I haven't done a film review recently... I don't know if I'm any good at them...and I know maybe I should have gone and seen Noah and maybe I could have contributed to the plethora of Christians commenting on it. Hey I could even post a photo on my facebook page pointing out what everybody knows... It's not a straight retelling of a biblical story. Lets face it we all should be aware of the great Hollywood Lie "based on a true story". One of the debates in a the bible and popular culture course I took was the dilemma of how do you tell bible stories on film... and lets face it, it lends itself to people wanting to wrestle with the idea of ecological crisis... pollution, climate change and rising tides... Disney Pixar's Wall-e did it brilliantly with out the need to use big name stars or even much dialogue.
Anyway call me a geek or a nerd or just a comic book universe junkie, but I went with my oldest daughter to an advance screening of Marvel's Captain America: the Winter Soldier. I had asked my kids not to get me stuff for my 51st Birthday this year rather focus on stuff we can do together... and my twenty year old daughter (fourth year engineering student) decided she liked going to the movies with her dad so she bought me a movie gift card. This is the second advance screening were been to.
Ok, This is according to Marvel Studies part of phase two of their universe. Phase one ended with all the origin stories being told of the characters that go to make up the avengers and the avengers movie itself. Phase two started with Iron Man 3... and apparently will conclude in the next Avengers movie.
Captain America has all the wonderful action and interestingly character development that go to make a great Marvel movie. In his now expected cameo appearance in the movie, creator Spike Lee (spoiler alert) says "I could get fired for this" and it came across to me as a meta-filmic moment as this movie really shakes up the Marvel universe. Things that had been seen as symbols of good and had captured our imaginations, because of their CGI wonder in the Avengers, now become symbols of evil and dread... I'm not going to spoil the movie for people by elaborating on this except to say that helocarriers will never be the same again.
Chris Even's does a great job in bringing Steve Rodgers to the screen. He manages to bring the right amount of physicality and also in his expressions manifest the earnestness and honesty needed for the role, and in actual fact a vulnerability and pathos which is needed for this man out of time.
in fact all the casting is well done. Scarlet Johansson brings Natasha Romanov aka Black widow to life for the second time and manages to give someone who is a more complex and darker character the same level of humanness and integrity as Steve Rogers. Samuel L Jackson steals the show as Nick Fury... A part he was destined to play as he animated character was redrawn with him in mind. Jackson has all the best lines. Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka Falcon, manages to come across with the openness and friendliness (and courage) that would attract Steve Rogers as a friend. Robert Redford manages to present us with the all American administrator and (spoiler) in the plot twist an equally believable villain. Which actually leads well into the plot itself and expresses just how close the cause of liberty and freedom and shielding people from evil looks to control and the absence of freedom. The spectre of Nazi Germany and fascism rears its head, or many heads in this case.
The CGI is great. I loved Falcon's flying suit and Fury's car, particularly when Jackson rants at the Local Washington police " What are you staring at? Do you want to see my lease agreement?"
The storyline for the movie really is about Captain America's disillusionment with the world as it is portrayed to him by the high ups at SHEILD. It provides a commentary into the issue of surrendering liberty for security, and how far to the dark side (to quote another filmic universe) are you prepared to go. As part of the reformed tradition it brings up that great concern about power and its abuse. For Captain he comes from a generation (often called as it is in the film "the best of us" used power in the pursuit of freedom, but the movie invites us to ask whether the same use of force and power can't be seem as trying to rule the world by fear.
In the end, without a spoiler, the film seems to provide an answer to that dilemma in the integrity of those who have power. yes there is the need for proper robust oversight, willing to hear dissenting voices but also for the integrity of those who are given power.
I have appreciated watching Captain America's portrayal of leadership in the thee Marvel Studio's blockbusters and again in the winter soldier, some of those qualities come out, loyalty yes, but to ideal and vision, not just pragmatism. Knowing those who he leads and caring for them. A willingness to make decisions which are not popular but which need to be made, showing grace, and being willing to put oneself on the line for what you believe. Maybe the line which comes though as a challenge for leadership and a warning is the line in the mouth of Redford's character... "to rebuild the world you need to tear the old one down."
Captain America is a good watch. If you are a marvel fan there was enough to spark your interest about what is to come... the mention of Stephen Strange in passing is a pointer to an upcoming movie and may give some indications as to people who will join the together for the next Avengers movie. I'll be interested to see how this movies release affects the Marvel TV series agents of SHEILD... after you see it thing may not sit well in that world anymore. I'm sure as I digest the movie a bit more, more will come to mind. I wouldn't put on my top ten movie list, but a god watch and it will keep me coming back either at the cinema or online to see where the Marvel Universe is going.