Of late it pains me to watch a comic book film never mind write about a comic book film here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. As much as I was raised and reared on these classic titles there is little to no interest to cover them or give them anymore exposure than they already have.
It's a rare day when I will actually watch a superhero film now. This will likely be my last for quite some time.
After initially walking away from the title, this was my second attempt at Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). It was in the library. It was free. It received rousing reviews. I'll make an exception to my unwritten rule not to engage comic book films any longer. I'm happy people enjoy them. I wish no ill will upon them, but I just cannot endure them any longer.
The first Captain America film (here), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps it was partly due to director Joe Johnston's efforts and period establishment circa World War II. This fine origin picture for Captain America was quickly followed by the loud, haunting, nightmare that was The Avengers (2012). The sound and fury (no not Nick) was all just too much. It was the obnoxious superhero equivalent of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009).
Joss Whedon was heaped with praise after the massive success as writer and director. I guess it was packed with Whedon's trademark wit and writing style. It was hard to notice, but this is what I've been told to believe.
Unfortunately it was clear I had hit my wall when it came to Marvel pictures with the welcomed exception of the sci-fi-centric story for Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) coupled with great casting and director James Gunn's unconventional, vivid imagination and style.
Part of me was just simply exhausted by the comic book movie adaptations. They are slick. They are polished. They are pumped full of special effects, quick edits and stylized comic book-like production, but are sorely lacking in humanity or something.
I was a huge comic book fan as a kid. I wanted real live action comic book movies or television as a kid in the worst way. Kenneth Johnston's The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) starring the late, great Bill Bixby remains the best yet for that character.
Today, as a viewing adult, I think to myself, be careful what you wish for. What seemed to work so well for me in color comic books as I fawned over each and every frame as a child has not translated quite as well for me as the special effects films that they are. It all comes off a little silly and suspending disbelief becomes a problem for me. Adapting the extraordinary sequences of panels drawn by George Perez or John Byrne, though nice efforts, still seem lacking. I know you could say I'm overthinking it or the grown up in me is getting in the way. But I'm actually not trying to do that. I just can't help it.
I certainly don't intend for my distaste of the comic book film to spill over. I intend in no way to cloud or shade your judgment or enjoyment of these pictures and likely would I. But if I'm to be completely honest with myself and you, I suppose I'm suffering from significant super hero fatigue. It's overwhelming and relentless. Some reviews seems to suggest these Marvel films are high cinema. We would be crazy to miss them. As I've discovered, it's me. I simply find the attempts to translate from comic book frame to moving picture to be uninteresting. These comic book films are beginning to bore me.
Case in point, apart from the underwhelming The Avengers that opened to standing ovations, X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014) was another major let down and I did enjoy X-Men: First Class (2011). There were too many problems to count in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. The films stray from the source mythology significantly. Characters are different from the original story. The character designs are average at best. The design work established especially for the Sentinels were an abomination of epic proportions. What the hell were those things? They certainly weren't the Sentinels I remember from my childhood reading of X-Men #98.
Hugh Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine has been a highlight from the Marvel films. Guardians Of The Galaxy was an attempt at something different, a stand alone outer space yarn that worked on its own terms separate and apart from the pat linking that seems to happen with each successive Marvel film packaged with a cute little Easter Egg-styled ending hardly worth sitting through the credits for. It's all just a bit tiresome for this fan of science fiction and for someone looking for something a little deeper most of the time.
It seems the smaller, character-based films like Wolverine (2009, 2013) are more satisfying to a degree. The humanity in the films resonates much more. The bigger and noisier they get the more I glaze over and check out.
So yes, I'm sorry to say I've dried the well of good will when it comes to Marvel films.
This explains why my second attempt at viewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a big moment for me including writing a few words about it here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. It was burning my hand. So I pulled it from the library. I didn't expend a dime on it. I even road my bike there. No gas. Calculating food to fuel the body is more difficult to quantify. I eat a lot.
Was Captain America: The Winter Soldier worth my time? Would it be another bag of super hero hot air from Marvel?
As I mentioned, the first Captain America film, drew nicely upon the humanity of Steve Rogers and the World War II backdrop. It made for a refreshing change of scenery. Johnston handled the human component with aplomb. His work on The Rocketeer (1991) and October Sky (1999) made him a perfect fit. Johnston would not direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was to be a bigger picture.
The opening salvo for this film, a rapid fire action sequence, moves so quickly it's actually rather difficult to enjoy. This improves markedly and remarkably for the remainder of the film. But that opening is chaotically poor.
These solo stories allow for greater dramatic power which is a plus, but it all feels a little hollow or insincere and spread thin the more the ensemble grows.
There is of course the political subtext of the film. There's an anti-police moment between Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury character and metro police suggesting blacks are targeted. You can always count on Hollywood. Liberal activist Robert Redford fills the screen with his presence joyfully playing the power villain and making a good profit off of it.
Generally it's a good political insurrection story and an engaging action film complete with a Michael Mann, Heat-styled action sequence and suspense. The Winter Soldier makes a worthy adversary too.
With The Avengers, to me, nothing ever felt truly at stake and Loki and the film's villains simply bored me to tears as silly. The Winter Soldier genuinely and credibly takes the Captain America character to a new level even if it is a little short on character.
The political intrigue and conspiracy aspects are fine and certainly more impressive than most superhero films. The action sequences are truly astonishing in spots. It balances the tension and action to good effect. You simply check out and just enjoy the intensity of the picture on its own terms. The Winter Soldier is also a little more fearsome than the previous Red Skull. And Johansson continues to bring such power to her characters in film. She is the Black Widow for a reason and that character really gets to shine here.
In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a solid, quality superhero film. Is it a must see experience? Not really. Perhaps I'm spoiled by all of the quality writing on television today. Fargo. Breaking Bad. Battlestar Galactica. Homeland. The list goes on and on. Superhero films today feel superfluous and passable devoid of heart and soul (though this is better than most). The mind numbs as the action drones on. It certainly wouldn't be Marvel if it wasn't epic and accomplished in the Might Marvel Manner. But by God the action and these genre films go on and on. I understand this is escapist entertainment (and Nick Fury has a terrific sequence to pull off a great one), but precisely the kind of entertainment I make every effort to escape from nowadays. Investing in films like Her (2013) and Lost In Translation (2003) (I know I have Scarlett on the mind) are far more rewarding than a Marvel film. And I understand its apples and oranges. But there is a familiarity to these films. There is a kind of James Bond, paint-by-numbers quality to the superhero film that seems to settle in. But I guess I draw the line at Bond formula and willingly embrace that hero.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine enough picture for what it is, but certainly unessential unless you are an avid comic book collector and more importantly a collector of Marvel comics films I suppose. If you enjoy the mythological weave of the worlds these heroes inhabit minus considerable psychological depth by all means.
Even though Captain America: The Winter Solider didn't leave me in the cold, they rarely get my attention like a good comic book once did as a kid. This film was about what I expected. There were no real surprises or profoundly moving human moments where I relished the experience. Sure Scarlett looks amazing in spandex. Her bosoms and ass are highlighted to perfection here, but it's still not enough to keep my eyes glued to one of these pictures any longer. These films make money and will continue to propagate like rabbits.
At the end of three hours (there was a lot of remote pausing), I can say with a good degree of confidence I could have passed the library by on my bike that day and been none the wiser or picked up something with less testosterone and spandex. At this point these superhero films are beginning to feel like nails on a chalk board. And about all of those guns liberal Hollywood so abhors...come now... it's all a bit comic-al really. Though not my cup of tea of late, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a solid super hero romp and story. For what it is they don't come much better.