For me, the heart of all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been Steve Rogers, a/k/a Captain America, played by Chris Evans. Of all the Avengers lead-up films, Captain America: The First Avenger was the one I was most surprised and delighted by. Despite his incredible new abilities of strength, speed, and stamina, Rogers remained an Average Joe who wanted to do the right thing and serve his country. He is the everyman superhero, and the one most people can relate to. Tony Stark is a billionaire playboy with an ego the size of Pittsburgh, Bruce Banner is essentially a monster trapped in the body of a normal human some of the time, and Thor is a damn god! While they’re all great characters, and all certainly “good guys,” they’re more aloof and unreachable than Steve. Even Black Widow and Hawkeye, with their years of covert operations and clandestine workings for S.H.I.E.L.D., are at arm’s length as far as relatability.
While The Avengers is certainly a team movie, and one where everybody surprisingly gets quite a lot to do, if we look at it as the second Captain America movie, then we have a definite arc for Steve Rogers. He goes from good soldier fighting a just war, to being thrown into a leadership position with superhumans and fighting aliens and gods, and then finally coming to this movie where he feels the most alone, and even through his work is doing dirty deeds for S.H.I.E.L.D., he doesn’t find the people he works with as much of a “team,” since none of them are on the same page and each have their separate missions, which Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) explains in The Winter Soldier‘s first act. Cap is looking for someone he can connect with, and while he has a few candidates, he still feels like he doesn’t belong in the world he’s inhabiting. It’s very telling that, of all the Avengers, he’s the one who joined up with S.H.I.E.L.D. outright, whether from a sense of duty or just lack of anything else.
By making the movie about its characters, and about the idea of far-reaching conspiracies and clandestine behavior, Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeds in a way that no movie in the Marvel Universe has yet. It’s a superhero movie with huge effects and action sequences, but it’s also perhaps the most important with regard to its characters and its world on a small scale. Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were fun, but they did feel like wheel-spinning, and now this one finally feels like the movie Marvel should have been making all along. It’s fitting how the Captain America movies are the continuity movies and the story-advancing movies; he’s the one who’s most of the world, and yet the one who feels the most out of place. He is our hero.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, of course, which is something we’ve come to expect from a Marvel disc. There are, however, not that many special features, which is a bit of a shame. By far the best feature, and the most informative, is the feature-length commentary by directors Joe & Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. This track is packed with anecdotes and discussions of the action sequences, but most interesting is the talk about the way the script progressed over the 8 months between first draft and shooting script, and the different character motivations and comic book connections. As a fan of writing and story creation, I eat that stuff up.
There are also around 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, most of these produced for the Electronic Press Kit. These are interesting enough, but certainly not particularly thorough. We’ve also got a 3 minute gag reel which is pretty funny, and four deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary, which don’t add too much. That’s really it as far as bonus materials, save a couple of trailers and things. That’s kind of disappointing if you ask me, especially given the wealth of information that I’m sure is out there.
It’s a great movie, a great commentary, and even the lack of other good special features shouldn’t put you off from buying it, because let’s face it: it’s Marvel’s best movie to date, with an obvious argument to be made for Guardians of the Galaxy. But, it’s the best other than that, and that should be enough. Support your Captain.