It seems the only movies I watch anymore and big budget actioners. Every other genre is done better on TV. So this month I caught Captain America: Winter Soldier and Godzilla (starring Heisenberg). Both of these have astoundingly high production values and follow effective plot formulas. If there is anything the early part of the 21st century might be known for it is the final mastery of the gaudy, big-tent action film. I know a lot of folks think the 80s was the prime time for action movies, but that's wrong. The ‘80s were about adventure movies, a subtly different thing that is less production-, more script-intensive. The salad days for action movies are now. The actual action movies in the ‘80s were abysmal by comparison.
Godzilla is, of course, preposterous. Honestly, I don't think there is a single scene that makes any sense whatsoever. But the action is slam-bang and the monsters all are cool looking. Really, it's good for ages 4-10. Does not deserve a sequel but will almost certainly get one. Maybe Godzilla versus the Transformers. That's about the right speed.
Marvel is really doing a terrific job of recreating the feel and atmosphere of the late sixties, early seventies comic books. Admission: Yes, I was addicted to Marvel comics as a tween. And while not great works of middle-brow art that some hyper-fans claim them to be, the wisecracking, irony-drenched dialogue and storylines deftly structured for the well-timed heroics that filled those 25 cent rags you bought off a spinning wire carousel have had a tremendous influence on Hollywood, stated or otherwise, on the development of action movies over the years, as my generation has come into prominence. Joss Whedon is the king of this and does it better than anyone else. (Anyone my age who watched Buffy couldn't help but notice the Marvel comic tone of the series.) And that's what Winter Soldier is missing -- Whedon's light touch and whip-smart timing.
Don't get me wrong, Winter Soldier is excellent, and a key entry in Marvel movie mythology as they try to reproduce the comics universe on film. I happen to to think Chris Evans pulls off this role just astoundingly well -- if Captain America lives on well into the future, his portrayal will be definitive. But it lacks the joy, energy, and uplift of the best of the genre -- that would be The Avengers, with Thor:Dark World, and a pastiche of Iron Mans close behind. No one has yet matched Joss Whedon at this game.
Winter Soldier is very worth seeing. Godzilla not so much. But stand in awe of the great accomplishment of my generation -- Action Film Mastery. Hey, at least it's somethin'.