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I was supposed to take my family to see CA2 next Wednesday but, while that’s still going to happen, I didn’t want to wait. So I caught an early matinee on Friday when I was supposed to be writing.

It’s a fun superhero action movie, and Chris Evans is better than anyone would ever have a right to expect him to be in the lead. Johanssen is just as great playing Black Widow as she was in The Avengers, but that’s what I’d expect from her. Evans is a happy surprise.

Spoilers for the rest:

The film aims for that twisty “trust no one!” spy thriller feeling–and achieves it for a short while–but once the Hydra bad guys start coming out of the woodwork, that starts getting pretty thin. Yeah, it’s fun to see the SHIELD Q-branch style gadgets, but for a movie that’s about invasive surveillance, there isn’t a lot of technological surveilling in the plot.

One thing that does work, and works really well, is the careful way the goals of SHIELD and Hydra harmonize. Both want super-weapons in the air. Both want surveillance that will take out enemies *before* they create problems. The real difference is who they want to take out.

Steve Rogers, heroic good guy, is (spoiler!) against that. One thing that’s not stated explicitly in the film (because who wants to badmouth superspy and incredibly popular character Nick Fury) is that Hydra has been doing its damndest to scare the hell out of the world and Fury, with his “We do what we have to do” ethos, is playing right into their hands. Being the hard-eyed tough guy who believes in hitting first? That isn’t a virtue. Real virtue comes from trusting and inspiring people, for which see the first name in the title. That’s not something you’re going to get from the institutional exercise of power, especially power without checks and balances.

One thing I like about this movie was that it didn’t undercut Steve Rogers’s basic decency to make the movie seem cooler, the way the last Batman movie did. The big inspiring speech (which could have been more inspiring, I’m just saying) turned the good guys at SHIELD around and gave them a chance to do right.

And how deadly-tense was that scene with the technician being told to launch immediately? that was a great little performance in that scene.

And then there’s the power-fantasy aspect to it.

Obviously, a huge appeal to superhero movies is that they’re power fantasies, in the same way a James Bond or Sherlock Holmes movie is. It’s tremendous fun (if you’re me, and you may not be) to watch a superhuman do superhuman things.

But the power fantasy aspects undercut the spy thriller parts. Rogers doesn’t just get jumped by trained assassins, he gets jumped by an elevator full of them. Ordinary threats, like a trained killer with a gun on a crowded street, are simply not challenging enough. It has to be an entire squad, or a quinjet, or an inbound missile. “Don’t trust anyone or else!” is not so effective when the “or else” is “or you’ll have to take them out with one hard punch.”

Still, I can’t really get over how effective Evans is in this role. I’ve always liked Captain America, more or less depending on who’s writing him, but Evans really makes it work.

Finally, AGENTS OF SHIELD is supposed to tie in with the movie this week. Sitwell was called away from the last episode to be in the opening of this one. I’m curious how they’ll tie the plots together, especially since the solution to SHIELD’s invasive spying program was to do a Wikileaks-style info dump of all their secrets right onto the internet. At the start of AoS, that was what Chloe Skye wanted, yes? We’ll see if she gives a fist pump or if she’s bought into Coulson’s mandate to the point that she thinks its awful or whatever.

Anyway, to the extent that the Marvel movies are product designed for the masses, this is decidedly high quality corporate entertainment. I wonder if watching it a second time with my family will make me like it more (as I did with Thor 2) or less.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here but not there.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2014 11:59 pm (UTC)
Spoilers, of course
I thought it was deliberate, that the entire plot of the movie revolved around being unable to tell good guys from bad (and even that "good" and "bad" are a lot greyer than one would like), and yet Cap told his compatriot, "The bad guys are the ones shooting at us."

I have a question: The Winter Soldier was worked on by the scientist... but wasn't the scientist captured in the taking of that train? Did I miss something?
Apr. 6th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC)
Re: Spoilers, of course
Yes, Zola was captured and put to work for SHIELD and the US govt, both of which were infiltrated by Hydra. It was there that he turned Bucky into Winter Soldier.
Apr. 6th, 2014 01:41 am (UTC)
Re: Spoilers, of course
So the scene with Bucky being taken out actually took place some number of years later?

The Winter Soldier was a Russian tool, not US. (I know, Hydra infiltrated everyone. But why would the US have let Zola go at all?)
Apr. 6th, 2014 01:45 am (UTC)
Re: Spoilers, of course
I don't remember the scene where they recover his body very well so I can't say. And I'm pretty sure WS was a Hydra asset who was used where ever they wanted to use him (in the movie, obviously. The comics are different.)
Apr. 6th, 2014 12:21 am (UTC)
Didn't you see the first Captain America movie? This reads as though you're surprised that Evans carried it off, and he was letter-perfect in the first one.
Apr. 6th, 2014 01:40 am (UTC)
He was perfect in both, yes, but I keep underestimating him. Maybe I watch too much CW.
Apr. 6th, 2014 01:42 am (UTC)
By which I mean: one show.
Apr. 6th, 2014 09:46 am (UTC)
A lot of people keep being surprised by how good Evans is, so you're not alone. :) I saw him in some...Keanu Reeves movie...years ago and I was like "...this dude can act!" and haven't been as surprised since then, but yeah. He's really just perfect.
Apr. 6th, 2014 12:07 pm (UTC)
I saw him in the Fantastic Four movies and thought he was letter-perfect as Johnny Storm, too -- so much that I was a bit doubtful about him doing Cap until I saw that he DID understand the character.
Apr. 6th, 2014 07:59 pm (UTC)
It's the exercise thing. I know it's ridiculous, but I can't help associate really fit people with people who are capable of being really fit but not much else.
Apr. 6th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
No, I totally get it. It took me like six years to come around to the fact that Brad Pitt is actually a really good actor, because the first thing I saw him in was Thelma & Louise, where his job was to be stunningly beautiful, and I figured the only reason somebody that pretty was in movies was because he was so pretty. Couldn't be because he was talented...
Apr. 7th, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
Very well-put review.

"At the start of AoS, that was what Chloe wanted, yes?"
You mean Skye, who is played by Chloe Bennet?
Apr. 7th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oop! I did mean Skye. Thank you.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )