Captain America: The Winter Solider is the third outing for Chris Evan's Captain America. We catch up with Cap a little after the events of Avengers Assemble and he has become S.H.I.E.L.D.'s poster boy, ready to be deployed where and when he is needed. But Cap's trust in Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. comes into question when they plan on using Minority Report type technology to prevent conflict before it happens. Yet there is more than meets the eye (sorry Nick) as Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) uncover the truth.
The Marvel films have always had a comedic edge to them but Cap poses the least scope for comedy gold, yet the Russo brothers have injected the film with some humour. Many of the jokes are about the cap playing cultural catch-up after being on ice for the last forty years, with his little notebook but we've already seen this in Avengers Assemble. One of the problems with the film is Cap has always been the dullest of the avengers, while Thor has his mighty hammer, Iron Man has his suit, Cap has a very heavy frisbee that does very little in this second outing except for knocking over a few baddies. The character has always been a walking billboard for patriotism and that does very little for character development but that doesn't stop the writers from trying. This isn't just a straight up superhero film but it shares DNA with The Manchurian Candidate with its political thriller-eqsue storyline. But don't for one second think this is Marvel attempting to mature a saturated character. Because Marvel depend far too much on the pocket money of teens who go for the explosive action scenes. The opening of the film is captivating and interesting, They seem to be making a different type of film, smart and interesting but when Toby Jones' character from the first film pops up and things explode, that's where the enjoyment ends. The fact is the first act was building up for something so special but by the second act it feels like they are concerning themselves too much with the first film's events. The writers create a firm and well constructed foundation but then they quickly obliterate it and the film quickly falls apart.
The action sequences looked like someone gagged Paul Greengrass, made him drink several cans of red bull and forced him to direct. The Russo Brothers fail to control all the action and this is particularly obvious in the final when its super solider vs super solider as Cap and the Winter Solider go toe to toe. This is due to Marvel's decision to sign on the Russo brothers to direct. The pair are better known for helming comedies such as You, Me and Dupree and more recently the television series, Community. The Brothers are perfectly fine behind the camera until the action scenes kick off and then they are out of their depths. It is not unusual for Marvel to employ directors you may not have considered, no one would have guessed Shane Black would take on Iron Man 3. This time, however, it seems like an uneven fit as it fails to balance the smarter elements of the film with the blockbuster set pieces we have all come to expect from Marvel.
Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man casts a long shadow over the film with constant hints and nudges, the biggest coming from Redford's plea for him to make an appearance at his niece's birthday party. The choice to make the winter solider the titular character seems to be a bizarre choice. The character lingers around in the background, once in a while blowing stuff up and punching things with his metal arm. It is obvious he is only in the film to build up his story for further adventures in the Marvel cinematic universe. The Marvel films that have come post-Avengers have all suffered from the questions on everyone's lip where is Iron Man? Why doesn't Thor help out? The President being kidnapped or a massive spaceship smashing through Greenwich wasn't enough of a threat for Nick Fury to round up the gang? And its difficult not asking yourself where the Avengers are when Cap is blowing up hellicarriers above the skyline of America's capital. No doubt Kevin Feige and his Marvel chums want us not to question the Universe they have lovingly created but it is a bit of an ask.
The opening sets up the film with so much potential. It concerns itself with real world issues about security and Governmental power but the film struggles to patch together the intelligent with the action. The directors are confident behind the camera until things start blowing up and then they cannot seem to control anything, with eye aching zooms and poor editing. Joss Whedon's Avengers set the bar so high that despite all his muscle the Cap fails to get his chin over it. It wouldn't hurt to give the winter solider the cold shoulder, no one would think any less of you.