If you’re immersed by all things Marvel, then you would have already heard (and realised throughout the exceptional WandaVision) that we’re now in Phase 4 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, and who’d have a thought it’d arrive just when we can’t enjoy the true experience of the cinema itself. While the likes of Black Widow should already be with us, plus Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, all things 2020 pushed those into the near future instead. However, whilst we wait to have those worlds old and new extended, we’re incredibly lucky to have the Disney+ escapism that brought us WandaVision and now, today, the first leap into The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and this superb opening chapter.
Episode 1 swiftly sets up the overall atmospherics for what’s to follow, well, with a change-in-pace to a point but we’ll come back to that. All 6 parts are directed by Kari Skogland, and right from the start, she establishes the style we’ll possibly see throughout the series. It’s a natural lit, down-to-earth ambiance that centres our characters in the world after the blip. Over the 48 minute-opener, this is a moment to reintroduce both lead characters and it genuinely achieves a renewed base for Sam and Bucky that we haven’t seen before.
With Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson left in the shadow of Captain America, and with lingering decisions to make on his future, we also get to see Sebastian Stan’s Bucky still struggling with the past. But here’s the smart thing, both are given time to develop ‘who’ they are for the audience, with a deeper expansion of their lives outside of the Avengers bubble, and a proper opportunity for Mackie and Stan to show us how good they really are.
This opening gambit opens it fresh set of wings with the now-classic Marvel kick, a truly tantalising and breath-taking action set-piece that keeps you on the edge of your sofa, while still inventing and surprising. It also gives us a welcome reminder of how valuable Falcon is and, with a series budget of $150m, it absolutely brings the thrills and, man, it looks stylish. Our elusive Winter Soldier also gets his moments but for now, Stan is establishing something richer and (for this instant) endeavouring to be more level-headed. I was intrigued by the nature of the setup he’s put himself in but it’s certainly layered with issues.
Head-writer Malcolm Spellman, alongside a team of other writers, balances the story between The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and where they’re going to go next, but that’s not to say there isn’t a baddie bubbling underneath the surface of the story, because we definitely get to see the early stages of that. There’s a host of great lines, I particularly liked the everyday chat and natural charm of Mackie developing Sam’s life, including lines like ‘There’s no such thing as on time…’ (you’ll get the context) and the role he plays in the lives of those around him.
What I admire about Marvel Studios is that we really don’t know what they’ve filmed, or when, or what it even contains. You keep thinking you’ve seen everything you could know about a character but, of course, these individuals are bigger than mere moments, because every ounce of time appears to be considered and placed accordingly. This opening episode is a smart and solid re-introduction to both Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and hopefully this level of development will continue throughout.
The nature of family, love and loss, new starts and dealing with reality are all here, it’s exciting and mysterious as you’d hope – as well as being another shift in pace within the MCU. For me, it’s clear we’ve got another intriguing series on the way, and one that’ll be packed with thrills, fights, insight and red-laser lights, cutting through the hard surfaces to drag out the issues that lurk in the darkness, and conceivably drag them into the light.