Tag Archives: Captain America The Winter Soldier

‘Arrow,’ ‘SHIELD’ look to finish strong

arrow ravager city of blood

I’m not one of those fans that has to declare a victor in the war between Marvel and DC. They’re both doing well – if very differently – in particular areas outside comics, including live-action movies and TV and animation.

Marvel’s big-screen universe is firing on all cylinders through a timetable that, if we’re to believe a recent interview with mastermind Kevin Feige, is loosely planned through 2028. The producers of Marvel movie outliers like the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” series are trying to build their own universes, although that could be a challenge. I still wish we’d see the universes combined on screen someday.

As for DC, Warner Bros. is flat-out struggling to build a cohesive movie universe. The “Man of Steel” sequel featuring Batman – with Wonder Woman and Cyborg and possibly other characters in supporting roles – could be cool or it could fall as flat as “Green Lantern.” And DC has just announced that director Zach Snyder will follow the “Man of Steel” sequel with a “Justice League” movie.

DC’s plans feel a little rushed, with none of the universe-building that Marvel has engaged in with its “Avengers” lead-ins and follow-ups. But maybe it’ll turn out nifty.

On TV, there’s no question that “Arrow,” the second-season CW adaptation of Green Arrow, is the best superhero series ever.

And over on ABC, “Agents of SHIELD” – after a first half of this debut season that felt like wheel-spinning or slow burn, depending on how charitable you might be – is building to what might be a genuinely thrilling climax.

Both series have three episodes left this season. Here are some thoughts:

“Arrow”: After setting up Slade (Deathstroke) Wilson as the good-guy-turned-bad-guy this season, the series has let Slade run rampant on Oliver Queen and his city, family and team. Last week’s episode ended with Slade killing Oliver’s mother, Moira, in a cruel mirror to the “choice” Oliver was given by Ivo on the island.

What we want to see: More DC characters – including Ravager, pictured above, who appears in “City of Blood,” the next episode – more twists, more peril, more return visits from past favorites and more triumph for Team Arrow.

What we don’t want to see: An easy way out for anybody.

agents of shield nothing personal

“SHIELD”: Spinning off events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” finds itself in a world where SHIELD itself is in shambles. The agents are on the run, striking back at enemy organization HYDRA and building alliances. All the while, they’re dealing with the treacherous Agent Ward, who has turned out to be a HYDRA agent and has been killing SHIELD agents right and left.

What we want to see: Well, we already know Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) returns in this week’s episode, “Nothing Personal,” and Samuel L. Jackson is supposed to return as Nick Fury in “Beginning of the End,” the season finale set for May 13. So we’re getting return visits from some favorites. We also want more revelations, including more big-picture tie-ins to the movie universe.

What we don’t want to see: The redemption of Agent Ward. We want him and Agent Garrett (the great Bill Paxton) to continue as our favorite HYDRA turncoats into the second season.

The longterm big picture for both series – if “SHIELD” returns for a second season – could be fantastic. “SHIELD” will be building toward the May 2015 premiere of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

And although it’s unlikely, it’s possible Warners will tie “Arrow” to its big-screen franchise in some way. Warners could do a whole lot worse – and likely will – if it ignores the universe created for the small screen.

 

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Hail Hydra! You know the drill

hail hydra steranko

If you saw “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” you know (spoilers) that Marvel’s longtime super-science, super-evil group Hydra plans a big role.

And you know that “Hail Hydra” is the special password members of Hydra have used since the first “Cap” movie.

Of course, “Hail Hydra” has been around in the comics as long as Hydra has been around, and in the movies  it’s never been used more effectively than when Garry Shandling’s corrupt senator whispers it in corrupt SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell’s ear.

So the exchange almost immediately inspired a host of Internet memes.

hail hydra lost in translation

This is the first one I saw.

hail hydra bush cheney

This one is great.

hail hydra godfather

And this one.

hail hydra bert and ernie

Can’t top this one.

 

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ one of Marvel’s best

captain america the winter soldier illus

There’s been a lot of talk about “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – which I’m going to refer to by some shorter title from here on out – being a game changer for Marvel Studios and its big-screen cinematic universe.

And it is, in a way. Marvel, through co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo, seem prepared to start making changes in the on-screen universe they’ve established.

That risk-taking is only one of the elements that makes “Winter Soldier” feel like we’re now seeing events play out in a living, breathing, changing universe, one that changes a little bit more after the events of every Marvel movie.

I’ll be throwing in some spoilers later in this review, but I’ll warn you first. And I’ll be acknowledging that a big rumor I had speculated about a few weeks ago was wrong, wrong, wrong.

