‘Captain America’ surprises

Column by Ned Leebrick-Stryker

nedleebrickstryker-w800-h800Over the weekend, I saw “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The theater was packed with fans, including myself, though I was woefully underdressed.  There was a surprising number of people wearing the hero’s attire.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was fantastic. It fits snugly into the established Marvel canon but stands alone as a wonderfully exciting, surprisingly emotional, spy thriller.

It felt more like a James Bond flick where the tuxedo is traded in for the American flag than another “Avengers,” which was certainly the right way to go. Its tone was darker than any of the other Marvel films, though still leaving humor, which last year’s “Man of Steel” had none of, and “Iron Man 3” had too much of.

Steve Rogers, who is Captain America and played by Chris Evans, is still adjusting to living in the modern world after “The Avengers.” He works for S.H.I.E.L.D., the super secret government agency led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Alongside the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) he believes he’s making the world a better place, one covert operation at a time.

But things begin to unravel in the organization as loyalty is tested and bonds are broken. A mysterious figure named The Winter Soldier is after Fury and Steve’s head as The Captain’s past comes back to haunt him.

Never before in a superhero movie have my expectations been played with as they have in this picture. There are twists aplenty as the audience questions who can and can’t be trusted.

The action is brutal and visceral, but grounded. Computer-generated visuals are for the most part replaced by practical effects, which makes every punch look believable and incredibly painful.

What makes the movie nothing short of great, though, is the surprising emotional depth that I’ve wanted to see with Cap, Black Widow and Fury since “The Avengers” ended.

As I said, Steve Rogers is still adjusting to the modern world since he found frozen in ice. Yes, it’s still a little unbelievable, but no attention is drawn toward it. It’s drawn toward the aftermath. Everyone he knows is either dead or very old while he remains a young man, something that would make anyone feel alone. Sometimes heroes don’t get a happy ending.

Johansson’s Black Widow returns and continues to be an example of a strong female hero on screen. There is no sexualizing of her character, no forced romance or clichéd damsel in distress situation. She is strong, not just physically, and can stand on her own as genuine badass. Her past is mentioned but not fully explained, just enough to create a few emotional conflicts and a sense of mystery. Her morals are questioned along with her loyalty, and it makes her character even more layered and interesting.

Finally, Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury. He is in trouble this time, in fact the Marvel universe as a whole is, and that makes everything a whole lot more interesting.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is not only one of the strongest Marvel movies there is, but one of the strongest movies in the entire comic book genre. Its ending is bound to send ripple effects throughout the on-screen universe it’s a part of and satisfy any viewer.

Had you told me a few years ago that Captain America would have his own movie let alone his own successful franchise, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now this B-list hero is up there among the greats. Make mine Marvel.

Leebrick-Stryker is a first-year law broadcast news major and can be reached at ned.leebrick-stryker@drake.edu


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