Am I suffering from Superhero Fatigue? With at least one new Marvel Universe spectacular being released each year, and with all of them getting good-to-excellent reviews, but my enthusiasm gradually fading, who is at fault here? Was my relatively muted reaction to Captain America: The Winter Soldier due to it not being as good as most critics and general audiences thought it was (it’s currently at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.2 on IMDb), or do I just have a limit to my superhero love? I have been a comic book nerd my whole life, though I suppose I’m not as nerdy as one can possibly be. Can only the biggest nerds among us love them all?
Marvel superhero movies are diverse enough that they are essentially offering their own particular spins on various genres. With The Winter Soldier, it is time for the conspiracy spy thriller. Comparisons to Winter Soldier have been made to the 70′s heyday of this genre, but I unfortunately have not seen enough of those to know how accurate that comparison is. (Robert Redford’s presence reminds me that I need to watch All the President’s Men, probably in my top 10 of classic movies I need to see ASAP.) This can be a confusing genre, and I was accordingly befuddled by the motivations of HYDRA. It seemed like it consisted the remnants of Nazism, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea for a villainous entity, but it is weird and could have used some more explanation. Regardless, Toby Jones gave the performance of the film as HYDRA chemist Arnim Zola, despite acting mostly inside a computer.
(SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH, EVEN THOUGH THESE ARE PLOT POINTS THAT WEREN’T EXACTLY HIDDEN BY THE MARKETING) I would have liked more exploration into the psyche of Bucky, and how exactly the brainwashing affected his personality. Instead, what we got was a rote story of a someone being turned into a blank slate assassin and then remembering who he really is thanks to the love of his friend. The flashbacks with Bucky and Steve didn’t add much, as their relationship was already well-established in The First Avenger. The reveal of the Winter Soldier as Bucky also didn’t really hit me in any way. I was familiar with the Winter Soldier storyline from the comics, and it wasn’t like Sebastian Stan’s presence in the cast wasn’t clearly noted on IMDb.
On a positive note, Marvel is continuing its current faultless hot streak with its action setpieces. The twin street chases – the Winter Soldier’s pursuit of Nick Fury and the climactic highway battle of WS versus Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon – were worth the trip to the theatre. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (TV veterans of Arrested Development and Community) earned their cinematic bona fides with those sequences.
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on a Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.