First Impressions: Falcon and the Winter Solider

First Impressions: Falcon and the Winter Solider

“Bored now!”

That was my reaction after the first ten minutes.

Originally, the Marvel release order for 2020 was supposed to be Black Widow, Falcon and the Winter Solider, then Wanda Vision.  I now know why they changed the launch dates.  Black Widow cost several hundred million and they need to try and get that back from the theaters (if at all possible), fine and unavoidable in our plague year.  But Wanda Vision was simply a more engaging show than this.  While I certainly had my problems with Wanda Vision, the showrunners on WV managed the all-important task of making me care about the characters.   So far, I’m not into the Bucky and Sam hour.

Comic book lines are like any other form of entertainment.  You have a pecking order.  Some are at the top; some are in the middle and some are the scrubs.  The Marvelverse isn’t down to the scrubs.   

At least not yet. 

But these guys are not A-team either.  Iron Man is gone.  Thor is almost gone.  And Steve Rogers is out of the picture.  The prep-squad has taken the field.

Now, nobody knows better than Keven Fiege that these aren’t the front shelf superheroes. But I suspect he has an outsized opinion on his ability to make them superstars because of his success with Guardians of the Galaxy.  And credit where it’s due, Star-Lord and Rocket Racoon comics were in the $1 long boxes before GotG came out.  Captain Marvel broke the billion-dollar mark as well and Carol Danvers was always a B-list heroine.

However, my own opinion is that there has been a huge market for fun and adventure space opera for forty years and nobody in Hollywood has ever tried to tap it except George Lucas.  And any Marvel movie coming out right before Avengers Endgame was going to blow the doors off.

This time Fiege is taking the prep squad and starting from scratch.

Anyway, this six-episode series starts with Falcon undertaking a secret rescue mission.    Some French Captain (I think he’s French anyway) has been bagged by a team of international but thoroughly white terrorists.  The US can’t be seen to have any involvement.

Well, that does happen.  Normally, we just give credit to another country’s military.  Whenever you hear about some third-world Buttfukistan pulling off a world-class rescue mission; I assure you that was the SEALs.  

Anyway, Sam is in the Air Force and they don’t normally do this stuff but Falcon is a superhero, so all good.

Since Sam is the Falcon, this rescue involved a lot of flying.  Okay, cool. Kind of expected, really.  So, Sam boards the C-130 and fights the terrorists for a bit.  Then the terrorists jump out of the plane, in wingsuits…

…with their hostage strapped to the back of the lead terrorist.

Look, I totally get the concept of a willing suspension of disbelief, as well as not being “that guy.” That Guy being the dweeb who complains how things aren’t realistic in a (freaking) superhero show. That said, I’ve got limits. When the lead terrorist (the one with the hostage strapped to his back flies inside of a helicopter.  I was rolling my eyes in an “oh, come on,” fashion.  But then Sam boards that helicopter, they fight some more, and the lead terrorists bail out with his hostage still attached and flies into a second helicopter.  At that point, I started laughing at the top of my lungs.

Tamil movies can get away with something that overtop because it’s all about action as spectacle. 

American superhero movies aren’t supposed to be trying for that effect with the audience but Falcon and the Winter Solider managed it when wingsuit boy flew into the second chopper.  

Anyway, Sam rescues Captain Frenchmen, before they cross the Libyan border, so the mission is a success. 

Sam’s next big scene is turning Captain America’s shield over to the Smithsonian. I also found this scene a bit off for a couple of reasons.  First, Captain America’s real shield was destroyed fighting Thanos. 

When Steve took off for paradox-land he had a brand new shield and that was the one he handed over to Sam.  There was no real history behind it, other than it was one of Steve’s shields and not the most famous one.  

Second, when Sam accepted the shield from Steve, he acted like he was committed to being the new Captain America.  So, what made him change his mind?  If he had failed at the rescue mission maybe he would have felt unworthy of it then but as it is, this was a very significant change of course with no motivation driving it.  

We get several scenes with Bucky and Sam going through their daily lives.  Their daily lives were boring.  I don’t care that Sam’s sister can’t pay her bills because these scenes went on too long.  There are faster ways of establishing that a character has money problems. I don’t care that Bucky is having trouble adjusting to life as a man out of time because those issues were already handled much better in the Captain America movies.  This is supposed to be an action TV series and there wasn’t enough of it.

The enemy terrorist organization is called the Flag Smashers.  Basically, they are globalists.  Okay, I’m totally against them too and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the US government was secretly supporting them.  I just can’t help but have the feeling I’m going to be disappointed by them.

In the final scene, the US government introduces a new Captain America, and he has Steve’s shield!  The one that Sam gave the government and the one that couldn’t have meant that much to Steve.  The new Captain America is probably John Walker the anti-hero US Agent.*   When Steve Rogers was created he was a poor city kid from the Northeast.  When Walker was created, he was made to be the opposite; middle-class, rural, and (dun-dun-dun) Southern!  The completely obvious places this can go almost write themselves.  

There were a number of easter eggs in this episode but after Wanda Vision, I don’t give a damn about any of them.  Until Marvel proves otherwise, I’m going to assume that all easter eggs in Marvel TV shows are just Abram’s style mystery-boxes and ignore them.  A lot of people, myself included, spent time trying to decipher the hidden meaning in this clue or that during the last series.  In the end, the only thing it did was provide free marketing for Disney and I’m now pretty sure that that was its primary objective.  I’m not playing again.

This is only the first episode, naturally, there is a lot of room for improvement, assuming this show can decide what it wants to be.  A daytime drama?  A Tom Clancy superhero adventure?  A standard Marvel TV show where the easter eggs mean nothing?  We will have to wait and see but I know where I’m putting my money.

Okay, I’m done here.

* The actor is Wyatt Russel (Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn’s son), I like his Dad, so I wish him well.

Sidenote: I freely admit, I didn’t particularly want to watch this show but I have to because I cover pop-culture, that’s my beat.  I am also aware that a critic’s bad mood is where most bad reviews come from.  Consequently, I try to stay aware of it. And I was in a foul one when I watched this show.

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