“Winter Soldier” almost feels like more of a “SHIELD” movie or sequel to “The Avengers” than a sequel to “Captain America,” and that’s appropriate. Steve Rogers, who “died” near the end of the first movie, only to be thawed out and revived and  eventually teamed up with Iron Man, Hulk and Thor in “The Avengers” two years ago, has gone to work for SHIELD, the super-spy agency led by Nick Fury. Cap (Chris Evans, again charming and low-key and a straight-arrow without being a parody of a paragon of virtue) is working alongside Natasha, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on SHIELD ops.

A nighttime raid on a ship at sea ably demonstrates not only Cap’s, Natasha’s and their SHIELD team’s lethal effectiveness but the twisty-turny nature of the work they do. While Steve is there to rescue hostages, Natasha is there to retrieve information from a SHIELD computer on board. (I’m going to have to see the movie a second time to figure out exactly why Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, with more to do here than usual) knew he could find this info on the ship.)

So while Steve is frustrated at Fury’s duplicitousness – and Natasha’s too, frankly – he’s otherwise adjusting well to the modern world. He’s got a list of pop-culture and historical milestones to catch up on – “Star Wars” is included, as is the moon landing – and he’s befriended Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a fellow veteran who is a VA counselor.

As Cap tries to tell the bad guys from the good guys – aside from his helpful suggestion to Sam that the bad guys will be the ones shooting at them – we’re introduced to Alexander Pierce (Robert freakin’ Redford), a Cabinet-level official who oversees SHIELD.

Before too long, it’s obvious that things are not what they seem with several characters and SHIELD is not the organization Steve would like for it to be. In fact, it’s the organization he and Tony Stark worried about in “The Avengers.” The organization that is experimenting with technology developed by HYDRA and the Red Skull in the first “Cap” movie.

The great part about the Captain America character, as created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, and revived by Kirby and Stan Lee in 1964, is that he’s a man out of time, that his values are unchanging. He’s not a stick-in-the-mud and he’s not a priss. He kills because he’s a soldier, but he won’t kill if someone, even an enemy, can be saved.

The greatest test for Steve is saving the character he shares the movie’s title with. The Winter Soldier is a nearly-unstoppable killing machine, sent out by Hydra to usher in the bloody carnage that leads to a new world order. He’s played by Sebastian Stan, of course, who played Steve’s lifelong friend, James “Bucky” Barnes, in the first “Cap” movie. Here – as in the comics – Bucky, returned from the dead, is a merciless, brainwashed assassin. Once Steve knows who he is, the question becomes, how can he save Bucky instead of killing him?

“Winter Soldier” is two and half hours long, more or less, but never feels that long. Some reviews have declared it’s better than “The Avengers,” but I’m not sure I agree. It is one of the best Marvel movies, no doubt.

This isn’t surprising, considering the nature of the movie and the genre, but “Winter Soldier” feels especially brutal. There’s less Iron Man-style repulsor ray action and less Thor “hammer down” fighting here. This is hard, bone-crunching, hand-to-hand combat with fists and knives. There’s a lot of gunplay and vehicular mayhem. It never feels as callous as the combat scenes in “Man of Steel,” but if you’re sensitive to the idea of this kind of stuff … well, what were you expecting?

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is one of the best of the Marvel movies. It’s a big story about the fight against murderous political ambitions but at the same time a more personal story about trust: Which people and institutions deserve your respect and your trust? For the Marvel movie universe, “Winter Soldier” definitively answers that question.

Okay, spoilers from here on out.

Ready?

Easter eggs are some of our favorite things about these movies, and “Winter Soldier” had plenty of them.
Not only do Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and other major characters get name-dropped – you would expect that – but there’s at least one reference to a major Marvel character to come. Stephen Strange is named as an enemy of Hydra. Why Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, would be taking on this organization is not quite clear, but it was, I hope, a nice foreshadowing of a movie that’s been rumored to be in development.

Toby Jones’ appearance – in an altered form – as Zola, the Skull’s scientific minion, is a treat. It’s such a substantial role that it doesn’t really qualify as an Easter egg, but what the heck. I’ll include it anyway.

I’m sure that on repeated viewings I’ll see more of these, but there’s apparently a quick reference to Stark Tower – the geographic focus of the battle in “The Avengers” – as one of the locations chosen for Pierce’s doomsday scenario attacks. I’m guessing that other locations, glimpsed briefly onscreen, would also offer up some goodies.

