I made the mistake of reading Ed Brubaker’s ‘Winter Soldier’ saga before I went to see the film of the same title. For the most part, especially with comic books, reading the “source” material could either make or break the film adaptations.
For example, “Captain America: The First Avenger” went from being good to great after I read ‘Captain America No. 1’ (1941). The film captured the exact tone and time of who Cap (portrayed by Chris Evans) is. Even including the Avengers caveat was appropriate because it not only accurately gave us why Cap was found and unthawed but also successfully completed the circle for ‘The Avengers’ movie.
In the case with “The Winter Soldier,” the actual source material took away from the film — despite some poignant nods to the comics for good and bad — turning to what I had high hopes of being a great film to another heavy-handed Marvel sequel-prequel-sequel.
The plot to “Winter Soldier” simplified: H.Y.D.R.A., the terror group started by Red Skull and whom S.H.I.E.L.D was suppose to be protecting the nation against, built a splinter cell within S.H.I.E.L.D. forcing the latter group to disband (until “Avengers: Age of Ultron” of course). H.Y.D.R.A.’s sect of S.H.I.E.L.D. created the Winter Soldier to eliminate the high ranking officials of S.H.I.E.L.D. who threatened H.Y.D.R.A.’s ultimate goal of world power.
A lot of the homage that worked well in the film was done from an allusion standpoint (such as the twitpic above). Having a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. installation at Camp Lehigh [served as ‘base camp’ for Cap/Steve and Bucky], the take down of the Quinjet on the bridge during Cap’s escape (albeit differing circumstances) was reminiscent of a set of Brubaker’s panels and of course the inclusion of Saw Wilson, a.k.a. The Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
Another nod that may have gotten missed was when Cap was blown off of the helicarrier at the end of the film — it was a direct nod of the true demise of Bucky.
What didn’t work was the inclusion of ‘Agent 13,’ a.k.a. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). In Brubaker’s story, Carter played the sufficient role in the Winter Soldier tale. But because of Natasha Romanof’s (Scarlett Johansson) establishment within the Marvel Universe, Carter’s role was reduced to practically nothing (except as Cap’s ‘protector’ which was taken straight from the panels). To me, that was wasted screen time that wasn’t even necessary.
In the end, the film was about S.H.I.E.L.D, the collapse and what I assume will be the re-birth in ‘Age of Ultron,’ not the Winter Soldier. There were quick flashbacks but not enough to encompass the totality of Bucky’s resurrection (needed more in-depth explanation as to why he lost his memory). That’s a fail.
Creating a new “origin” for Wilson was good for me, in the context of the film. However, having a winged jet pack to make it logical for 2014 didn’t — fly. The action set pieces for ‘The Falcon’ were great but having his wings essentially plucked by the Winter Soldier, killed, more than likely deliberately, the opportunity to have ‘The Falcon’ outshine Cap during the climax.
It also sets up a reason for Wilson to gain new wings, this time I suspect made from vibranium as Cap’s shield is made from. (Potential Captain America AND The Falcon for third film.)
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is just another piece in the ever growing Marvel Cinematic Avengers puzzle, a fact that Marvel, as if not having ‘Age of Ultron’ already in production isn’t enough, wanted to make extra clear when Romanof stated at the government hearing:
“You’re gonna need us again.”
“The Winter Solider” could have been great as a stand alone film away from the overarching Avengers umbrella, such as “Iron Man 3” was. But by it just being another piece, it falls short of its potential.
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