Second Opinion: Why ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Isn’t a Masterpiece

captain america winter soldier opinion

It’s strange that the sequel to one of Marvel Studios’ most ho-hum superhero origin stories is among the most celebrated as a standalone feature (and easily the best sequel of the now large catalogue of films).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is often the film to talk about when discussing the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But is it ever talked about as a movie that stands among the greatest superhero movies? That’s not as clear and most likely not the case.

Unlike “First Avenger,” Winter Soldier is not a superhero movie that happens to be a period piece. It is instead a superhero movie that happens to be a spy thriller that Robert Redford himself is cast in to echo Three Days of the Condor. Notice, though, that neither movie starts first as a genre that happens to contain superheroes in it, which arguably the best superhero movies do. Because this is, after all, a movie that has to lay the seeds down for future films, for better or worse.

The film centers around a freshly minted Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans, as confident as ever), the man out of time who’s having trouble adjusting to a life beyond the one he had in the 1940s. His friends, connections, and even his values have been severely outpaced by his biology (and circumstantial preservation), as he’s trapped in a new world that uses him a lot more than they seem to need him.

captain america winter soldier

And he embraces this workload by diving headfirst into his job at S.H.I.E.L.D. and ignoring the suggestions of fellow Avenger Black Widow (played expertly here by Scarlett Johansson)  to get out there again and make a new life for himself. But he’s unable to do this anyway when a shadowed figure from his past arrives to disrupt a Big Brother world that Steve himself is disillusioned by, making the audience wonder why Captain America has to fight this battle at all.

It’s amazing that throughout this runtime, that is the question audiences are wondering. They aren’t put off by Captain America’s name, his moralistic nature, or his costume. Despite the fact that it’s hardly easy to relate to a man who represents excellence in every aspect, from his physical prowess to his righteousness. But the way he represents these ideals is something we can relate to, because almost all of us wish we were a little bit like Captain America, especially those of us who have grown up idolizing superheroes.

It just so happens that the handiwork of Winter Soldier is good cinema as well. The atmosphere, action scenes, and acting are all enhanced by the Russo Brothers’ vision and a solid script as mentioned. The movie is much like Captain America himself, in that it gets the job done — no more, no less.

But it’s the “no more” aspect that ultimately inhibits Winter Soldier from being one of the great superhero movies. Nothing in the film is exactly new or intriguing outside itself, but it’s still ust a great recipe that someone has managed to put together perfectly, rather than a turning point for the genre (not that it needed to be).

captain america winter soldier

This is fine because Winter Soldier already exceeded expectations by daring to even be good at all, putting forward an incredibly entertaining sequel about a character who’s seemed behind the times in more ways than one. Perhaps the film’s status as an underdog is why so many fans call it their favorite of the MCU, even above massive hits like The Avengers. I have a hard time disagreeing with them, because despite all of the credit Winter Soldier owes to previous Marvel films, it’s easily the most complete out of all of them.

Second Opinion Grade: A-

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Second Opinion: ‘Prince of Persia’ Could Have Been Something Special

prince of persia opinion

Directed by Mike Newell (who also directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and some other fantasy films), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time came out in 2010 as one of the later attempts to revitalize (or just vitalize) the trend of adapting popular video games into movies.

When this film was on the horizon, a lot of gamers were ready to love it, because unlike a lot of other ill-fated adaptations, everyone agreed that Prince of Persia was a game that lent itself nicely to the feature film treatment. Even better, this was a game franchise that had already been successfully reinvented many times since the 80s.

That said, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was intended to be a film adaptation of the 2003 hit video game of the same name. But that didn’t really happen. Instead, Jerry Bruckheimer produced a film that deviated heavily from its video game source material, maintaining only the most superficial aspects of the game that define its identity.

Yes, the main character has the power (somewhat) to turn back time with a dagger, though it’s hardly used in this movie. And he’s a quick-moving prince living in a Persian empire who must team up with a feisty princess (played well here by Gemma Arterton). But rather than adapt the more thrilling aspects of this character, who loses his family in the night due to the villainous treachery of their sorcerer advisor amidst a castle magicked to all hell, Prince of Persia (the movie) focuses on traditional swashbuckling adventure akin to Bruckheimer’s work in Pirates of the Caribbean.

prince of persia opinion

This isn’t inherently a bad thing, as long as you’re able to buy into a British-accent Jake Gyllenhaal playing someone who lives as Persian royalty after being adopted as a street orphan. The adventure boils down to the prince being framed for treason and then trying to prevent a magical sandstorm that will wipe out everyone in the world, which is a far cry from the more singular, human adventure in the games where only a kingdom is at stake.

For all of the fun Prince of Persia tries to have, its main problem is lacking any sort of identity that it could have easily gleaned from its source material. A generic plot and world-ending villainy are even less interesting when none of the characters (even Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, and Ben Kingsley) have nothing interesting to say beyond their simplistic motivations.

There are bright spots whenever the film shows off some now-dated parkour reminiscent of the games, but even the Dagger of Time, a powerful plot device in and of itself, is relegated to B-movie time travel plots we’ve seen before, rather than the effect that reversing mistakes at will can have on a person trying to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the movie never really gets that interesting, but it also manages to stay light and entertaining throughout. Like National Treasure to a lesser degree, Sands of Time is full of breezy action with likable enough characters thrown into the chaos. But even its own special effects are hard to swallow, since even basic rooftop antics are enhanced with CGI for the sake of spectacle, and it was just as noticeable 6 years ago as it is now.

prince of persia opinion

Getting down to it, the major problem with Sands of Time has nothing to do with it being an imperfect movie. Plenty of enjoyable adventure films have glaring flaws that you forgive because you love being in this world that’s been created for you. Sands of Time lacks this type of setting, with characters whose chosen names could have used more debate, a historical backdrop devoid of awe (Secret Guardian Temple, anyone?), and an uninspired…well, everything else.

Second Opinion Grade: C-

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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