HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
HTS Overall Score:92
It’s rare that lightning strikes twice, especially in the movie business. Besides the handful of outliers on the bell curve most sequels dip below their predecessors as they try and amp up everything….the action, the one liners, the characters, you name it. Lightning didn’t strike twice here either, as “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier” doesn’t meet the first movies quality, it actually surpasses it, and by a decent margin. Marvel’s Phase II outings haven’t been as perfect as I would have liked, with this and “Guardians of the Galaxy” being the two exceptions to the rule, and I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot when I heard they were going to infuse the storyline with political machinations and anti-establishmentarianism overtones, but somehow the Russo brothers pulled it off with an action packed adventure that is the one movie that tops both “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” as THE BEST Marvel comics film to date.
Last time we left Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) he was saving New York City and trying to adapt to life in the 21st century. Adapting to life can be tough though, and he’s not the same type of soldier that we’re used to in this day and age. Cap watches as the country that he’s fought for seems to be a shell of its former self, with S.H.I.E.L.D. acting as big brother, taking steps that even he’s not comfortable with. After Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) gets killed in an assassination attempt, Cap is turned on by the brass, leaving it up to himself and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to find out just whom in S.H.IE.L.D. is responsible for the attack. What he finds is worse than he ever could imaging, as it seems the corruption goes deeper than he ever could have imagined with enemies littering the home field.
It seems that the assassin is a ghost story, an almost urban legend in the intelligence universe, a man who’s rumored to have killed dozens of people over the course of 50+ years. Armed with super strength rivaling Cap and outfitted with a mechanical arm he’s a threat to be taken seriously. With his own agency infiltrated by the enemy, Captain America now has to defeat this “Winter Soldier” and stop S.H.I.E.L.D. from making the biggest mistake of their lives, one which will doom them no matter what choice they make.
My inner nerd has to come out and play for a while, because I was really expecting “Captain America 2” to be much of anything. However after seeing it over three times recently I have to say it’s easily the best Marvel movie to date, just edging out “The Avengers” (and the slightly over hyped “Guardians of the Galaxy”) in both fun level and story level, for “Captain America 2” is not just a good comic book movie, but a great movie in general. The story tends to be a bit darker this time around, as we’re dealing with a lot of current fears in modern society. Captain America still has some of his trade mark humor from the first movie, but Cap is burdened down with a lot of fears of his own, as he watches the country that he bled for heading down the same path that created the villains that he fought for so long. The governments of the world are so paranoid about crime that they are willing to give up their citizen’s freedom to achieve this security. Without those freedoms all that Rogers can see is fear and domination.
The seriousness of the film is quite refreshing, as I’ve felt the last several Marvel movies have gone to the absurd and let the humor take too much away from the storylines. With the Russo brothers having so much experience with comedy (Arrested Development etc) I was worried that we’d have a laugh fest, but “Captain America 2” is about as serious as a heart attack, dealing with social issues and adding action in to create a fantastic political thriller that pleases both comic book fans, and those who like a serious drama in a ways I didn’t see coming. I honestly didn’t expect the film to work, as the minute you see how the villain is and what they’re doing there I rolled my eyes and said “ok, here’s the downward spiral”. It felt like they were rehashing parts of the 1st movie in ways that didn’t seem plausible. However, they somehow managed to keep ahold of the outlandish elements and ground it in reality, balancing the absurd with the deadly serious (and sometimes downright cool as we see with Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and his character change for the film). There’s a LOT of super characters, with Cap, Black Widow, Fury, Falcon, the Winter Soldier and even Zola making a return. So much so that it almost felt like an ensemble film ala “The Avengers”. Still it works and it works well for just about everything.
Now notice that I said JUST ABOUT everything. There are some flaws to the movie that made me not give it a perfect 5/5 rating. The villains reveal is the 1st one, and even though it worked out in the end, the reveal just made me roll my eyes. We’ve seen this in the past and it just felt a little rehashed. Had they actually brought back Hugo Weaving to play “Red Skull” I might have embraced it a little more, but the leader of the organization just didn’t resonate with me. The other major complaint that I had centered on Nick Fury. For most of the movie he’s seen almost as a bad guy, so entranced with order that he couldn’t see what he was giving up for that order, and then at the end of the movie he’s still the same guy, but just slightly illuminated. There wasn’t enough development of his character, or change of his character to justify it. It just felt a little shoe horned into the film and crammed in to try and make it work.
Those complaints aside, this was my favorite movie of the year so far, even rivaling “Edge of Tomorrow” for sheer explosive fun and surpassing it in storyline. There was everything you could have asked for, Guns, hand to hand combat that’s off the charts, comic book reveals of characters that had the nerd in me gleefully dancing and of course, Scarlett Johansson.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26313[/img]Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about! Marvel and Disney have outdone themselves with another 5 star transfer as “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier” rocks on to the Blu-ray with one of the best transfer I’ve seen in the Phase 2 universe. The image is crystal clear with tons of fine detail littering the place. I was salivating all over the floor as I’m picking out little detail like Chris Evan’s razor burn on the right side of his face along with just how amazing his new, more subdued, uniform looked. Colors are very natural with just a slight push towards blue/green and some incredible looking skin tones. Everything looked very very natural and un-stylized, giving you the appearance of looking through a window, while all the while keeping a very filmic presentation with the grain layer. I looked for flaws in the transfer and I couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. No black crush, banding, macroblocking or the like. Just a fantastic looking image.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26321[/img]Not to be left out of the party, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is locked, loaded and firing 50 caliber shells on the Blu-ray with an incredibly nuanced and aggressive track. Dialogue is as good as you can expect, with no distortions or any balance issues, giving us a very detailed and expansive experience. The surrounds are off the charts with accuracy. They aren’t over cooked, or as loud as the mains, but they replicate the little sounds of a land mine sliding across the street, the hum of The Winter Soldier’s mechanical arm and the shockwaves of the gunfire blasting all around. Directionality and panning are amazing, giving us a full 360 degree soundscape and pulls us in all directions over the course of the film. Now we can’t leave out that wonderful LFE channel, as it’s a powerhouse for certain, blasting us in our seats with a roaring lion. The bass isn’t just powerful, but very very deep, many times rattling things across my house when there’s next to no audible output, pushing well into the mid to low teens frequency wise. I love a good audio track, and “Captain America 2” gives us one of the best. Something to really show off the home theater (or tick off your neighbors, depending on your point of view).
• Audio Commentary
• On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America's Battlegrounds
• On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check!
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Steve Rogers' Notebook
• Gag Reel
This is a near perfect release, with the exception of the 30 minutes of anemic extras. This is the one disappointing issue that I’ve had with Disney’s control of Marvel Studios as you may remember the feature crammed editions of “Iron Man” I and II, “Captain America”, the original “Thor” etc. However, that is a small nitpick as the rest of the package is incredible, giving us stellar audio and video with a fantastic movie. Certainly my pick of the year so far along with one other movie (Just a little hint, Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt) and I certainly have to say that this is a must buy if you’re even a small fan of the Marvel comic series.
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French (Canadian), Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 136 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Buy Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Captain America: The Winter Soldier 2D Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It
More about Mike