When I saw Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, I hated it. For an action movie, it's ugly, plodding, and there is far too much talking. It's more video game than movie. I disliked it so much that I vowed on the spot not to watch any sequels.
Fast forward to this year as several of my friends insisted that the sequel was far superior to the original, correcting most of its predecessor's flaws. Naturally, I resisted, at least until my father and I were looking for something to do one evening last week. So now I've seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Let me leave no doubt about what I thought: I hated it, too.
165. (702.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Just like the original, it takes far too long to get moving. So many — too many! — characters are introduced, briefly sketched out, then forgotten about for the next hour. I know that the last film considered character development to be optional, but that doesn't mean that this movie needs to devote its first hour to correcting that mistake. We also don't need to see minor characters in their own action scenes just so that we can judge how much trouble they are going to be for our hero later. The good Captain spends forever moping about the past, but I can't really blame him for that. He doesn't seem to be the focus in his own movie.
The Black Widow is around because the Marvel movie universe only has one female hero. And if you have Black Widow, you have to give her screen time (and a potential romance!). Ditto Nick Fury. Ditto Falcon. Ditto Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, Crossbones, Arnim Zola. Captain America is a supporting character in his own movie!
Instead of watching Captain America and his giant supporting cast battle AIM or the Flag-Smasher or the Serpent Squad (although we do get a tete-a-tete with an inexplicably durable Batroc the Leaper), we have to wait for a conspiracy to develop slowly within SHIELD, the movie's fictionalized NSA analogue. This turns good guys into bad guys and bad guys into good guys and, aw, who the hell cares. Captain America is no spy! The man wears a bright red, white, and blue costume and carries a metal shield that definitely will not fold up to be hidden in a briefcase. With Captain America, what you see is what you get. So by all means, let's squeeze him into a movie about the ethics of spies!
Speaking of spies, the worst part of the movies is the Cold War cast-off Winder Soldier. This character is in the title of the movie, but don't let that fool you. He's not important to the plot. He only takes up space so that Captain America has something personal to fight for when the spy movie devolves into a disaster movie. It's not enough to devote 2 hours to the juxtaposition of Captain America's antiquated 19th-century morality against the ethical quicksand born of Cold War gamesmanship and muddied by post-9/11 paranoia. No, for Captain America to have to make the hard choice between defending the public welfare and securing personal liberties, he has to fight his own family! What a cop-out.
Most of these flaws could probably be overlooked if the movie was fun, but it simply isn't. Like everything DC is making these days, it takes itself far too seriously while ignoring illogical character behavior. It doesn't help that there are as many locations as there are characters — seriously, there are scenes in three different character's kitchens — all apparently a thin excuse to justify why the other Avengers aren't called for support between action set pieces. Given that so much time is spent on character development, there's not even any suspense that Captain America and all of his friends won't live to save the day for capitalism! Yawn.
So I made a vow and I broke it. Shame on me. But I will not make the same mistake again. When Captain America 3 comes along, I'll spend my time on something entertaining instead.