The second solo adventure of Marvel’s most patriotic superhero features the twists and turns of a political thriller as well as the super-sized action sequences we expect with our comic book heroes, and it delivers both expertly. But within this finely crafted film is a political message of moral equivalency that the Captain America of my youthful comics would not recognize. It is a problem in many films these days-the idea that the true villainy in the world is the American intelligence apparatus. The rogue U.S. government villain has been used so much of late it’s become a tired staple, the reason for this I suspect is political correctness. It’s why the new Tom Clancy movie features a Russian Orthodox villain, why Sum of All Fears featured white supremacists substituting for the Islamist terrorists of the novel, and why Jack Bauer spent more time fighting his own agency than any outside threat. It’s been going on for so long now, you’d think even Hollywood would find it stale.
With Captain America: Winter Soldier, this surrender to PC is made more tragic by the fact that it’s such a finely crafted film in other respects and simple script changes to moderate it’s over-generalized statement would have made the film smarter and better and more consistent within the Marvel Universe. Acknowledging that power CAN be abused, and that a free society must watch for it, and exploring what those limitations on power should look like is worthy and intriguing– preaching that spy organizations are equally dangerous whether led by evil empires or the United States is just silly generalizing. It’s putting Marvel heroes into live-action Move-On scripts. At one point Captain America denounces the development of new technologies, not yet revealed to have sinister intent with the statement, “This isn’t freedom, it’s fear.”
At one point, Captain America and fellow Avenger, Black Widow, decide to pull an Edward Snowden, and reveal the secrets of this nation as well as the secrets of our adversaries on the internet. I pictured Ron Paul enthusiasts standing up and applauding, and it struck me as something intended to be profound, but was just plain self-congratulating and silly.
It’s difficult to write much more without giving too much of the plot away and ruining surprises, and aside from the not-so-subtle politics of the movie, it’s a whole lot of fun. Seeing Captain America in action is to see the comic come to life. His shield is much more prominently featured, being flung as a weapon, serving as armor, and giving Cap an edge against any foe. As Cap, Chris Evans delivers lines humor, courage and an aura of old-fashioned patriotism that isn’t easy to pull off. Scarlett Johansson is captivating enough, but with her Black Widow costume emphasizing her considerable charms, and the fun it seems she’s having with the role, she proves to be an equal partner to our main hero. Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie is a welcome addition and serves to reinforce and remind the audience that Captain America is a soldier. Samuel L. Jackson has so much fun as Nick Fury that it’s now hard for me to see him without an eye-patch. And Robert Redford performs as if he’s in a serious political thriller rather than a movie with reanimated men, aliens and superpowers, which is to say he makes the perfect Washington insider who may or may not be a menace.
Twice in a row, Captain America movies have been better than expected, and that should mean Cap can expect many solo tours to come.
Due to violence and disturbing images, Captain America: Winter Soldier is not for young children.