Marvel really has done something astounding with their film franchise, creating a series of films and television shows that stand on their own individually, but together are greater than just the sum of their parts. Not content to just adapt their characters to the screen, Marvel has adapted the comic format. The comics’ ongoing tales that weave in and out of each other and captivated me so much in the 80’s and 90’s and sometimes still today have been reinterpreted in an ambitious ongoing film cycle. I can’t decide what is more astounding, that Marvel are actually doing this, or how well they are pulling ir off..
Captain America: The Winter soldier is the latest in the ongoing saga, and amazingly this far into the cycle, is one of the best. Winter Soldier has one of the tightest plots for a Marvel film so far, and yet is still bursting with the intense action you want in a comic book film. Steve Rodgers is still a man out of time, but not in the same way he was at the end of the first Cap film or in the Avengers. He is adapting to modern popular culture and technology just fine. It is all the gray in modern ethics and politics that leave him confounded. He does not want to just obey orders, he wants to be a good man, and in modern times that path is not clear-cut. In Winter Soldier the enemies come from within and without, and Cap is no longer sure who he can trust. I am going to try to discuss the film without spoiling the twists and turns in the plot, but suffice it to say that at every turn, the obstacles for Cap have both physical and emotional heft.
This film also has massive consequences for the Marvel continuity. It was exciting to see that Marvel was not afraid to let this film have far-reaching effects on all the other franchises as opposed to saving the big happenings for a team filled Avengers film. I eagerly to see how the fallout from this film is dealt with in both the Agents of Shield TV show and the upcoming films.
Winter Soldier also deals with a very timely political subject matter, and it was nice to see a tent-pole film with something on its mind. At the core of the plot is SHIELD’s launch of three 3 interlinked hover craft assault vehicles, tied to personal data of the population, to prevent terrorist and other threats before they happen. Clearly the film makers have today’s political climate in their cross-hairs as the film stands as a condemnation of drone technology and the loose security of our personal information. There are questions raised about a climate where phone records, computer activity, and personal history are all traced by vague government entities. Again, nice to see more than things going boom.
As I watched the film with my nine-year-old son, I remembered how at his age we could only dream about these characters coming to life in such a grand way. How lucky our children are to have this addition to their imaginations. The Mighty Marvel machine rolls on, and long may it roll!