Comic movies are rebooted constantly, but most often when things have taken a turn and the box office numbers trend downward.
No sooner had the last Spiderman trilogy wrapped up than they were starting a new series. The campy Batman and Superman films of the 80s and 90s required a grittier interpretation for a modern generation.
But The Avengers? Everything connected to that franchise has turned to gold – which is what makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier such a huge risk and what proves Marvel has perfected the comic movie franchise.
The latest Captain America sets the stage for new villains and new partnerships in an entirely new world. It reboots the entire franchise before things turn south and does so with the same characters, actors and timeline.
It’s brilliant and, much like the way only Captain America could jump out of plane without a parachute, it’s something only Marvel could pull off.
Winter Soldier finds Steve Rogers still learning to adjust to the modern world, both socially, culturally and politically. Black Widow wants to set him up on dates. Falcon wants to help him learn the music he’s missed. And Nick Fury wants him to “get with the program” and adjust to the way SHIELD sees the world.
Only one of his friends is successful in their attempts. I’ll let you guess which one.
The story is reminiscent of a Jason Bourne film – part action movie, part spy thriller – but set in the Marvel universe with superheroes. Like others in The Avengers franchise, the action starts almost from the beginning and goes through all the credits.
Unlike the other films in the series, however, Winter Soldier has a philosophical foundation with real questions we are considering today. Like The Dark Knight, it wrestles with serious question, though it does so in a much lighter manner without the angst of Christopher Nolan’s Batman.
Still Captain America confronts all the relevant topics. Should you be completely honest even when it could hurt you and others? How much should you sacrifice for safety? To what lengths would you go to stop crime, terrorism and war?
Those questions don’t always have easy answers. While, of course, Captain America chooses correctly, it does not come without cost. The right choice is almost always costly.
Old friends and enemies reemerge to provide the momentum for the film, constantly reminding Steve Rogers of his past, but pushing him forward, yet maintaining the values and ideals he fought for in World War II.
It is almost unbelievable that the film is able to advance the characters of Captain America, Black Widow and Nick Fury, while introducing Falcon and new villains, and completely resetting the Marvel Universe. Not only does it accomplish all that, it does it seamlessly in an incredibly entertaining movie.
In just one film, everything has changed, not just for those in this story, but for everyone tangentially connected to the characters or SHIELD.
While other studios and franchises are content to squeeze every possible ticket sale from a stale world and flat characters, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel demonstrates again why they are the best at what they do.
I went into the theater not understanding why The Avengers would need to be freshened up and rebooted, I left thinking that I should have seen it coming the whole time.
But more than simply advancing the overall Marvel Universe, Winter Soldier stands on its own as an exceptional comic movie. We’ve come to expect nothing less from Marvel and they continue to deliver.
If you want to read spoilers on the post-credit scenes, in another post I discuss those and answer the questions raised, including who are the latest villains and future Avenger team members introduced.