is. When he grabs that steering wheel and yanks it right out of the car! I think the scene kind of would have been cooler if he had been on his own, instead of having other Hydra agents shooting a million guns, but I did like that they were like his roadies, handing him weapons.
DH: I’ve heard that complaint before, and my take on it is that his targets in this movie aren’t, like, diplomats or politicians or whatever--they’re targets like Nick Fury, Black Widow, and Captain America. He probably wants to have them softened up a bit first.
RG: That is true. One thing I love about this movie is that most of the action takes place outdoors in broad daylight.
Thanks to Ed Brubaker, Bucky Barnes is one of the most tragic fictional characters ever. The movies make him more tragic by reimagining him as a grown man during the war, possibly a year or two older than Steve, who was Steve's best friend growing up. Not only his best friend, but his protector when Steve was weak and sickly. He's a character that really appeals to a lot of women, and I have plenty of theories about that besides the obvious (hummina hummina hummina). I don't need to get into them here, but let's just say a character who is forced to do the bidding of powerful, evil men is always going to be someone women can sympathize with.
Where Steve bravely sacrificed his own life during WWII, and woke up after a seventy year nap, Bucky plummeted, screaming, to his apparent death. Instead of dying, he lost an arm and was captured and turned into a human weapon. While Steve slept, Bucky was committing horrifying, involuntary acts of violence on behalf of Hydra. In between those acts, he was tortured, experimented on, brainwashed, and frozen. He's barely a person.
The scene where Bucky is about to be reprogrammed (with a cameo by Brubaker!) is so, so heartwrenching. Until that point, we only saw the Winter Soldier as a vicious killing machine. Now he's almost childlike, just repeating that the man on the bridge knew him. And then when Pierce orders that they wipe him and start over, Bucky just opens his mouth without hesitation or resistance so they can pop the bite plate in. Ugh! My heart breaks every time.
And of course there's the tragic moment to end all tragic moments when Steve sees for the first time who the Winter Soldier really is. I can't even imagine. It's pretty incredible that Cap didn't just have a complete mental breakdown in this movie. Every scene after that one I kept thinking "Cap is in total shock right now while he's doing this."
DH: I really like Frank Grillo as Rumlow. I hope he comes back as Crossbones in the next movie, but it’s looking pretty crowded there already.
RG: Oh he’s in it. At least according to IMDB. And he’s listed as Crossbones. Everyone is in that Civil War movie. I’m worried. But they haven’t let me down yet, so I’ll try to relax about it.
Can you believe Grillo is in his fifties? I can’t! Was he frozen for a couple of decades?
DH: Who knew Robert Redford would make such a great villain? Has he ever played a full-on bad guy before? Also, there’s a jar of Newman’s Own salad dressing in his fridge! A nice nod to his old pal.
RG: That’s sweet.
I love Redford in this movie. He’s just perfectly evil in a very real world way. The opposite of the Red Skull, even though they were both Hydra leaders. The scene where the Winter Soldier is hanging out in Pierce’s kitchen and Pierce is drinking milk like a CREEP and then he shoots his poor maid? Stone cold. And I love how creepy the Winter Soldier is just silently sitting at his kitchen table.
DH: ScarJo again kicks a crazy amount of ass in this movie. I have to say it again--why the hell is there no solo Black Widow movie in development yet? Marvel is leaving money on the table there.
RG: I. DON’T. KNOW.
DH: The “Captain’s orders” scene gets me every time. Again, he’s inspiring people to do good, even when it might get them killed. Also, I feel really bad for the non-Hydra S.H.I.E.L.D. agents after this movie. Unless you’re Maria Hill, it must be incredibly tough to get a new job when your last employer has been revealed as a secret cabal of super-Nazis.
RG: Yes! I love in superhero movies, and in comic books, when regular people stand up to bad guys. It’s so moving! And I love Captain America’s speech, and Sam’s reaction to it. “Did you write that down first?”
Also, seeing the old Captain America suit is a real treat.
DH: You could argue that movies like this give real world evils, like government corruption and the NSA spying on American citizens, an easy out--it was all the work of supervillains from World War II!--but this movie is doing something that superhero comics have always done well, placing real-world problems in a comic book context. I mean, the 1970s Captain America comics turned Nixon into an off-panel supervillain, and had him commit suicide in the Oval Office! This movie deals with some heavy themes, but it’s never not fun.
RG: Yeah, I think having the evil plan to be launching three giant helicarriers that will triangulate their satellites when they reach a certain altitude and then shoot all the “evil” people in the world at once was over-the-top enough to not feel too heavy and real.
And speaking of those helicarriers, how about that final fight between Cap and Bucky? So, so sad. And awesome. But mostly sad. Cap would literally rather lay down and die than live in a world where Bucky doesn't recognize him. Tell me that isn't the most romantic scene ever.
And then Bucky pulls him out of the water! And drags him to shore like a sack of potatoes that his heart won't let him forget.
DH: The Falcon looks awesome when he’s flying around, but I wish he looked more like the comic book version (I had both the Mego figure and the Secret Wars figure of the Falcon, so I’m partial to that outfit). I guess it wouldn’t make much sense for him to suddenly change the military colours of his flight suit to red and white before they go to take down S.H.I.E.L.D. Maybe in the next movie?
RG: I love that the suit makes him more like a human fighter jet than a bird. It’s very cool. I have a feeling that we will see a costume that looks a little more like the comic book one in a future movie. Tony Stark will probably make him something red.
Related to Sam: I love seeing him in the hospital room next to Steve at the end, playing the Trouble Man soundtrack. And Steve wakes up and says "On your left" because they have a little inside joke between them! Steve finally has that friend he's been wanting! This movie is an emotional rollercoaster for me.
RG: We need to talk about the "Winter Soldier" theme music. You know, that weird Morricone-style scream thing? It kind of cracks me up. Especially when they play it when they reveal his face at the Smithsonian in the end-of-credits scene.
DH: I like it! I love what a scary villain he is (until you know his tragic backstory, of course), and that theme really adds to it.
I love the Pulp Fiction reference on Fury’s tombstone! Nice touch.
RG: I always forget about that and I always laugh at it. I like the ending. It gets me so pumped for the next one!
RG: I have mentioned before that I am very concerned that the upcoming, very crowded Civil War movie isn't going to devote enough time to the search for, and recovery of, Bucky Barnes. He is such an interesting character, I really do feel that a television series is necessary. Like, an eight-episode one like Agent Carter. It could fill in his backstory and give us a bit of him hiding out, trying to figure out who he is. It would be THE. BEST.
I love that I am now incredibly greedy about my superhero-based entertainment. Like, I'm seriously going to complain about there not being enough Winter Soldier on film.
Also, I'll let you in on a secret, guys: those Civil War comics? Pretty terrible. Not that I think the upcoming movie is going to try to replicate them at all. At least, I sure hope not.
DH: Marvel has been killing it with their end-credits sequences, and Winter Soldier has one of the best. These were designed by Kabuki creator and Daredevil artist David Mack. Crazy! I love the minimalist animation and the black-white-red colour scheme.
RG: They are really awesome. In conclusion, I just want to say, is anything funnier than Garry Shandling whispering "Hail Hydra"?
Holy smokes! Only one movie left and then we get to see Age of Ultron! It's finally Age of Ultron week, guys!