Promise of the programs “ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ”: television review

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The Promise of Marvel TV Shows – First “WandaVision” and Now “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier– is that they’ll be doing something fundamentally different, stylistically and substantially, from what Colossus Marvel has done before. “WandaVision”, at least in its early days, convincingly played with the genre while telling a story about grief. And “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” in its first episode, telegraphs the ambition to do something similar. It’s tougher than previous Marvel releases, and it also examines the consequences of the really bad things superheroes have to endure.

“Falcon,” like “WandaVision,” once again places us in the wake of the events depicted in the 2019 film “Avengers: Endgame”. In “WandaVision,” the loss had driven Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) into a sort of prison in her mind. Here, Falcon’s inner turmoil seems to carry less collateral damage; everything is on him. As portrayed by Anthony Mackie, the superhero, also known as Sam Wilson, retreats indoors when faced with, say, the loss of Captain America, or the expectations placed on him, or even to the realities of her family’s precarious finances, explored in scenes. with his sister (a wonderful Adepero Oduye). He refuses the opportunity to publicly continue Captain America’s mission and hoist his shield – leaving a void in the role just when the nation needs it most – and walks away from questions about Steve Rogers or his own. to come up. Meanwhile, former villainous super-soldier James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is in some sort of comic book character therapy. He tries to build a structure and a set of rules that could help govern his need for revenge on those who controlled him. We see Barnes in treatment and also see that there is something less than rigorously honest about his claim that renouncing violence is part of his therapeutic process. The only episode Disney plus provided cannot give an idea of ​​how these two stories will intersect (or how they will treat some other key figures that are part of the marketing materials, unseen for now). But the pilot gives a sense of crystalline character on both points.

The episode is passed through with a tone that cannot be called naturalism but one that feels unburdened by the all-for-all expectations that have weighed down the Marvel movies. It suits a story rooted in two people trying to ignore their overpowered past. Mackie made his first Marvel appearance as the Falcon in the 2014 film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” a film that nodded to the paranoid 1970s thriller genre (aided by a press campaign who relentlessly insisted on the comparison). The brief examples of tone borrowed there made the studio’s overall flatness all the more irritating. Under the direction of Kari Skogland, the pilot of “Falcon” features lighter, smoother action than the relentless relentlessness of the “Avengers” megabattles as well as a certain curiosity about what it means to be a superhero who lacked power. one way or another to these movies.

Namely: in three hours, “Avengers: Endgame” never found the time to wonder in any meaningful way how life would have changed in a world where half the population had evaporated, or what would be the ramifications of ‘a return of this population. (His curiosity went exactly so far as to observe that Thor was sad and, in his sadness, was getting fat.) Society never entered the equation but as people, somewhere out there, our heroes had to. to save. The concerns in “Falcon” can sometimes seem unnecessarily high: “The world is a crazy place right now,” Don Cheadle tells Mackie, in a generic Marvel-ese moment. “The world is broken. Everyone is just looking for someone to fix it. But recognizing that the world has been significantly changed for all of its inhabitants by the cosmic play of heroes and villains is, at least, something new here. Likewise, a bank agent asking a Falcon looking for loans what superheroes do for money brings up the jarring realization that we’ve never really been faced with this question before, au- beyond our knowledge that Tony Stark was a gunmaker, but of the good kind. Mackie’s weary resignation suggests we didn’t think about it, but that he did.

Marvel never goes completely de-Marvelize, and probably shouldn’t; the very nature of stories of almighty beings can’t really coexist with true realism, and DC’s attempt to strip the comic book traps of an iconic character to tell a story of social evils was the void of meaning “Joker”. More serious examinations of the role that superhero stories play in our society, such as HBO’s “Watchmen”, are best conducted by those whose involvement in the business of those same superhero stories is not. so heavily exploited. And yet, credit goes to writer Malcolm Spellman: I didn’t expect a TV episode starring his central character leading an air mission with his giant mechanical wing suit to feature this treating character as well. a reluctant loan officer, or showing meaning. this life escaped him when he had been missing for five years. While “Falcon” doesn’t promise to address the heartache and confusion issues of “The Leftovers” – the show that you could say started a conversation about trauma through the medium – it does. minus a nod. That the expectations here are low seems to be a fair response to more than a decade of films which tend to treat situations as independent of their ramifications; recognizing that the story here exceeds those expectations is also fair.

Stan and especially Mackie help the case of the series. If Stan’s Bucky Barnes didn’t always feel exactly the way he is – he’s too modern to be credibly a cryogenically frozen 1940s soldier, if such a thing can be “believable” at all – his expressive angst lends itself well to a story set in the wake of destruction. What felt at times in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to be a frenzied demeanor, a way of lending gaudy darkness to a sunny image, seems, in a show designed to take its concerns a little more seriously, like a real performance. And while probing the mind of the reluctant superhero isn’t new to the medium, Mackie brings to the role an intriguing refusal to treat his own refusal as the makings of great drama. He is a hero for whom moving away from what is expected of him is not a great renunciation; treating it as more than a choice is to do exactly the kind of self-aggrandizement that is not in the nature of the character.

For Mackie – a prolific actor many first noticed in his role on “Half Nelson” fifteen years ago – it’s a late moment in the sun. Mackie’s work in the Marvel films has always been solid but somewhat endorsed, given the extent of his talent. What is striking about his presence here is that he is allowed to embody complexity. A Black Captain America, following in the footsteps of the late Chadwick Boseman character in “Black Panther,” would be remarkable in itself. (And maybe by the end of the series, we might still see Mackie take the shield.) But with Mackie being allowed to choose not to, understand what it means to be a symbol and choose, for now, letting heroism to others grant him an agency on par with any of the Avengers, white or black, who came before him. One of the roots for him not to be the new captain, but rather to find in the midst of the chaos a way to fight like and for himself.

It’s a way of dealing with trauma that promises to be less extravagant than “WandaVision” did, but which may end up counting more as the series progresses. “WandaVision” hung in the air for a while before stranding on the house style, an unprecedented disappointment for a reviewer who had genuinely admired the show’s debut. It’s worth hoping that “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” develops the tone it set, rather than reverting to outbursts and terse moral statements: on the one hand, Mackie deserves more. The same goes for an audience for whom Marvel branded properties represent a large and growing portion of the inventory available in film and television media. If making the highest grossing film in history doesn’t free them up to do something inventive, what will it ever do?

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” debuts on Disney Plus on March 19.


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