Sunday, April 6, 2014


What's good Hammerheads and Harlemites? Your favorite comic book writer with a chip on his shoulder is back for some more blog action. I got a chance to see a few movies the past couple of weekends. And you know I had to see Captain America. I have been a die-hard Cap fan since I was a little dude. My first encounter with Captain America was in an issue of Marvel Two In One with The Thing. There is something visually compelling about seeing a cat dressed in an American flag with a shield (basically his uniform)...Cap was always honest and proved to be a great leader in most stories because of his military background. Later on as I got older...the definitive Captain America run was flawlessly executed by Roger Stern and John Byrne in the early eighties and to this day remains to me quintessential Cap. That being said, I was not a huge fan of Captain America: First Avenger. I was pleased with Chris Evans who certainly looks the part of Steve Rogers and Captain America. But Hugo Weaving was a huge disappointment as one of my all time favorite bad guys (The Red Skull) which I was think due more to the writing than his acting skills. I enjoyed the origin sequence of that flick but the rest of it was kind of garbage to me because of the lack of Nazis (Hellboy has Nazis...give Captain America some Nazis!!!) and the seriously Power Ranger like Hydra troops who were firing laser guns at The Howling Commandos...that so zoned me out that I walked out of the cineplex thankful for a movie about Captain America but never having the desire to watch the film again. Then came the Avengers. My faith was restored in Marvel's ability to create the kind of Captain America I wanted to see on the big screen. I felt like Evans had bonded with this comic book icon and was feeling him.

Now...on to the modern Marvel masterpiece which is Winter Soldier.

From the first sequence, an action piece on a Shield vessel that's been attacked by pirates at sea, we learn that the writers of this film are in tune with Captain America. They not only know who he is and what his mannerisms are but they are aware of his rogues gallery and history. While sitting on the edge of my seat within the first 15 minutes watching Cap storm the pirated ship...taking names and putting foot in ass, I was also treated to the appearance of an old school Captain America villain that fanboys will recognize immediately as soon as his name is mentioned. These are the kinds of things being done in these movies that separate Marvel from the pack. Continuity. They have always had this "shared universe" that incorporates all of their heroes and it makes it really fun for readers who have followed their comic books over the years. What I love about this film is that it starts off with Cap going on a mission for Shield that causes him to question their motives and/ or ethics. Being that he is a throwback from America's greatest generation...his superhuman brand of patriotism doesn't seem to be matching up with Shield's more shadowy motives. The theme explored becomes who can Cap trust and that my friends sends us into a nail-biting, action romp that blends the superhero genre with political intrigue flicks like 3 Days of the Condor and the more recent Bourne Identity movies.

The thirst for superhero action is quenched in this movie because we get to really see what being a "Supersoldier" means. Captain America is super athletic. He's like Adrian Petersen and Lebron James wrapped in one! He runs through steel doors, he jumps out of planes without parachutes, when he punches or kicks an adversary they don't just fall down...they go flying! I was pleased with this sort of display of his powers because it differentiates him from Spider Man, Superman and Bat-Man. We see why in several instances how this man helped stop World War 2 and why he is considered a living legend.

This is a film packed with spy action, subterfuge, and double crosses...a perfect plot for Black Widow and Nick Fury to flex their muscles...and oh how they flex! Scarlett Johanssen, on top of being mouth wateringly hot, is now at perfect form in her Black Widow role. In her previous outings as the super-spy I kind of just tolerated her presence and chuckled along with her well timed quips...but she brings the wood in this movie and I actually found myself enjoying her role (not just as eye candy if you dig what I mean). But the biggest surprise is Nicholas J. Fury!!! Yes Lawd. Yes Lawd. Yes!!!! Finally I get to see the coolest dude on the planet (Samuel L. Jackson if you don't know) get into some true spy action like a real brother would and it's glorious. In fact...I'm probably being a bit overzealous, but I can see Sam carrying his own Marvel film as Fury. To me...his action sequence in Winter Soldier rivals any of the best chase scenes I've seen in recent years...that includes Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Watch out James Bond.

The Falcon. This is hard for me. This would be the only part of the movie I felt some weakness in. But don't misinterpret those words as feelings of disdain for the character or what the writers did with the character. I love Anthony Mackie and his portrayal of Sam Wilson aka The Falcon is spot on. For the uninitiated...The Falcon is Captain America's friend and fighting partner...these two bond after Cap comes out of the deep freeze in World War 2 and kind of have that Lethal Weapon chemistry that Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had in those popular movies. The Falcon is obviously a winged hero with the ability to fly and that is not greatly explained here which kind of frustrated me. But that's okay, the script makes up for that lack of origin story by setting up a very solid and interesting character who happens to be the second non-supernatural black superhero on screen ( I guess War Machine from Iron Man 2 was technically the first). What is most important is his friendship with Steve Rogers and Cap, Evans and Mackie nail it.

And now...the most surprising performance...The Winter Soldier. I read the comics when they came out. I am an absolute sucker for any character who has a cybernetic arm!!! Anyhow...I liked the comics. Didn't really love them. I definitely thought Bucky, Cap's youthful sidekick in the comics and adult peer in the movies, should have remained dead. I mean damn...Cap survived WW2...Red Skull survived and so did Bucky? That's asking a bit much of the reader to swallow but we are talking about comic books. In the Ed Brubaker Captain America comics...I thought that Steve Rogers character was boring and so was Cap. I liked the concept but the overall storyline came across as a gimmick. The Winter Soldier in the movie comes across as a combination of the T-1000 in The Terminator and Michael Meyers from Halloween. Every time this dude is on the screen you are in fear. You know that he is a living death dealer and he excels at killing people. Important people. And with our heroes clearly targeted in his scoped rifle we feel their anxiety and fear in every skirmish. These action scenes are big and robust like any comic book...even better. And the fighting scenes are believable. These are perhaps the best fighting scenes in a superhero movie since either Spider Man 2 (Raimi) or KICK ASS. Long have I complained about fighting scenes in superhero movies being garbage...that trend ends here. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER will hit you in the teeth and have you walking out of the cineplex grinning from ear to ear. SOLID!            


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