So I waited a couple of days to see if my distaste for Captain America: The Winter Soldier would pass…it didn’t. In fact the more and more I think about it the angrier I get.
So the good news first. It’s better than the first Captain America. But that’s not a high bar to meet as the first one was so bad that watching just about anything else would have been better.
But even objectively if you’re looking for mindless entertainment it’s fun. Like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 this movie did a good job of giving you an entertaining wild ride in a post Avengers world. The problem is that this movie seems to have addressed my complaint that while The Avengers seemed to start delivering into deeper territory, the Iron Man and Thor sequels went back to mindless entertainment (even more so than their predecessors). The problem is that while this film attempted to actually be deeper and actually have a message, it was the wrong message.
Okay past this point there are spoilers…if you’re just looking for fun and never look at any deeper level, go see the movie, but after this sentence I reveal all the secrets.
First off, for a movie called The Winter Soldier, the Winter Soldier is in remarkably few scenes. Further he’s little more than the hired muscle. It would be like renaming Goldfinger, James Bond: Odd Job…or advertising a whole movie on a villain who really isn’t even there (oh wait, they already did that with the Mandarin in Iron Man 3…I’m beginning to worry that at this rate Ultron may never actually be appearing in Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron). Who names a movie after the hired muscle who barely appears? And while there is supposedly the beginning of a major personal issue for Captain America…this whole mess depends on me caring about the relationship between Steve and Buckey in the first film…which I didn’t. And that one lame scene that was put in to tell me that Steve and Buckey were close didn’t do much either.
And this is now the third different character I’ve seen Scarlet Johnasson play in a Marvel film. I know they’re all supposed to be the same character but the personality between Iron Man 2, Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are so wildly different I’m having a hard time really buying it. It’s like they think it doesn’t matter that we haven’t put any real character development into her, she’s pretty, so comic book nerds won’t care…oh, wait, they might be onto something there. Also am I the only one just not impressed by Scarlet Johansson…she’s not a bad actress…but she’s no where near as good as all the roles she gets.
But most of all this is Captain America where Captain America is played not by a patriot…or even the Human Torch…but by Edward Snowden. No really. So apparently S.H.I.E.L.D. has been taken over by Hydra (you remember the uberNazi’s from the first movie). Now I might be willing to forgive a lot about what this plot point implies about our actual intelligence and military services namely because this is a plot point they took from the comics…but they don’t let it just rest there. No. No. They go for completely making a political statement by saying that the only way to take down Hydra is to, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, steal all the S.H.I.E.L.D./Hydra files and put them on the internet. Ignoring how this actually hasn’t done much of anything to actually hurt any government agency, this makes a pretty bold statement that fascist supporting traitors deserving of a quick trial and quicker execution like Snowden are the real heroes. No. No. I will not put up with this bullshit. There was no need for the plot to go the Wikileaks/Snowden route so the only excuse for this plot point is they wanted to make Snowden a hero Further the implication of this film that organizations like the NSA or any branch of the US military/intelligence community are deserving of comparisons to people too extreme for Nazi’s is just insulting. To the writers and directors of this film, a heartfelt !@#$ you. Yes, let’s attack the one branch of the federal government that doesn’t seem to be cooperating with Obama’s numerous attempts to harass his political allies. Now if you wanted to have a movie where the IRS led by a Lois Learner type character was infiltrated by the Nazi’s, I’d have no problem with that since the morals and sadistic tendencies of your average of IRS agent are already on par. Yes, in real life there needs to be more oversight and more controls…but you can’t point to a single piece of information where the information these groups have been collecting has actually been used against the innocent (beyond idiots using the data for personal reasons)…that’s quite a compliment to the self-control given the power these groups have with this information. But no, let’s compare the most controlled people in the government to Nazi’s. Thanks Marvel.
Yeah some idiots like to portray this only as an issue dealing with our rights to privacy, but while those concerns do need to be addressed, only a fool would suggest completely destroying the very needed intelligence gathering system we do need would end up well in the long run.
And then the directors said they wanted to say the whole movie was a commentary on drones. Oh shut up. Three flying death machines with bullet ranges well beyond the limits of the dumbest science-fiction is not comparable to drones. The problem with drones is not that they exist or that they kill the innocent…the problem with drones is that they’re being used by a inept arrogant son of bitch who uses what was designed as a precision instrument and waves it around like a Neanderthal with a club. Drones could be used efficiently with almost no collateral damage against targets that could not be reached any other way…but they’re not being used that way because of the jackass who is ordering the attacks. And the libertarians who loathe drones so much should remember that drones are tools. Drones don’t kill people, the politicians who use them do. And any libertarian should clearly remember that if they continue their hatred of drones they will have to hate all tools that could kill people if they wish to maintain any claim to intellectual consistency. But asking any liberal or libertarian to understand the difference between the tool and the person using the tool seems to be too much these days.
Also I’m really happy that Captain America’s response to finding out the greatest threat to liberty is back, is to decide ‘I’m going to destroy the only agency that might have a chance at stopping them.’ Good call, Cap.
Some other observations. In Iron Man 2 Tony was quite clear that he privatized world peace and the world was much more stable now with Iron Man on the case (and certainly far more safe when in Iron Man 3 the biggest worry was what translated to minor bombing…no really think about it, it is what possibly made Mandarin even on par with even the current actions of the Taliban). Yet somehow with all this, Hydra claims to have consistently made the world less stable and more chaotic. Which is it?
Or maybe when Hydra makes it clear they were responsible for the death of Howard Stark…and you only have two superheroes to take out three flying supercarriers…no one thought to give Tony a call…maybe for some closure…I mean just pragmatics here…this is not the kind of situation you want to leave to chance…of course when you have control of the first two ships you could have just blown the third out of the sky…but that would have meant we didn’t need to waste the last 20 minutes in a pointless battle between Captain America and the seldom seen Winter Soldier.
And a really minor point…there seemed to be a lot of knocking Nazis unconscious. But a lot of hesitation about shooting them. Umm….these are Nazis. I feel more for all the dead Chitari than I do for Nazi…why did everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. (beside Maria Hill) seem to have such issues with giving them a one way ticket to Hell….I just didn’t get that point.
But more than anything it’s the suggestion that the men and women in our intelligence agencies are Nazi while traitors like Snowden are heroes. This is a revolting idea and ensures that I will never watch this film or anything from these writers or directors again.
If you like mindless entertainment, you’ll enjoy the film (in this sense I’ll give the film a B-). If you look for something deeper and have a sense of morals you’ll be disgusted (in this sense I’ll give it an F.)