How great was it to see Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter? I hope her “Agent Carter” series happens. Seeing her helping form SHIELD in the 1950s would be so much fun. And throw in some Howling Commandos, too.

A lot of sites, including this one, speculated that Redford’s Alexander Pierce was secretly the Red Skull. While I was a little disappointed he was not, thinking it over for a few hours, I’m glad that Pierce was nothing more than a Hydra agent, a politically and morally compromised mad man whose plan for implementing a new world order admittedly rivaled the Skull’s for its viciousness.

Marvel’s weekly TV series, “Agents of SHIELD,” has been building, slowly, to the events that occur in “Winter Soldier.” But how “Agents of SHIELD” operates for the rest of this season and, possibly, next, considering that SHIELD itself is a discredited and defunct as a spy agency, will be interesting to see. Keep in mind, the show will have to avoid stepping on storylines that future Marvel movies might take up.

The trailers for “Winter Soldier” made us think that Redford’s SHIELD honcho was talking to Cap when he was telling him he had “shaped the century.” He was not. Obviously.

There’s something so cool about the montage, set to Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man,” near the end of the movie. We see Steve and Sam and Fury but we also see Maria Hill and Sharon Carter and damned if it all doesn’t feel just right.

The first end-credits scene feels like the most puzzling one yet in a Marvel movie for viewers who don’t know the context. As most have already noted, it introduces characters we’re going to see in next summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” including “The Twins,” Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and Hydra leader Baron Von Strucker. While there’s mention of Hydra, the arch-villain organization of the movie, there’s nary a familiar character in sight. It seems like Marvel has enough confidence in us to let us figure out what’s going on.

The second end-credits scene is directly tied to the movie and to future “Cap” movies, perhaps. Bucky’s return after decades and his stint filling in for Steve as Cap are familiar to comics readers. Speculation recently that Bucky actor Sebastian Stan is signed for nine Marvel movies – so as many as seven more from this point – and the fact that Evans currently has only three more movies in his contract – two “Avengers” movies and a “Cap” movie – suggests that Marvel’s long game might follow the comics storyline.

 

 

‘Agents of SHIELD,’ ‘Winter Soldier’ building to … ?

blue-alien-agents-of-shieldIt shouldn’t be surprising that Disney/ABC/Marvel is practicing synergy in how it’s handling ABC’s Tuesday-night series “Agents of SHIELD” and the April 4 release of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the second Marvel movie – after “Thor: The Dark World” – released since “SHIELD” debuted last fall.

There was a “SHIELD” episode earlier in the season that tied in, in a minimal way, to the “Thor” sequel. And Jaimie Alexander guest-starred this week as Sif on “SHIELD,” tracking down fellow Asgardian Lorelei.

But it’s increasingly obvious, as I noted in an earlier piece, that both “SHIELD” and “Winter Soldier” seem to be building to something.

On “SHIELD,” Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has had a season-long arc of discovery as he tries to determine how and why he was brought back from the dead after Loki inflicted a fatal goring in “The Avengers.” So far, we’ve learned that Coulson – and SHIELD team member Skye – were saved by a mysterious liquid that appears to be generated from the half-missing corpse of a blue alien bottled up in a remote SHIELD facility. In last week’s episode, Coulson asks Sif about “blue aliens” and she mentions several, from frost giants (obviously not the answer in this case) to the Kree, the longtime Marvel alien race that spawned not only the original Captain Marvel but also is the mortal enemy of the Skrulls (or the Chitauri, as they were depicted in “The Avengers.”)

By episode’s end, Coulson – frustrated that alien biologics were used in his resurrection and to save Skye – is seeking answers and demanding to speak to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, who’s already appeared on the series).

Promos for the series – using the subtitle (“Uprising”) – would lead us to believe that Coulson’s quest for knowledge may shake up the prevailing image of SHIELD.

As I’ve stated before, SHIELD’s been the subject of sinister undertones in the big-screen Marvel movies, most notably “The Avengers,” when our heroes discovered that SHIELD was experimenting with Hydra weaponry.

I have a feeling this will tie in, more or less, to “Winter Soldier” when it comes out on April 4. The promos for the movie indicate Cap, Black Widow and new partner Sam (aka The Falcon) Wilson might find themselves pitted against SHIELD itself or at least leader figures like the one Robert Redford plays. I’ve previously speculated the role Robert Redford’s character plays in all this (spoilers here if you look).

So what can we infer from this?

Marvel is trying to pull off something that’s extremely tricky. It’s making some pretty big changes to SHIELD, the organization that has been, more or less, the glue that’s held its cinematic universe together from the start.

