Monday, April 7, 2014

I saw Cap...

I saw Captain America, in the grandiose sequel, "Captain America: the Winter Soldier" (directed by the acclaimed Anthony and Joe Russo and penned by the equally acclaimed Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely), and as far as team-up jaunts go, this is a triumph: right up there with "Avengers", I dare say, only not as character-laden, of course, and considerably darker, more cynical than most other Marvel movies. It also features both of Cap/Steve Rogers's primary comic-book "best buddies": Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan, reprising his role from "First Avenger") and Sam Wilson, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The ever stalwart Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) is in there, too, along with the ever resourceful (and abundantly fetching) Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), plus some new characters, like SHIELD honcho, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who brings a sleek,  '70s espionage feel to the scene. Still overall, it's essentially Chris (Johnny Human Torch) Evans' steadfast WWII superhero who keeps this powerful yarn completely in check. Through him, everything patriotically revolves.

The film's ultimate focus (as most already know from recently publicized comic-book lore) centers on a revitalized (once believed defunct) Bucky: brainwashed into a super-charged, bionic machine. He's the Winter Soldier: for what it's worth, a term that refers to one of initial honor, but later of questionable cause.

In a way, it's actually quite heartbreaking to discover that Bucky has gone from virtuous aide to demented foe (even though in the last Cap entry, he was radically reinterpreted to be older and wiser, instead of an adolescent "poor man's Dick Grayson", as he's sometimes been called). Still, as the mind-warped Winter Soldier, one can't help but feel a sentimental twinge for Cap's wartime sidekick, but gosh, is he ever a lethal opponent! At the same time, he's also not a traditional villain, if only in that he can't entirely shake his gracious roots (particularly when he recognizes Rogers after an intense encounter), but always remains a tenacious enough force to fuel the film's escalating tension.

Although Bucky may have fallen off the virtuous path, the Falcon is there to more than deftly occupy his spot, but it's the modern, practical look that he sports, not that hip, '70s flair that many generally associate with the character. Nonetheless, the new look works logically in the modernized scheme of things, and whenever the Falcon takes flight, the sequences are nothing short of thrilling.

At any rate, Cap not only has to contend with a dangerously revamped Bucky, but has suspicions that Nick Fury and SHIELD many not necessarily be on the level, especially in the aftermath of a recent mission. How Cap resolves this, and who (or what) is actually pulling Bucky's strings (an old enemy, perhaps?) is what draws one deeper into the plot.

In the end, beyond all the twists and turns, "Winter Soldier" emerges as a rollicking, high-adrenalin adventure, which like its predecessor, never forgets that, at its heart, it's all about a good man trying to do good. That's what counts here. Cap stands for something righteously old-fashioned, yes, but so what? Admirably, he believes in doing the respectable thing and is never hesitant when it comes to dishing out justice. Of course, in Bucky's case, Cap does face a dilemma, for his friend has obviously been altered by others. Still, with the damage done, how can Cap allow his old pal to run rampant? Cap has no choice but to stop him, or by some impossibly slim chance, find the means to reach him, redeem him.

Anyway, get off your duffs and support Cap in his latest spree. That's right--send a message to those high-brow know-it-alls who think Cap is passe, and maybe on a more frequent basis, we'll be awarded even more of these good-hearted salutes. God only knows we need such in this ever confusing world; why, oh, why not at the very least start with the movies?


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