After making a phenomenal $714 million at the worldwide box office and turning critics’ heads with its gritty, down-to-earth style, it’s hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t heard of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’. It’s certainly Marvel’s highest-grossing movie of the year so far… and for good reason.
It’s arguably Marvel’s most subversive movie to date – taking the conventions of the superhero genre and flipping them on their head. We soon find everyone’s favourite star-spangled hero embroiled in a plot that threatens to change the face of the Marvel universe forever… and this time, it’s not quite so clear who the bad guys might be.
“You’re holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection,” says Captain America (played by Chris Evans) when he finds out S.H.I.E.L.D’s latest defence plan – to build three gargantuan mobile defence platforms based on the helicarriers. Designed with international security in mind, it soon becomes clear that all is not well within S.H.I.E.L.D… and after an attempt to bump off Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) it seems that everyone’s favourite acronym has gone a bit belly up.
Obviously, the tone is very different to other Marvel superhero movies. For one thing, it’s a little more obvious why the other Avengers would not become involved in the story – a gripe which regularly affects stand-alone movies when other heroes could easily help out. Instead, there’s a legitimate reason for Captain America going it alone – early in the film, he’s part of a clandestine operation working alongside S.H.I.E.L.D… and by the time everything gets out of hand, he doesn’t know who to trust.
That’s not to say we don’t get a glimpse of any other Marvel heroes. In fact, we’re introduced to the charismatic and incredibly likeable Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) – an ex-special-ops veteran who dons his old tech to become The Falcon in Cap’s hour of need.
And let’s not forget the budding will-they-won’t-they relationship between Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Enjoying her longest bout of Marvel screen-time yet, Johansson clearly revels in the role… and the chemistry between them adds yet-another layer to the already excellent film.
But despite all the usual hallmarks of a superhero movie, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ does something very different. This time, the threat is from within and manages to truly creep up on you. Fans of the comic books will instantly know who the Winter Soldier is… but for everyone else, it’s likely to come as a bit of a surprise. And Robert Redford? Let’s just say that he plays a blinder. It’s almost a throwback to his political thriller days, and it’s easy to see why he was chosen for the role.
All-in-all, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ doesn’t fail to entertain… and with a more mature subject matter that’s reminiscent of a cold-war political thriller, it’s likely to gain even more fans amongst the adult audience. And gives the younger viewers a taste of what really makes a good movie.
If you’re a bit of a Marvel fan, it’s the extras that tend to get you really worked up… I mean, let’s face it – they have a pretty good track record for packing an extra punch. Sadly, this is where ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ lets us down a little bit.
It’s a pretty standard affair with the usual commentary tracks (this time featuring the two directors and two screenwriters) as well as a handful of featurettes that give us a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made. So far, so standard. There are a couple of nice touches such as the region-specific notebooks – each listing different cultural references depending on where the film was shown.
But if you were expecting a Marvel One-shot – something which is quickly becoming synonymous with Marvel home releases – you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, we have a number of deleted scenes including an amusing reference to Superman from none other than Robert Redford. But that’s about it.
I can’t help thinking that a One-shot would have really topped it off – especially since ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ has proven to be one of the most interesting Marvel movies to date. But perhaps Hydra got to it first…