Trying to guess what movies will become hits isn’t an exact science. Sometimes a film will come seemingly out of nowhere — like Disney’s recent animated musical “Frozen” — and become a huge hit at the box office, while other times even an A-list cast or a prestigious director aren’t enough to elevate a film from a short, disappointing run in theaters.
However, Marvel’s new Captain America movie “The Winter Soldier” (out in U.S. theaters Friday) appears to have all the makings of a hit. Advance reviews are very positive (currently at 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, about in line with “The Avengers”), and the movie is tracking for an $80 million+ debut, similar to the Thor sequel.
“The Winter Soldier” looks to be yet another blockbuster from the now seemingly bullet-proof Marvel Studios. It has been interesting to watch Marvel evolve its line-up of “Avengers” tie-in films, which started in 2008 with the surprise hit “Iron Man.” Marvel has used a now well-refined formula — fun characters, good action sequences and dashes of humor — to make stars of what were once considered more B-list superheroes. I’d argue Iron Man and Captain America are now just as well known as Batman and Superman.
There was some concern Marvel might experience a post-Avengers slump, and the solo superhero films might seem like a bit of a letdown after the big-budget team-up of all the superheroes in “The Avengers.” However, that doesn’t seem to be a problem so far. Interestingly, both the Captain America and Thor sequels will open higher than their predecessors, probably thanks to a boost from “The Avengers.”
In terms of character origin films, I think Iron Man had the strongest story, followed by Thor and then Captain America. However, Captain America may very well turn out to have the best sequel of the three. I really like Chris Evans’ portrayal of Captain America/Steve Rogers. He’s earnest and idealistic, but there’s also a sense of sadness and a deep longing for the era he was pulled out of and can never go back to.
I’m also excited because it appears — at least from the trailers — that Marvel is taking this movie in a new direction. It’s a superhero movie that’s also a political drama and a study of the ethics of espionage. S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to be “the good guys,” but are some of the methods they use in the name of national security morally defendable? How will Captain America react to the shifting values and evolving technology of the modern era?
I’m glad Marvel decided to pair up Captain America with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in “The Winter Soldier.” Film makers have an opportunity to highlight the contrasts between their characters — she’s a “cloak and dagger” assassin, he’s a more straight-forward soldier — but, at least in “The Avengers” movie, they seemed to work well together. There’s been some speculation over whether the chemistry between the characters is romantic in nature. If so, that could result in some interesting fall-outs in the second Avengers film. I’m also looking forward to seeing what roles newcomers Robert Redford and Anthony Mackie will have in the new Captain America film, as a senior leader within S.H.I.E.L.D. and a new superhero, respectively.
I have high hopes for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and I’m excited to find out what comes next in the Marvel cinematic universe. The real test for Marvel will be its sci-fi superhero film, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which hits theaters in August. It’s a departure from what Marvel has done before and will show just how big of a draw the Marvel brand is for a film that doesn’t include its “big three” superheroes: Iron Man, Thor or Captain America.