Whomever put together the trailers needs to be smacked upside the head with Cap’s shield for blowing Fury’s fake-death. Not that anyone even vaguely familiar with the character or the superspy genre believed it for a moment, but showing people the scene where Fury is having a post ‘death conversation with Steve really robs the fake death of all its narrative weight.
And no, Agent Sitwell, no. This is the sort of sense of betrayal they were hoping to give us in Star Trek VI when they’d originally intended for the traitor to be Savvik, only instead we got emotionally inconsequential new character Valeris. Not that Sitwell is particularly likeable, but he's familiar and that counts a good deal.
This is so far the best of the Phase 2 movies — it’s more thrilling than the comparatively introspective buddy movie Iron Man 3 and more tightly pulled together than the somewhat meandering Thor 2 (which really wore its task to set up GOTG and Avengers 3 on its sleeve).
The surprise reveal of the Zola AI was one of those moments of great coolness that seem few and far between, and the boxy camera above the monitor was a really really nicely done touch that shouts out to the clunky original design in a clever and unobtrusive way. Given the MCU had functional AI in the late 70s (albeit based on human donor engrams), introducing AIs in the 21st century that aren’t StarkTech derived — such as the one in Fury’s car, or the dumb AI on the data drive — feels pretty seemless.
(I’m thinking we haven’t seen the last of Zola — given he had access to Fury’s file that was updated to include his death, that very much implies he has access to an open network. I can’t help put picture him residing in one of the Insight sattelites and think that maybe he does something to JARVIS that results in Ultron. I don’t think he’s going to prove to be the Clairevoyant though, even as a digital copy. It feels a little too neat to be entirely satisfying.)
Falcon, I loved unreservedly. I know pretty much next to nothing about his comics version, but Mackie’s take is pretty note perfect. War never changes, and the writing of the scenes where they bond is just right. The MCU does a lot of things well, and they’re really good at selling us the regular people who find themselves in the company of myths and legends and monsters, and finding they have what it takes to step up to them. “I do what he does, just slower” is probably my flat out favourite line of the movie because it hits the heart about what makes Steve great: he inspires others to go where he goes.
Chris again nails it as Steve, with that mix of boyish charm, earnest integrity, institutional paternity, and the sense of a man lost. His scenes the Carter women were just as important as his ones with Falcon, showing us the human behind the icon. Especially the one with Peggy. I’m kind of a sucker for timelost renions, and her mental drifting was both touching and thematically tightly done.
The Smithsonian exhibit was clever, and I love that it meant they could bring back the really cool costume from the 1st movie — as well as helping bring back Bucky whom I suspect we’ll see picking up the shield before Avengers 3 hits. There’s really not a lot to say about Bucky otherwise — the Winter Soldier is essentially a cipher for most of the movie, but those flashes of anguished confusion were done well enough.
Given that Smithsonan voice over about the creation of supersoldiers being a known and overt weapon development thread to the point that they blithely mention it in public museums? I have a deep suspicion that in addition to setting Bucky up as the new Cap for Avengers 3, the third Captain America film is going to be in part riffing on the Red, White & Black storyline that introduced Isiah Bradley and eventually his grandson Patriot. Investigating the legacy of the Captain America identity with both storylines makes a heck of a lot of sense and as an added benefit it helps create the stepping stone for the Young Avengers franchise
Sam Jackson was Sam Jackson.
Robert Redford was a good villain of the best sort — that see themselves as the heroes of the story and not the villain in someone else’s. He certainly brought a welcome gravitas to the role — he could easily have taken it as a scenery chewing role, but he plays it straight like you’d expect out of any non-spandex conspiracy thriller.
Scarlett gives a good performance as the MCU Black Widow and I think Marvel made a good call pairing her with Cap for the movie because with her character development she really helps sell the fact that Steve has a Charisma stat in the mid to high 20s. I specify MCU because she isn’t who I’d have chosen for the comics version of the character — she lacks that something, that element of Soviet coldness and weariness. Which is fine because this Widow is brilliantly a product of the post-Soviet era and like Jackson’s Fury, cutting away the ersatz-Serum past is a decision that is very well made.
(While I hope we still get the Red Room when Marvel get their heads out of their arses and greenlight a Widow stand alone film, I really hope they don’t backtrack on her post-Soviet origins.)
It’s not perfect, though.
Sharon Carter was probably the most underwritten role next to Bucky. Given she’s being set up as the love interest for Cap 3, I would have liked to see her have gotten another scene or two.
The elevator fight is all manner of cool. Ridiculously stupid following the competence porn of Batroc’s takedown. But cool. The magnetic restraints and profusion of muscle show they’re aware of Steve’s physical prowess, so logically they should have just gassed him and avoided the whole mess. You’re not going to tell me that a building built from the ground up with such supersensitive biometrics isn’t going to have built in countermeasures as simple as anaesthetic gas at choke points like lifts. You can still have Steve jump out the window, but you shave 5 minutes off the run time.
I intensely disliked Zola being involved in the creation of the actual Winter Soldier. It should have been as a result of the Soviet version of Paperclip or driven by their own wartime intelligence & anti-Hydra efforts — something about Bucky’s altered nature is what makes cybernetic enhancements work; this science eventually leads to things like Centpede & Deathlok, but also Misty Knight — and only later is he recovered and turned into a direct Hydra asset.
Project Insight though? As has been said, the Captain America property isn’t shy of blunt instruments, but this is just fucking stupid beyond words. Battle of New York or not, no one is going to be okay with three perpetually ‘orbiting’ helicarriers full of railguns sitting watch over them. And they’re certainly not going to let them pre-emptively blow their citizens away; there’s enough of a shitstorm over the US using drones. Not to mention the whole building and launching them from the heart of Washington DC.
Insight would have logically been much better as a subversion of an system intended to combat hostile invaders that ‘most’ people would never dream could be turned against us. That’s the sort of ‘trade freedom for security’ idea that the Chitauri invasion would have prompted — and then the “track you by your DNA before you step out the door” line would have made sense, because the weapon systems would naturally & oestensibly have been designed to make tracking hostile aliens easier when in reality they were being engineered to work with the algorithm to purge would-be challengers to Hydra’s NWO.