Despite hype, new Captain America film struggles

By Jeffrey Robinowitz, Staff Writer ||

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is going to be seen by millions of people, make millions of dollars, and spawn millions of online debates. Nothing any reviewer on the face of the Earth says or does will stop this. So with that in mind, I will proudly proclaim that this film is absolutely ordinary.

In the reviews I’ve seen thus far, most people seem to be referring to this movie as half-superhero flick, half-political/spy thriller. In the first sense, yes, it totally is, and it completely works. In the second sense, boy it sure tries hard.

As an action movie, the film works quite well if only because the action has never been more absurd. The action sequences are honestly hilarious as Captain America tears through countless enemies with the utmost ease. I know these guys are villains and need to be defeated, but listening to Captain America talk about preserving human life right after he throws around a bunch of CGI ragdolls is hysterical. If the movie had  higher rating, Captain America would probably just run straight through people, ripping off limbs as he goes.

Also, I know it’s a superhero film, but I no longer have any understanding of what the Marvel Universe means when it calls Captain America a “super soldier.” He’s fast; he’s strong; he’s capable of surviving numerous hundred or thousand foot drops onto solid concrete without so much as a bruised shin? For a film that tries so hard to strike some real world meaning, it sure doesn’t seem bothered by the numerous unexplained abilities some people seem to have. Again, I know it’s a superhero film, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in it is a superhero.

However, as a political thriller, the film is a bust. The problem with making a political thriller with this movie is that in order for a film to be “thrilling,” there needs to be a sense of genuine danger. At some point, the audience needs to say to itself, “Is that character actually going to die?” Why does that not work in this case? Because there’s already a Captain America 3 in production! Because there’s another Avengers film coming! Because they’re making way too much money to ever consider killing someone!

Furthermore, political thrillers (or really any thriller) are successful when they surprise the audience. Unpredictability is the name of the game, and this film sure doesn’t succeed. The big villain reveal isn’t surprising because anyone with a pair of eyes could’ve seen it coming, and the other big reveal is surprising, but only because it was completely unpredictable. Hints? Clues? Foreshadowing? None to be found. So yes, I was surprised, but I was also equal parts annoyed, confused, and infuriated. I don’t care how earthshattering of a reveal it is, a great reveal is one that makes you feel stupid for not realizing it sooner, not one that makes you feel stupid because there wasn’t an inkling of evidence to guide you to it.

The other problem that comes with a greater focus on serious storytelling is a drop in humor. This is definitely the least funny Marvel Universe film I have seen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still funnier than most comedies, which is a great achievement for a film series that explicitly occupies the action genre.

Finally, the movie tries to make some big dramatic swings at the NSAs, domestic surveillance, and the struggle between liberty and security (I’m sure Ben Franklin had a thing or two to say about that), but ultimately none of it feels all that profound or interesting. Wow, I can’t believe the guy named “Captain America” supports freedom. Next you’re gonna tell me that Captain Planet thinks recycling’s good.

As I said at the beginning of the article, this movie will be a colossal success no matter what side the critics are on. All things considered, it is a good movie with solid action, decent humor, and plenty of spectacle. However, it is nowhere near the show-stopping, head-turning, master espionage film it’s trying to be.

If you’re in the mood for a great action flick, go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you’re in the mood for a great political thriller, go see All The President’s Men. And if you want one more movie with Robert Redford, go with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; it’s not action, it’s not political thriller, but it’s the best of both.

First-year Jeffrey Robinowitz is a staff writer. His email is jrobinow@fandm.edu.

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