Falcon and the Winter Soldier is another mini series in the ever-expanding Marvel cinematic universe. And I have to say, that universe is starting to feel a bit stale.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier continues where the Avengers: Endgame left off with the two titular heroes. Steve Rogers — Captain America — gave Sam Wilson his shield, but Sam doesn’t know what to do with it, and Bucky Barnes is dealing with his past as a brain-washed assassin.
Sam doesn’t feel he can live up to Steve’s legacy and gives his shield to a museum in honor of Captain America. This pisses off Bucky, who feels Sam is betraying Steve’s last request. He himself is having a hard time making amends with the horrors he committed as an assassin.
Meanwhile, the world at large has problems with the aftermath of half the population vanishing for five years, then returning — go watch the last two Avengers movies for how that happened. What to do with people who’ve returned after five years only to find their homes taken over by strangers.
Then a group of super-powered humans show up, called the Flag Smashers, and stand up against the reconciliation effort. The US responds by tapping a decorated soldier as the new Captain America and giving him the shield. Sam and Bucky are not amused.
Sam Wilson — Anthony Mackie — has been in the Marvel universe for a number of movies now, but this is the first time he takes center stage. With most of the original Avengers retired or dead, he’s also holding down the Avenger fort. I have to say, I feel ambivalent about Anthony Mackie’s acting. He’s not bad, but he can’t quite sell me his characters. I didn’t like Altered Carbon season 2, and the Falcon doesn’t impress me either. This show gives him some more backstory and struggles, but I just couldn’t feel it.
Sebastian Stan does a better job at selling the Winter Soldier. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff going on, and I don’t feel the show really gets to the bottom of Bucky’s trauma. It sort of hand waves at a character arc for him, which is a shame.
Daniel Brühl portrays Baron Zemo, the villain from the third Captain America movie (the one that should have been Avengers 2 instead of Age of Ultron). Daniel Brühl is a pretty brilliant actor. I love the Alienist, and you should see Inglorious Bastards. I thought he was one of the most interesting characters in the show. A clear agenda of his own, and using his skills to manipulate Sam and Bucky into helping him.
Then there’s Sharon Carter, who was left out in the cold in Madripoor after Captain America 3. She helps out Sam and Bucky on several occasions, but she has an agenda of her own, and she seems to have gone a couple of shades into the gray. But again, I feel she’s underutilized.
Finally, there’s Karli, the ostensible villain of the show, a Flag Smasher. On the one hand I think it was clever to make the bad guy a relatable person, who only wants to make the world better, but fails. On the other hand, she doesn’t really fall far enough to feel evil. And that hurts the climactic conclusion of the show.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an okay show, but I don’t love it. The whole Marvel Cinematic Universe is creaking under it’s own weight at this point. Just like in the comics, the number of side characters and plot twists is growing beyond human comprehension.
I suppose there are fans who will squeal at seeing certain cameos, but I had trouble keeping up. I haven’t been paying close attention or re-reading the background, so I’d already forgotten who Sharon Carter was, and I don’t go weak in the knees from seeing the Dora Milaje.
So for me the show felt like a messy tangle of potential that wasn’t quite realized. I couldn’t see Karli as the true villain, meaning I couldn’t root for her defeat. I also thought both Bucky’s story and fake Captain America’s arc were underutilized.
Finally, the action scenes were okay, but nothing special. The scenes feature a mess of characters, and lots of moving stuff. They looked slick, but to me, they lacked soul.
So, if you like complicated thrillers with lots of Marvel lore, the Falcon and The Winter Soldier is definitely for you. Otherwise… well, there are better things to watch.