Sunday, April 13, 2014


I have to admit I probably wasn't going to go see CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER on the big screen. But after hearing so many people talk about how it was, in their opinion, the best Marvel movie ever, I decided to check it out.

Is THE WINTER SOLDIER the best Marvel movie of all time? Well, it certainly ranks right up there. It is more of a "Marvel Universe" tale instead of a Captain America story--the film has huge parts for Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. The story details the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D--and does it in a way that hearkens back to the political conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s. The casting of Robert Redford in a key role makes sense, considering he starred in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR--Redford even spends most of the movie wearing a 1970s-style three-piece suit. And is that the Watergate building off in the distance behind S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters?

This latest Marvel Studios product is like most of their others--it is well-made, entertaining, and fun to watch. The action sequences are more believable, and more intense, than most comic-book movies. The CGI has been ramped down a bit for this entry (that is, until the finale). I wouldn't say that this is a dark film...but it has a different vibe than most of the Marvel output. THE WINTER SOLDIER taps into the ongoing debate about security & surveillance vs. personal freedom--but it does it in a way that avoids angering people politically.

You have to give Marvel Studios a lot of credit for taking numerous lead and subsidiary characters and featuring them over a series of different films (and a TV show), and making the whole thing work. The Marvel Studios "universe" is unique in film history--at least, I can't think of any other example. The only thing that comes to mind is the Universal Monsters series of the 1940s, where Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein Monster starred in their own films, were then pitted against each other, and then co-starred with Universal's Abbott & Costello.

I've often wondered when the whole movie comic-book genre was going to start to fall off. After so many entries, people would have to get tired of these type of films least you'd think they'd start to. But the huge success of THE WINTER SOLDIER (I believe that this movie has made more money in a couple weeks than the first Captain America movie did during its entire run) proves that audiences still go for this product--especially when it is made by Marvel Studios. These are pure popcorn films, made for the general public, not for obsessed fanboys. There is a bit of geekiness to them, but not enough to drive away mainstream viewers. That's the Marvel Studios formula. It is one that might annoy hardcore comic book fans and elitist film buffs, but movies are made to make money and to be seen--and no one is doing that better right now than Marvel. You don't have to be a huge comic-book fan, or even a huge Marvel fan, to enjoy these films. I'm a DC fan, but I can watch these adventures and still be entertained.

DC Comics, which is owned by Warners, is so far behind the curve movie-wise that it's not even a contest anymore. Captain America is a perfect example. This is a superhero that on the surface might seem a little boring--he's honest, upright, and patriotic....kind of like Superman. But while DC/Warners seem to have no clue on how to present Superman on the big screen, Marvel has done an excellent job in portraying the Captain, along with many other characters that would seem impossible to transfer to the cinema.

Marvel Studios is on a roll right now, and it doesn't seem that they are going to slow down anytime soon. It looks like Disney might be planning to do the same thing with the Star Wars universe that Marvel is doing with theirs on-screen. Like it or not, comic-book movies are going to continue to dominate the industry for what looks like years to come.

Oh, by the way....I still think the best Marvel-based film is X-MEN.

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