Falcon and Winter Soldier review

 

I finished the first season of the Marvel show, Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I thought it was pretty enjoyable, with some small issues.

To step back, superhero fiction is already a stilted form with a lot of baggage. One concept was explained to me by my “game master” when I was a teenager participating in a roleplaying game at the local university. Everyone was an adult, except me, and I was the youngest by about 10 years. But the GM said something along the lines of, at some point you have to have your villains either screw up or tell all their secrets (like the famous Batman tv show deathtraps) because if they ever carried out their doomsday plots in secret, no one could possibly stop them. So then you come in to play your next game on the weekend and the GM tells you, “sorry, the earth was destroyed. It was a really clever plot executed in the hinterlands of Uruguay and they didn’t tell anyone or build a mountain fortress.”

Unless your heroes have teleportation and mindreading, you can’t stop a doomsday weapon. You can’t even stop a supervillain from robbing a bank unless they sit around waiting for you. For this reason, the more realistic superhero fiction has a healthy dose of detective work.

Alan Moore wrote his famous Watchmen graphic novel (and it was one of the best, modern superhero stories, IMHO). In it, he highlighted the difference between the golden era heroes and bronze age superheroes. That’s like Batman, and Sgt. Fury, and the Spirit, and the Shadow, vs. Superman and Hulk and Iron Man and such. In a world where there is a single Superman, people would stop robbing banks. I don’t care how hard up for cash you are, no one is robbing a bank when there’s a dude around who can hear you, see you, stop you, at any moment with zero difficulty. The only way he doesn’t stop you is if he’s too selfish pretending to be a newspaper reporter.

In my own Hard Luck Hank series, I first added the character Delovoa because I knew Hank couldn’t solve all the problems. There would be some technical problems he had to uncover and so he needed someone to answer those questions–and move along the plot. The character was a lot of fun so I kept putting in more and more of him. But the genesis was because Hank has to be a detective and in science fiction, that is going to involve science. And Hank wouldn’t be able to do that himself unless I also made him some genius engineer, which would make him an entirely different character.

Falcon and Winter Soldier is a hero story. They aren’t superheroes. They can’t lift battleships and if they get shot, it is a sucky day requiring medical attention. As such, there are a lot of slow, detective moments. And that’s good. I think those moments are when the show does best. There were huge scenes where they’re just coping with normal life as heroes, realizing that doesn’t pay very well. That’s good stuff.

The fight scenes were too long and nothing amazing. If the fight goes on long enough, you start to wonder why these heroes aren’t dead and what they’re adding that 50 special forces grunts and a forensics lab couldn’t do better. You got a jetpack? Cool. But that’s like slightly better than Evel Knievil. So, yeah, you have to suspend disbelief. As you often do with action movies. But too much and it just made me really conscious that these guys aren’t that special. But if you take it down to the street level. A single cop or private detective can be really important. Put them in a gun battle raging across the city, and they suddenly become WAY less important.

This is also the first Marvel show/movie/whatever that I felt got some of the preachiness right. Whenever major movies or shows put in a girl power, or black power, or asian power, or gay power, or whatever message that is currently vogue, it’s just so bloated and tacked-on it must have been created by committee populated by whatever group hates that particular message. Black Panther was a great movie that didn’t bash you over the head that the stars were black. Contrast that with Avengers Endgame that had a total girl power moment: https://youtu.be/FOYrirP56cQ?t=6 Like, what was that about? Was there some Vagina Vortex that suddenly pulled all the women together? And if so, who’s in the kitchen making the food? I keed. I keed. But can’t you just show a woman doing great without hitting people on the head with it? It was just so hokey. When you can see the message, when it actually burns your retinas, I think by definition it fails.

Falcon and Winter Soldier had a lot of BLM moments and I thought they were extremely well done. It’s just part of the story. It’s part of life. It wasn’t Black People Unite In Blackness. It was just real shit. And real shit is fun. Especially for heroes. Clark Kent dealing with real shit always makes you realize that while he’s fumbling with his glasses, he’s not preventing a tidal wave somewhere. Like, dude, get to work. You’re a god. Do god stuff. We got billions of people who can be awkward. We only got one who can single-handedly reverse global warming in five minutes.

The whole Captain America back and forth was fairly good. Though the blond cap is kind of annoying to me. I think he must have an underbite or something–maybe just non-perfect teeth–but he always looked like he was saying, “uhhhhh.” The Winter Soldier actor I was very non-plussed about. In the Avengers movies he was a hero amongst superheroes. Hey, a metal arm and a gun. How does that allow you stand near Thor? But they cut his hair and gave him a personal trainer and he looks like a movie star. And while he’s broody, he’s not Jon Snow broody. Which I absolutely despise. He conveyed what it was like to be as old as he was and had lost everything. Yeah, he was broody but kept it close to vest like he was the 1940s guy he was. All the acting was pretty damn good, especially the side characters. The fact I never noticed it, shows they were convincing.

All the dark underside of govt like that super soldier test subject. I mean, that’s real life stuff. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses. I wish they would cut down on the chop socky gunplay a bit. But otherwise, it’s worth a watch.

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