It’s a bird, it’s a plane - oh, wait, it’s Captain America. The costume 2 looks different, of course, as does Chris Evans squeezed into 3 the corporate brand. But, gee 4, it can be hard keeping track 5 of all the men flying and fighting in the superherqo cinematic universe. Next is yet another Spider-Man movie, and then come the X-Men, and then the Guardians of the Galaxy, and then (again) the Avengers, whose numbers include Captain America. So, he’ll be back. Meanwhile, he has another movie to call his own, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one that, like many others of its type, gets off to a kinetic start only to lose steam 6 before blowing everything up 7.
It’s fun until it goes kablooey, when the directors, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, are first warming up 8 this sequel and scratching their initials next to the Marvel logo. The opener finds Steve Rogers (Evans), Captain America’s Everyman alter ego, running laps 9 around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. He’s making such a good cartoonish time - he’s super in and out of costume - that he keeps lapping another runner while yelling 10, “On your left!” The laggard is Sam Wilson (the unfailingly 11 charming Anthony Mackie), who becomes a down-to-earth friend and high-flying ally. (It’s nice to see talented American actors get some of the rewarding franchise action enjoyed by their British counterparts with Harry Potter.)
As with every new chapter in such series, introductions must be made in The Winter Soldier so that nonenthusiasts can meet the team members and grasp 12 their place in this cosmos. Here, these include Bucky Barnes (a good Sebastian Stan), Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who runs S.H.I.E.L.D., the spy agency that here gives the movie its topical feel. Kevin Feige, who runs Marvel Studios, has said that the Russos were hired as directors “because they loved our explanation that we really want to make a ‘70s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie.” That’s the idea anyway, which explains why Robert Redford, the star of ‘70 paranoid classics like Three Days of the Condor, plays Alexander Pierce, a S.H.I.E.L.D. official.
El primer còmic del Capità Amèrica, avui protagonista de films d'acció, va aparèixer el 1941
The Russos have directed a few other movies, including Welcome to Collinwood (2002), a redo of the 1958 Italian satire Big Deal on Madonna Street that was produced by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. That movie didn’t go anywhere, but, having been put on the industry map with that kind of patronage, it’s no surprise that the brothers went on to have a busy decade in television, working as directors and sometimes executive producers for the smart sitcom likes of Arrested Development and Community. In between, they also directed another movie, You, Me and Dupree. It was a dud 13, but it didn’t matter. In the magical world of big-screen entertainment, some guys get all the lucky breaks 14 and also the keys to the studio gate, meaning a franchise like this.
Given how little creative room there is in properties like The Winter Soldier, it’s a minor triumph that the Russos imprint any personality on the movie, which is less a stand-alone work 15 than a part of an ever-expanding multimedia enterprise. The directors make their presence felt largely in the first half when they’re emphasizing Steve’s humanity, whether he’s in costume or not. That’s partly the point of his introductory race around the reflecting pool: He runs like the wind, but he also makes you laugh. This emphasis on the human also turns into some exciting, smartly 16 staged and shot action sequences, including choreographed fights in which the entire bodies of the performers remain visible in the frame.
The Winter Soldier becomes progressively less enjoyable once the plot thickens and a menace looms, as Fury moves one chess piece, while Pierce moves another. Captain America doesn’t move much, beyond cars and debris. However appealing, Evans remains a recessive screen presence, and while it may be a relief that Captain America isn’t angst-ridden 17, he’s blandly well adjusted for a guy who, in his last movie, emerged from a decades-long deep freeze. Comic-book movie directors have to sell the prepackaged goods while trying to capture - and maybe redefine, as Christopher Nolan did with Batman - a superhero’s essence. And they have to do so without boring everyone who could not care less why a crusader went dark as night or that he died only to be reborn. But what if he’s kind of dull 18?
Yet one of the problems with Captain America, who was introduced in 1941, is that he didn’t cross over into the mainstream until three years ago with Captain America: The First Avenger. Directed by Joe Johnston, who wisely kept the irony in check, The First Avenger hit the origin-story marks by tracing the metamorphosis of a 90-pound weakling into a World War II hero while showing that Evans could wear the suit and throw a punch. It was amusing, old-fashioned and ponderous, just like its protagonist. The sequel, which was also written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, suffers from some routine blockbuster sins 19, including an excess of plot. But it, too, doesn’t make the case on screen for why Captain America should have been resurrected.
Despite Evans’ stated lack of passion for playing super-characters like this one and despite the genre’s creeping exhaustion, Captain America seems likely to keep running and jumping. Unlike the James Bond movies, which have come to an end fairly slowly or a series like Harry Potter, which has a finite number of exploitable titles, there appears to be no end in sight when it comes to superhero movies. Warner Bros. has introduced Batman twice in separate franchise cycles and Sony has done the same with Spider-Man. In other words, superhero stories have become, or at least some would claim, the Hollywood equivalent of, say, Shakespeare: a well 20 that they return to again and again to reboot, remake, redesign and resell until death (ours, the art’s, the planet’s) do us part.