Recap of the First Ten Minutes of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

     February 25, 2014


Last night, Marvel hosted a World Premiere of their new short film: the Iron Man 3 ‘sequel’ All Hail the King.  Star Ben Kingsley, writer/director Drew Pearce and Marvel honcho Kevin Feige were on hand to discuss the short, which I’ll have a lot more on in the not too distant future.  After the Q&A though, Feige treated the audience to a surprise – the opening ten minutes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  For a recap of Winter Soldier’s opening and some thoughts on it, hit the jump.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-final-posterCaveat: There is no way to surmise the particular quality (or lack thereof) of a motion picture based only on ten minutes. To be fair – I could tell you the first ten minutes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a step-by-step re-enactment of the opening scene of Withnail and I, substitute Chris Evans for Paul McGann – and, hell, everybody reading this article would still be there premiere night for the Marvel action flick.  Now that I write that, I would honestly probably prefer that opening…

Alas – Captain America begins with our intrepid Steve Rogers jogging around the Lincoln Memorial Pool at the crack of dawn.  There’s only one other jogger out there at the same time: Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson (later to become The Falcon). Wilson’s just a normal Average Joe – so he’s repeatedly lapped over and over again by the super soldier throughout the day. What follows is ostensibly a ‘meet cute’ between the two men, each impressed by the other’s work ethic and their shared feeling of being ‘out of place’.  See: Wilson is returning from active duty and is having trouble adjusting to civilian life, whereas Rogers is literally displaced from time having just recently been thawed out of an icy coma. They banter back and forth, chummy like, as if they soon were about to become the best of friends. Their inevitable ‘bromance’ though is interrupted when the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) comes rolling in (driving what else but a black Corvette) and whisks Rogers away for a covert S.H.I.E.L.D mission.

Next we are introduced to underrated character actor Frank Grillo (playing per IMDB – as I missed any mention of his name in the opening – Brock Rumlow). Rumlow briefs Rogers on his mission en-route via military aircraft. A luxury liner has been hijacked by a group of pirates led by Georges Batroc (Georges St. Pierre). Amongst the passengers is a top-level scientist – who must be protected no matter what the cost. Etcetera. Etcetera. The details don’t really matter as the scene really functions a chance for Rogers to bemoan ‘his janitor’ status at S.H.I.E.L.D and bicker playfully with the Black Widow about his non-existent dating life. It’s pretty much that scene in any romantic comedy where the supporting male/female chides the lead female/male about their lack of a significant other – when you, the viewing audience, know damn well that the only ‘right’ person for the two is one another and all this ‘you should date/get out more’ nonsense mere subterfuge for their own unrequited feelings and in about ninety minutes time these two crazy kids are going to come to the not-so-shocking conclusion that they’re perfect for each other and want to make out and stuff… except in Captain America 2, this scene ends with the lead male jumping out of an aircraft sans parachute.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-chris-evans-scarlett-johanssonAnyways – Captain America infiltrates the luxury liner and engages in hand-to-hand combat with some woefully under-prepared pirates. Much of the action scenes interestingly enough are shot hand-held, the camera jerking back and forth & racking focus constantly. It’s not quite ‘Bourne Identity-level jerky camera’ – but I’d say it’s equatable (most recently) to ‘Robocop (2014)-level jerky camera’, if not somewhat more incomprehensible. Call me old fashioned – but it’s a little disappointing that the sequel seemingly has abandoned Joe Johnston’s classically staged and clear cut action sequences in favor of the newfound fad of shaky ‘You’re there in the midst of it’ action choreography.

I wish I could say that the Russo Brothers impressed me based on the footage screened – but much of it looked flat and journeyman. Gone is the heightened color schematic of First Avenger, instead replaced with a much darker and non-descript look. The pirate/luxury liner fight sequence reminded me a lot of the opening evacuation sequence in The Avengers – in that while technically competent, it lacked any sort of specific vision. Yeah – it’s cool to watch Captain America super-punch a pirate off a boat or the Black Widow effortlessly mow down any number of baddies – but this opening sequence is content with just that: being cool. It doesn’t have the nostalgic edge that Johnston brought to First Avenger’s action beats or the smart-ass playfulness that Shane Black brought to Iron Man 3’s.

On the positive side: the opening ten minutes of Winter Soldier are fairly funny. There are enough zingers and witty asides in the opening minutes to fill up a half-hour sitcom, my favorite being a quick cut to Roger’s list of ‘Things to Catch up on in the Modern Century’ (Nirvana, Steve Jobs, Thai Food top the list). Chris Evans, much as he was in the first film and The Avengers, remains completely affable as Captain America – able to perfectly balance the other worldly heroism of the Captain with the aw-shucks humility of Rogers. He’s matched with equally winning performances (at least in the snippet of screen time privy to) from Johansson and Mackie. Both are well at ease and most importantly seem to be having fun in their respective roles. They bounce off well with Evans – and I look forward to seeing where their relationships go in the film.

All in all, while the footage may have been slightly underwhelming – there are still so many other key parts yet to fully be introduced (The Winter Soldier!, Robert Redford!, Helicarrier destruction!) that I know I’ll undoubtedly still be first in line for Winter Soldier come April 4th, just as I know you most certainly will be as well.

Captain America: Winter Soldier opens everywhere April 4th.

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