You’ve misled me. You’re misled: THE WINTER SOLDIER.
I was led to believe that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a ‘paranoid 70s thriller’ that shows the flexibility of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is not. It’s a wholly conventional punch-em-up with some 70s set dressing that’s apparently been given extra credit for having fifteen minutes’ worth of quiet dialogue instead of the customary eight. As action movies for teenagers go, it’s excellent, but that’s a low bar.
The Winter Soldier tosses physics out the window, but that’s OK — it’s a comic book movie, thats the universe they inhabit. Much worse is that it doesn’t suggest the presence of an inner life in even one of its characters. That’s a failing it shares with tons of modern films: instead of reflection or conflict or mixed motives, it has secrets!! and traumatic backstories!! and the occasional bit of posing before landscape!! You can feel those exclamation marks trailing every line of dialogue — even the quiet ones.
I enjoyed some of it. Redford’s line readings are so effortlessly casual he seems to’ve beamed in from another time; I guess he has, in a sense. And the lead, Chris Evans, embodies the character’s sweetness and decency and indomitable will. I love watching him. Indeed, I’d rather see two hours of ‘Steve Rodgers in the world’ than this.
So why did the critics fall for this flick? Why are supposedly sensible adults praising as ‘politically relevant’ a film that borrows its conspiracy material from Minority Report and, y’know, 40-year-old Robert Redford movies? But then, asking is answering: I suspect the critics were glad to see a movie that gestured at a genre other than punch-em-up, reflected (however superficially) a decade other than this one. And Marvel only needs to beat the curve, gradewise, which isn’t hard — they hire extraordinarily well, in front of the camera and behind, and spend a hell of a lot on digital FX.
It’s just the writing that’s a letdown. And even that isn’t horrible, it’s just…I wish there was a three-letter word meaning ‘I wish I had strong feelings for this but whatever.’ Will ‘meh’ do? If I say ‘meh,’ am I part of the problem? The Captain would never say ‘meh.’
That’s the best thing I can say about this movie: I came away wondering what the Captain would do. I just don’t think he’d do anything particularly interesting.
If Whedon writes a Captain America feature I’ll be there for the midnight opener. But this wasn’t that. It was…just fine.