Captain America: The Winter Soldier —
Christian Movie Review!
Steve Rogers — aka Captain America — played by Chris Evans, finds the modern world a little difficult to sort through in the sequel to the superhero smash hit Captain America: The First Avenger. If his new environment isn’t difficult enough, things get even more complicated when a ghost from the past, a new threat, rises from the shadows — a mysterious figure called the Winter Soldier. Besides the same stars from previous Avengers films — Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson — Hollywood legend Robert Redford makes his debut in an Avengers story. Thus far, movie critics are going absolutely bananas over this film with a through-the-roof rating on Rotten Tomatoes; one of them is even saying that it is the greatest superhero movie ever made. However, before I answer the question — “Is this really the best superhero movie ever made?” — let’s tackle the parental guidance issues to see if this film is appropriate for you or your family.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: One kissing scene. An older politician alludes to an affair he is having with a 23-year-old, and he makes a veiled reference that is subtle but crude.
Violence/Gore: Dozens and dozens of deaths by gunshot, a few by knife, explosion, falls, vehicle collisions, people getting brutally tased and electrocuted, and one character getting his arm broken. It’s a very high body count, and there’s much more non-stop action than the first film, but the violence is not gory or graphic. For one brief moment, we see the stump of a man’s mangled arm, but it is very brief and fleeting. Overall, the movie stays PG-13.
Language: Mild profanity (a few d-words, s-words, a-words, and h-words).
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: Besides the violence above, there is one intense scene where a character is getting experimented on with a frightening looking head mechanism placed around his skull.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
It deserves all of the high marks it’s getting from critics. One critic, however, suggested it might be the best superhero movie of all time. I cautiously disagree with this while reserving the right to change my mind later — I’m still mulling it over. It is certainly one of the best of all time — easily in the top five, probably top three — but I’m not quite ready to crown it the best ever. It is a superbly thrilling movie, with jaw-dropping action and special effects, that explores the personal depths of characters far more deeply than any other Avengers movie — I will give it that — but as an overall package of excellence from beginning to end, it wasn’t all “tens.” There was one element in particular that I was longing to see explored, explained, and portrayed in detail, but the filmmakers shied away from it. I wish they would’ve added a few extra scenes. And, even with its surprisingly rich character development, it might still be inferior to the mind-blowing Batman films from Christopher Nolan. If I were using the scoring cards from the Olympic games, I might give the movie a 9 out of 10. I can’t get into the details without spoiling things because, wow, there were so many important revelations in this movie that pretty much everything after the first 15 minutes is full of major developments in the general Avengers cannon. This movie really moves the Avengers storyline along quickly. And, more than perhaps any other Avengers movie, it really grabs a hold of the heartstrings without overplaying its hand. It’s extremely effective on an emotional level — both achingly nostalgic and startling with its futurism. Certain elements almost feel like a sci-fi dystopian film (i.e. Minority Report or Blade Runner). In certain ways, it provokes a tangible fear about where our current society is heading.
Redemptive Value and Conclusion
Again, because there are so many diehard Avengers fans, I will not even approach any spoilers — not even with a “spoiler alert” posted. I have always been a strong advocate of seeing movies with as little foreknowledge as possible so that you’re stumbling into the character’s story the way you might stumble into someone’s story — a friend or co-worker or stranger — in real life. I will say this: the movie has some serious depth to it. It continues the Captain America ethos — his seemingly “old-fashioned” American Judeo-Christian virtue and selflessness — but places Captain America in a difficult place: he has to continually, on a daily basis, come to terms with his unfinished past that he had to leave behind. He is very much an incomplete person, and he knows it. Beneath all the layers of action scenes, there is a powerful story of a man who is wrestling with emptiness and the demons of his past. It is surprisingly easy to relate to on a basic human level. Ultimately, the sequel does what the first movie began: it portrays a struggle between two age-old opponents — the selfless way of life and the selfish one. On a certain level, we see the way of Christ depicted very powerfully — albeit not literally but through symbolism — as it is contrasted with the way of evil, which is all about self-centered arrogance, the worship of human wisdom based on moral relativism, and using power for one’s own benefit. The villain portrays a “there is no right or wrong” type of worldview that comes to its logical conclusion (though I won’t say how), and Captain America remains steadfast as a symbol of our need for absolute standards of morality.
In addition, the movie provides a ruthless satire of our modern surveillance state mentality by which we have nurtured so much fear about chaos and terrorism that we have reached the point where we are willing to give up our freedoms for the sake of security; and this security is ensured by an all-powerful state. This is the accusation that the movie brings to America’s feet. It is sobering to watch as we see how someone like Captain America — a hero from the Greatest Generation — would most likely react to the complete elimination of personal privacy that we have witnessed in recent modern times. This film is a timely film indeed.
Update: The directors of this sequel just gave an interview stating plainly that the film is a direct critique of Obama Administration policies. You can read their comments here, though it contains plot spoilers.
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