At this point we more or less know what to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe; crowd-pleasing, though not all-together-challenging films. Marvel had a lot of plates spinning in the lead up to the Avengers, so I'm not trying to fault them. But they've established credibility, marketability, and are now owned by Disney, so their wallets aren't hurting. Here we are in Marvel’s phase two, and the feeling among nerds seems to be that we're all comfortable with Marvel, but maybe too comfortable. We like to be surprised and challenged by a movie's narrative. It's time Marvel stepped up their game and The Winter Soldier looks to be doing that.
One of the main reasons I believe audiences will leave the film feeling more fulfilled than other Marvel movies, is the thematic tug-o-war at the movie's core. Freedom vs. Security.
Cap's legendary status was gained during WWII, a time when battle lines were more clearly defined than they are now in a post- 9/11 world. The biggest threats to our government don't come with a formal declaration of war. The Winter Soldier seems to be approaching the superhero movie through that paranoia-tinged lens. Captain America's namesake suggests we might find him blindly following orders. Not so. And that's why I love him. (Cap, why won't you return my calls?)
Captain America represents the best that America has to offer, though he's not a mouth piece for any one administration. He represents an ideal we strive towards. This is exemplified by his most genuine character moment in the first film when he says, "I don't like bullies, I don't care where they're from."
I think this film couldn't come out at a better time. Since The Patriot Act, Americans have been wondering at what point we should begin to fear those who protect us. Now with the revelations about the wide-spread surveillance and data-gathering techniques utilized by the NSA, these concerns are at the forefront of our minds again. I think a lot of Americans are unsettled. We either need a hug, or a Superhero to help out. Come April, I eagerly await seeing Cap voicing all of our concerns, and showing that you can be a true American while questioning the state of affairs. This film matters now.
While technically not superhuman, Steve Rogers is the peak of physical human perfection. A sampling of his powers from the Marvel database says he can bench press 1,200lbs, run up to 30 mph, and has the agility greater than that of an Olympic gold medalist. Note: If anyone can do any of these things, I would definitely consider them superhuman. But, semantics I guess.
So far I don't think we've been shown the extent of what Cap can do. During the Superhero Civil War Cap tussled with Spiderman (Amazing Spiderman #534), a hero far stronger than him. Despite that, Spiderman barley managed to land a blow on Cap. Cap isn’t an impressive fighter, he's a scary one.
For all his altruism, he's an enemy you don't want to meet on the battlefield. I want to see a fighter whose every punch is as lightening fast as it is calculated, to end his opponent efficiently.
AR: "He’s a man, only more so. We wanted to focus on that intensity, and the visceral texture of who he is and how he fights."
For me there's always been something more appealing about a highly trained human rather than a god fighting. We know what each punch means to a human, even those of us who aren’t part of a fight club. Those fights will always feel the most real.
JR: "Cap doesn’t move at the speed of a normal man. He moves at the speed of an exceptional man, so the sequences are fast. The fighting is very fast and the movements are very fast, but we do want trackable storytelling."
The last phrase, trackable storytelling, in reference to a fight scene, is an important one. Too many directors have tried to ape the fighting style of the Bourne movies, resulting in fight scenes relying increasingly on hyper-fast editing, often to the point of disorientation. The Russos are telling us not to fear; they're making the action hit harder while still maintaining a sense of geography and cohesion. Not every blow necessitates a cut; let the fight breath.
The Winter Soldier!
Thus far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s weak point is its lack of memorable villains. The only ones they really have are Loki and Jeff Bridges from Iron Man 1. Kidding! Loki, that's it! Every Marvel movie so far has been an enjoyable romp with a hero we love, but we can't really say much about the villain in it (other than the films with Loki).
However the titular Winter Soldier looks poised to make a lasting impact on Cap. I know this is a geek website, but I'd hate to spoil someone on the film. Suffice it to say the movie is based on Ed Brubaker's arc 'The Winter Soldier' and to a larger degree his run on Captain America as a whole. If the Comic arc is any indication this will be a surprisingly emotional battle for Steve Rogers.
Obviously nothing is for certain, I'm going off conjecture and trailers cut to make a film look good. But I have a good feeling about this. So with the caveat that I may be wrong, I'll say that if I were a betting man, I'd place my money on Captain America: the Winter Soldier showing us what a great superhero movie looks like.
Image, Captain America vs. Spiderman: http://lounge.moviecodec.com/vs-forum/captain-america-vs-batman-31425/6
Image, Captain America: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/battles-7/captain-america-vs-arkham-city-653647/