Fans of “Twilight,” it is time we shared wet kisses; moist, disgusting hugs; and officially made up because I am sorry. I laughed at you for squealing at the abs of a chiseled pork mound in the “Twilight” saga, but I too have squealed. I squealed in porcine delight at the mere mention of Dr. Strange’s alter ego in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” I gasped in a distractingly girlish manner when, in the same movie, Captain America squared off against such obscure Marvel Universe also-rans as Batroc the Leaper and Arnim Zola. We are two sides of the same garbage coin. We like to watch our beloved fictional characters do the things we expect them to do in expensive, unchallenging movies. We should both be deeply ashamed of ourselves because we’re part of the problem.
But even though our moronic and, let’s face it, embarrassing tastes are destroying creativity and originality in Hollywood, we’re also getting something far more magical in the bargain: a mindless pop-shot of a movie that aggressively alludes to literary or comic book characters that 80 percent of the viewing audience is neither aware of nor cares about. And let me tell you, I would gladly strangle fresh ideas in their stupid little crib if it meant that more movies congratulated me for remembering that characters like Crossbones exist.
Ditching the gee-whiz retro spectacle of the first “Captain America” movie, “Winter Soldier” takes place in our modern cynical era in which the government knows everybody’s name and won’t stop gettin’ all up in our business with its NSAs, wire-tappings, and radio waves that can make you horny. After uncovering a massive conspiracy involving some high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel and a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier, Captain America is ditching his shining golden boy image and taking it on the lam. With the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, whose haircut in the film I strongly disagree with) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in tow, Cap goes on a series of incredible journeys that lead him to an abandoned army base in New Jersey, a large building in Washington, D.C., and, eventually, a grave. It’s more interesting than it sounds.
Owing a heavy debt to paranoid political thrillers like “The Parallax View,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is darker than the average Marvel Studios movie, but it lacks the impending and reassuring sense of doom that pervaded films like “The Parallax View.” Additionally, even though the film, at least initially, seems to be taking a somewhat nuanced and slightly complicated approach to our current surveillance state, the film’s politics eventually take on a simplified “black and white” hue as every bad thing the government has ever done is waved away and blamed on sneaky Nazis.
But you know what? This isn’t “The Hurt Locker.” It isn’t “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s the kind of movie where Garry Shandling playfully whispers the Marvel Universe’s equivalent to “Heil Hitler” in a co-conspirator’s ear. This is the kind of movie where Abed from “Community” inexplicably pops up as a S.H.I.E.L.D. lackey and “Pulp Fiction” references are etched into gravestones. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is claustrophobic elevator brawls, explosive eye patches, and sexy people who are unaware of or uneasy with their own genitals. In other words, this is the kind of electrifying junk that makes the impending death of original ideas a little less sad.
Rating: W W W