Monday, December 25, 2017

“America-Where Are You Now We Can’t Fight Alone Against The Monster”- “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014)-A Film Review

“America-Where Are You Now We Can’t Fight Alone Against The Monster”- “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014)-A Film Review   

DVD Review

By Vance Villon

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers solely to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment by Green designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel Jackson, Robert Redford, from the Marvel Comic series, 2014   

As I mentioned recently in my very first piece in this space The Dragon Man Goes Awry (check the December 2017 archives) I came into this work post-Allan Jackson the deposed site administrator now situated according to his close friend Sam Lowell, another writer here, out in Utah in what some have called retirement and others have called a “purge,” a controversy I don’t want to delve into because frankly I know very little and the rumor around the blogosphere is that same Sam Lowell is going to gather up all the various strands of the dispute, what did or did not happen, and who was harmed or not and write about it all soon.

The only point at which I intersected with the previous regime other than knowledge of my father-in-law Phil Larkin’s long-time friendship with Jackson, indirectly, was when I approached the new site administrator, Greg Green, and asked him if it would be possible to do a Captain America film review. The first one, The First Avenger subsequently assigned to a younger writer than me Kenny Jacobs is the one I had in mind with the idea of the Captain being the foundation stone as a resistance leader against the troubles laid on humankind by the bad guys who always seem to be with us. Given the nature of the times, the dreaded 2017 real time of this impeding cold civil war in America which might very well turn hot, very hot given the tensions and what one writer using a forest fire as his metaphor called the social timber ready to burn. This civil war business something that as young as I am I could never have imaged would turn up in my lifetime.

I had heard that Allan Jackson (who used the moniker Peter Paul Markin during his tenure the genesis of which has been explained in previous posts by other writers, young and old, so I need not go into it since it really involves stuff that Phil Larkin would know more about than me) had refused to countenance any writer reviewing anything related to comics. That despite his own well-verified youthful love of comics, and of films related to comic book entries like Superman and Batman. Greg said sure, go ahead but don’t get too heavy on the history of such comics and center on the plot and why such films are made. That is what I had intended to do since I frankly don’t have enough information about those old days and the effect of comics on the youth of America to go into that thicket much.

All of this was before the “controversy” between Phil and young up and coming writer Kenny Jacobs over who was to do the first review in the trilogy although last in the series so far-Captain America: Civil War blew up. In the end neither wanted to do the review but Greg to placate the younger writer and test his range with an old black and white film review had Phil wound up doing the piece. As part of his introduction Phil went out of his way to grouse about why the hell was he doing a kid’s thing review when a kid was getting the plum Bogie movie review which he would have been all over (Kenny did a good job on it). When Kenny wound up doing the review for the first film in the series The First Avenger he, in his turn, groused about having to do a review of something that interested him less than Phil despite his youth. You will not find me either grousing or saying like they both respectively did WFT about this assignment. I wanted it and here it is. Vinny Villon]         

Like most action packed movies, movies which depend on their very reason for existence on X number (some huge X number) of fast paced action per minute stunts and scenes the film under review Captain America: The Winter Soldier has plenty of that and very little on heavy dialogue or plotline. Except go forward, blindly or not, and crush the bad guys whatever guise they appear under. Of course since this film is the second in the series (which now stands at three) we already know how the character of Captain America came about during World War II. I think Phil Larkin hit the nail on the head (and even disgruntled Kenny used the idea) when he said that they had taken a 4-F runt, a scrawny weakling right off of what would have been then a matchbook cover Charles Atlas kick sand in your face advertisement and made him a he-man. A he-man who could jump high, jump down better, run like the wind even through New York City traffic no mean accomplishment, bump kill bad guys and have time for a nap before lunch. Just the kind of guy who all by his lonesome could eat a Panzer division alive during the big one . Get this though to get through the action of the first film the Captain, after dealing a death blow to a failed mutant experiment named Red Skull, had a moral obligation, at least by his lights to ditch a plane headed to that very New York City carrying horrible energies in as always a small box into the Artic snows to resurface seventy years later after being in a deep freeze for that long. Looking young and a bit bewildered by the sights and sound of New York City.  

But that was mostly old hat by now. Obviously, mutant or not, a guy with the Captain’s powers is something worth having on your side. Here Captain America played by Chris Evans is working for the big time espionage agency S.H.I,E.L.D which is trying  to on the face of it bring world peace or something like that via getting rid of bad guys and settling for less than paradise in the process. That operation is opposed by the remnants of that nasty Hydra criminal enterprise that Red Skull had played a central role in who are up to their old tricks of trying to grab the latest technologies to control the world assuming humankind preferred stability and peace through a strong security apparatus than fudge along not knowing what will happen at any given moment. The key leaders Fury, played by Samuel E. Jackson and Pierce, played by now hard to view ex-beauty mummified Robert Redford who in his day would have probably had the Captain America role handed to him on a platter.            

Of course the Captain is not working solo these days for a high-flying intelligence operation as he has a wingman and a jumping jack played by ubiquitous Scarlett Johannsson. Fellow mutants to work the means streets.  The task is to prevent Hydra from grabbing some very high-end helicopters which can direct massive fire wherever whoever is guiding the thing wants. And guess what Hydra’s enforcer in chief is- the winter soldier, a bad ass dude no question who just happens to be an old Brooklyn growing up buddy of Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan, who wound up working, for or against his will it is never quite clear, for Hydra. And doing a very good job of it.

That turning to evil purposes by old Barnes, by the transformed winter soldier makes perfect sense. Especially as if as claimed he was subject to Soviet-era brainwashing. What I had, have, a hard time getting around is the fate of Pierce, of Robert Redford, who as it turns out was a Hydra “mole,” working the espionage racket. A guy who went to the mat with Butch Cassidy to waste the bad guys in the old West, a guy who put a greedy New York stockbroker into cheap street working the old con in The Sting turns out to be nothing but a cheapjack secret agent for the nefarious forces loose in the world. How the mighty have fallen. Therein lies one cautionary tale. The other don’t trust anybody from Brooklyn-or Queens if you know what I mean.   

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