Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Now, I’ll start by saying that Captain America: The First Avenger is my favorite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Not by much, mind you. They really haven’t let a turkey happen yet, and every film they’ve made has at least something going for it. (Yes, even Iron Man 2.) But, still, there’s a special place in my heart for that one.

catwsMany reviews have lauded The Winter Soldier with praise, and it is deserving of this praise. Do I think it surpasses the first one? I do not. But it’s more than acceptable as a sequel. It’s great.

Watching Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) navigate the Twenty-First Century remains interesting, particularly when his Boy Scout, black-and-white view of the world is so drastically different from his boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his off-again, on-again mission partner, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson). He finds more of a kindred spirit in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a welcome addition to the series, both as a character, and as a superhero (Falcon). Still, Steve has to start thinking in terms of gray, and he really doesn’t like it. The grayest thing in the movie is a pre-emptive attack system that employs souped up helicarriers and satellite targeting. Basically, this thing can blow up terrorists while they’re planning their missions, not after they attack. This is very troubling to Cap. It’s not troubling at all to Fury… until he runs across something that indicates the program has somehow gotten out of his control.

Well teased by every trailer is the fact that Fury gets attacked by the Winter Soldier in broad daylight on the street. What isn’t shown in the trailer (and is awesome) is how much attacking goes on before that car-blowing-up scene. Fury gets to actually do bad-ass things in this movie! He spends so much time being the guy behind the scenes in these movies, we sometimes forget how he got where he is.

I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises in the movie, but they did generate perhaps more questions than answers. Specifically, this rogue element in the government? Why did they wait so long to make a move? There’s nothing in the film that contradicts other movies, but some of it is so enormous that I find myself reviewing the story-lines of previous films to look for inconsistencies. Kudos, I guess, for making those inconsistencies (if they are out there) hard to find. Obviously, the story (which, as I said, I don’t want to spoil) was a bit of a mind-bender, which makes the whole movie experience a little less comic-booky and a little more contemplative.

The action is uniformly amazing, though I have to admit that the final sequence, which involved having to insert three computer chips in three slots on three helicarriers, felt a little too much like a level in a video game. I wish their final mission was a little less rote, and involved more thinking. But I certainly can’t complain about how exciting this sequence is.

All in all, a great installment, and definitely continues the trend of the Phase 2 films being exceptional. Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy!

(Also, I can’t wait to see how the Agents of SHIELD TV show will change after this…)

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