The title is confusing, right? It reads like Captain America is the Winter Soldier. But he isn’t. The Winter Soldier is some guy with grunge hair and something like one of those masks they put on digs who bite people. A nasty piece of work, he’s a killing machine: insistent, determined, affectless, walking doom. Anton Chigurh with a super-powerful metal arm. I don’t think he blinks. He and Captain America face off several times in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which obviously should have been called Captain America Versus The Winter Soldier. Anyway, it’s long. 136 minutes long.
It’s also, for at least half of the movie, action-packed and fairly engaging. Not unlike Captain Phillips, Captain America takes on pirates. Samuel L. Jackson tells a story about his elevator operator grandfather that I quite liked. Scarlett Johansson jumps around and kills people while wearing really tight pants. There are deftly staged chase scenes with many crashes and explosions. Then we get to this turning point that’s entirely dependent on a dopey conspiracy theory that suggests the evil Hydra organization is somehow behind every act of malfeasance over the last 60 years, and are days away from launching an evil scheme to kill millions of hapless citizens for nothing other than the possibility of their future crimes. A Minority Report kind of thing, but on an apocalyptic scale. Big themes: free will versus pre-determination, the perils of a world in which algorhythms are taken as the word of God, and so on. But even within the comic-myth-logic of the movie, things start getting way too silly and excessive.
In the previous instalment we learned how Steve Rogers became Captain America during World War II. He got injected with a special serum that made him really muscular and sped up his metabolism—this is before those sports doping scandals—and kicked Nazi ass. Then he got frozen and woke up in 2011, but they really don’t explore the Rip Van Winkle thing anywhere near enough. Captain America’s the opposite of Batman in that he’s very earnest and un-cynical, but like Batman he’s more souped-up-man than superman. Which is what makes parts of Captain America: The Winter Solider so annoying. Captain America seems invincible, and invincible is boring. Dude leaps out of airplanes without a parachute, seriously? Winter Soldier seems invincible too. Everyone seems invincible, except Robert Redford, because—spoiler alert!—he’s an evil psycho Nazi prick. I suppose they want to “give you your money’s worth.” It gets wearisome.