Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Simply Marvelous

Winter has come, and damn is it awesome.


Photo courtesy of Disney.

Superhero movies are often identified by their outlandish set pieces, high stakes and impressive visuals. That, combined with guns, bombs and car chases — the tried-and-true staples of big-budget blockbusters — makes up a fair bit of “Captain America: the Winter Soldier.” So, based on the past superhero movies, I bet that you’re probably thinking that this’ll be an enjoyable film, but probably not the most groundbreaking thing in the world.

Well, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. This movie is one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date, if not the best.

It combines deep and well-written characters with an excellently paced plot and absolutely gorgeously crafted action scenes to create something that rivals The Avengers.

“The Winter Soldier” is the sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which came out in 2011. “The First Avenger” was good, but it bounced around from point to point without a natural progression. Also, the characters could have been developed a bit more. Still, it succeeded at both entertaining and introducing us to the titular hero — making $65 million opening weekend (Winter Soldier’s opening weekend has done about $30 million better).

This time around, Cap’s an already-established character, so the film skips over the origin story (which, while necessary last time around, weighed things down) and cuts straight to the action.

The plot revolves around Cap struggling to adjust to life in the modern world, while also working for The Marvel Universe’s ridiculously-overt secret spy organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. The film does an admirable job of balancing Cap’s personal story and its larger narrative. The result of all of this is a movie that is much tighter and well paced than The First Avenger, and covers more narrative ground.

The story involves conspiracy and secrecy on all sides, and seems more reminiscent of a spy thriller like the Bourne movies than it does a superhero piece. The film isn’t afraid to draw some big parallels with current political issues, such as the NSA spying scandal and the current Drone debate. But “The Winter Soldier” doesn’t suffer for doing so the way other movies (like “Elysium”) have.

“The Winter Soldier” focuses on Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff, Scarlett Johansson’s character from “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers”), who is now a main character for once.

The film also gives significant screen time to recurring supporting characters Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders). It even fleshes out new faces like Sam Wilson (a.k.a The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie) and Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford).

Despite the crowded roster, everyone gets time to develop and all the actors do a terrific job in their roles. Everyone gets great emotional moments, especially with Cap’s encounters from his past, showing just how much he’s lost. Mackie’s character is especially well done. Mackie plays a returning veteran trying to help others like himself while dealing with his own demons. He gets several poignant moments throughout the film, and his interactions with Captain America are highlights.

The villain, the Winter Soldier, is portrayed very menacingly by Sebastian Stan (remember him from the first movie?) and is given all of maybe 20 lines at most in the film. His lack of lines makes him a very mysterious character, despite the very-easily-spoiled nature of his own story.

Outside of the plot and characters, the visual effects are awe-inspiring, the action scenes are the best out of all the Marvel films and the cinematography and quick paced editing style never allows for a dull moment. The only disappointment was the soundtrack, which ditches Alan Silvestri’s great compositions and replaces them with a blander taste of modern spy flavor that sounds like it was lifted directly from one of the newer “Call of Duty” games. I can understand the change in musical style — times have changed — and WWII-inspired tunes would sound out of place, but the new stuff doesn’t capture the audience’s attention as much.

All that aside, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” stands well above any other Marvel movie to date. Like “The Dark Knight” back in 2008, this movie has built upon the modest success of its predecessor(s) to create a truly stunning work. It gets 4 and a half out of 5 stars. Bottom Line: Go see this film. Now. You won’t regret it.