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Movie Mom


Captain America: The Winter Soldier

posted by Nell Minow
A-
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout
Profanity:Brief strong language
Nudity/Sex:Mild references
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Extensive comic-book action-style violence with many characters injured and killed, references to genocide, guns, chases, explosions, weapons of mass destruction
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:April 3, 2014
DVD Release Date:September 8, 2014
Chris Evans, left, as Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson (Falcon) in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)

Chris Evans, left, as Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson (Falcon) in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” (Zade Rosenthal / Marvel)

This is how you make a superhero movie. Director brothers Joe and Anthony Russo are best known for sitcoms with few but passionate fans (“Community,” “Happy Endings,” “Arrested Development”) and the underrated crime comedy “Welcome to Collinwood.” That is not the kind of credential that usually leads to a big budget comic book movie. But they prove to be just what the doctor ordered, funny where it should be, exciting where it should be, smarter than it needs to be, and just plain fun.  Plus, I may be late to the party, but now I totally get the shield thing now as offensive and defensive weapons and it is very cool.

This is the sequel to the WWII-era origin story, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) a 98-pound weakling, volunteered for a government experiment that turned him into a super-strong super-soldier.  But he got frozen in a block of ice and was thawed out more than sixty years later in time to join “The Avengers.” the storyline continues Captain America’s adjustment to the 21st century.  We first see him running around Washington D.C.’s monuments neighborhood, repeatedly lapping vet Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).  Pretty soon, they’re talking some mild smack and Wilson is telling Rogers what he has to add to his catch-up list of cultural touchstones: Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man. Also on the list “Star Trek/Wars” and Steve Jobs. Evans and Mackie have a natural chemistry that makes that scene very funny but also shows us how much both of them need a friend who understands what it’s like to be a soldier home from the war.

But then Captain is called into action again.  Alongside the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, tough, smart, funny, and just a touch flirtatious, as she chats with Rogers about girls he might want to ask out while they trade blows with the bad guys.  There’s a mission, a hijacked cargo ship (I kept looking for a captain-esque crossover from Captain Phillips).  Straight-ahead Captain America, used to fighting Nazis and other incontrovertibly bad guys who dress the part, expects that the people on his side will treat him with the same trust and respect and integrity he gives them in return.  But this is the 21st century, and it’s complicated.

Rogers knows how to follow orders and he knows how to fight.  Now he must learn to understand who he is fighting and what he is fighting for.  It’s one thing when the bad guy has a Red Skull and wants total world domination because he is a fascist.  It is another when both the good guys and the bad guys wear suits and speak in tempered, diplomatic tones, and want total world domination because it is best for everyone.  “Don’t trust anyone,” Nick Fury tells Rogers.  And Rogers, used to trusting everyone (how many people today would allow the government to inject them with an experimental serum?), has to learn what that means.

And it is one thing to take on a dozen bad guys at a time, knowing none of them have superpowers.  But here Rogers must face an assassin called The Winter Soldier, someone as strong as he is, someone without any of the second-guessing that comes from understanding the complexities of the situation, someone who cannot be reasoned with or argued with or appealed to.  And someone Rogers knew and trusted in the past.

The easy chemistry between Cap, Sam, and Natasha/Black Widow adds depth and heart to the story. Natasha needs to learn to trust as Cap needs to learn when not to trust. “How do we know who the bad guys are?” Sam asks as they race into battle. “The ones who are shooting at us,” Cap tells him.

There is just enough depth and gloss and humor and heart to set off the action, gorgeously staged in and around Washington, D.C.  The elevated Whitehurst Freeway along the Potomac River gets the super-fight it was built for and it is a beaut.  Wait until you see what’s been going on under the Potomac.  It was a whole other level of pleasure to see a movie that gets Washington’s geography right. Most important, this is a film that respects the genre and the audience. Captain America and his fans get the movie they deserve.

Parents should know that this film includes constant comic book, action-style, superhero violence with many characters injured and killed, guns, bombs, chases, crashes, explosions, weapons of mass destruction, discussion of genocide, torture, fights, and brief strong language.

Family discussion: If you were advising Captain America on cultural developments while he was gone, what would you suggest? What is the biggest problem he faces in trying to adjust to modern times? How do the plans under consideration here relate to current discussions on world affairs?

If you like this, try: “The Avengers” and the other Marvel superhero movies



  • http://www.mrmwebmax.com Michael R McKinney

    +

    While I have yet to see this movie, I found your review (I’m addicted to Rotten Tomatoes) very well-balanced and well-written. That said, and keeping in mind I have yet to see the movie, I’m pretty much 100% sure based on the Iron Man and Avengers franchises that Scarlett Johansson, who plays Natasha Romanov, has the alter ego of “Black Widow” and not “Scarlet Witch.” (I believe Scarlet Witch is slated to appear in the next Avengers film.) FYI, but again, a great review.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you very much, Mr. McKinney! I lost some serious fangirl points with that mistake and have corrected it. Much appreciated. (And anyone who finds ten mistakes in my reviews gets a free copy of my book, so keep looking!).

  • Donna Kazee

    I love that you admitted that you didn’t get the dual purpose of the shield before this movie! And from the review, now all of us are even more excited to see it.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Donna! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Charles Downs

    Good review – if you want to gain back the fangirl points you say you’ve lost, this site has a boatload of the behind the scenes easter eggs that has me geeking out about the movie: http://screenrant.com/captain-america-2-winter-soldier-easter-eggs-trivia-comic-book/

    Note that if you want to go into future movies completely blind, they do discuss some of the comic book storylines of some of the characters and where they go in the comics, but 90% is “who is this character”, “where did this scene come from”, and “why is this actor in the movie?”

    • Nell Minow

      That’s great, Mr. Downs! From fangirl to fanboy, many thanks!

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