And it’s doing some while it’s producing a weekly TV series about that organization.

Is the series going to turn its “good guy” into a “bad guy,” with the rank-and-file agents on the outside? Or even on the run?

Method to their madness: Marvel movie credits scenes

Thanos-in-The-Avengers-

In all the verbiage that’s been dedicated to end-credits scenes in Marvel movies, gone unaddressed is the question of why some movies have one end-credits scene and why a few have two.

Early Marvel movies had only one end-credits “stinger,” or “button,” scene. The first, of course, was Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury showing up at the end of “Iron Man” in 2008.

“The Avengers” set a precedent for two credits scenes that was continued in “Thor: The Dark World” and, we’re hearing, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Spoilers ahead, obviously, although some are for movies you’ve probably seen by now. And if you haven’t, why not?

What we’re hearing so far about the end credits scenes from the “Captain America” sequel indicate the movie continues the mini-trend of two end credits scenes but also the trend of making one a direct promo for a future movie and one a character piece.

We saw that in “The Avengers,” which – in its first credits scene – teased Thanos as the bad guy behind the scenes of the movie. Then, in the end credits scene, the tired Avengers sit down for a meal in a nearly-demolished NYC restaurant. It’s a scene that emphasized the humor of director Joss Whedon.

Two end-credits scenes in “Thor: The Dark World” followed that pattern. In the first, the story is advanced toward this August’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” by introducing not only the character the Collector but the concept of the Infinity Stones before the very final scene showed Thor returning to Earth and reuniting with Jane Foster.

Now we’re hearing that two end credits scenes in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” will follow the same approach. One will advance the larger Marvel movie storyline while the other will further the development of one character.

Is it purely a marketing strategy on the part of Marvel? At the end of the original “Captain America,” the most marketing-oriented extra so far included a montage of shots from “The Avengers.”

Is it artistic vision from the director? We know that’s not always the case. “Thor: The Dark World” director Alan Taylor grumbled about the inclusion of footage promoting “Guardians of the Galaxy” at the end of his movie. He didn’t direct it. Likewise, “Avengers” series director and Marvel’s big-screen consultant Whedon directed an “Avengers”-leaning promo at the end of the original “Thor” and, it was announced this week, directed one of the two scenes at the end of “Winter Soldier.”

So we’re guessing it’s more of a savvy, catch-em-while-they’re-in-the-theater-and-create-buzz move by Marvel.

And it’s one that usually adds to the enjoyment of the movies for fans.

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ end credits spoilers?

cap winter soldier poster

As “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” gets screened around the world in advance of international release dates – and the U.S. release of April 4 – spoilers are getting out.

Online this week, dozens of movie news sites repeated realistic-sounding spoilers about end-credit scenes included in those early prints.

You know, of course, the end-credits scenes I’m talking about. Marvel has specialized in them since Nick Fury told Tony Stark about “the Avenger Initiative” at the end of “Iron Man” in 2008.

News broke today that Joss Whedon, mastermind behind “The Avengers” in 2012 and also director of the 2015 summer blockbuster-in-the-making “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” directed one of the “Winter Soldier” credits scenes.

Some of the reports about Whedon are being careful about just what’s in those “Winter Soldier” scenes. Others are not.

Based on early reporting and some conclusion-gathering, here’s what I think we can expect to see during the end credits of the “Cap” sequel.”

Spoilers, naturally.

Still there?

The first end-credits scene by all reports takes us to the lair of Baron Von Strucker, a longtime second-tier Marvel villain who we’ve already heard figures into “Avengers: The Age of Ultron.” It makes sense to introduce Strucker and his prisoners – Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch – somewhere in advance of all three appearing in “Age of Ultron.”

And that somewhere is at the end of “Winter Soldier,” apparently.

The scene reportedly shows Strucker watching Pietro and Wanda, brother and sister, in cells in some remote location. Quicksilver is speeding around his cell; Scarlet Witch is making objects move with her mind/”hex power.”

Strucker reportedly calls them “miracles,” which makes sense considering Fox and the “X-Men” movies have the market cornered on the use of the word “mutants.”

In the second scene, according to spoiler accounts, Bucky Barnes – the Winter Soldier – sees an acknowledgement of his role as Captain America’s World War II sidekick and not only confirms who he is – was – but perhaps gains a better appreciation of Cap, his partner-turned-enemy.

I like how both expand on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in different ways. I’m working on a quick overview of how the past double-end-credits scenes have taken a two-pronged approach. More on that later.

In the meantime, can anything make us look forward to the April 4 opening of “Winter Soldier” more?