Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones
For those who may not know, we we are in the middle of Marvel Phase Two following Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. These are the films and stories that happen after the events in New York that unfolded in Marvel’s The Avengers. We got introduced to all of our super heroes in the Phase One movies, and now we can have even more fun as we don’t need to worry as heavily about exposition and the set up of these universes. The Phase Two movies have been bigger and more explosive than their first outings, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception. There are so many twists and turns here involving key characters and plot details that I will try to remain as spoiler free as possible.
At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers (Evans), aka Captain America, finds out he has been “asleep” for the last seventy years after he awakens in the present day despite being a World War II fighter. Steve is still having troubles adjusting to the modern era as it is far different than the 1940s he remembers. There is a fun bit where he makes a list of things he is told to check out, like Marvin Gaye, Steve Jobs, and Star Wars/Trek. He continues to do missions for S.H.I.E.L.D alongside fellow director Nick Fury (Jackson) and agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson).
S.H.I.E.L.D is working on a secret project involving three massive helicarriers involving spy satellite technology and weaponry to combat incoming threats. When an attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters occurs, the agency becomes compromised and one of their own is gunned down. Steve witnesses the attack and is warned not to trust anyone. Captain America teams up with Black Window and their new partner in crime, Falcon (Mackie), to take down The Winter Soldier (Stan), the Soviet Assassin who seems to be the face of the organization behind the attacks.
One of the things that Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves is how versatile this character is and how he works in numerous settings and time periods. Screenwriters Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus who wrote the first film, as well as Thor: The Dark World, are back under the direction of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. Producer Kevin Feige wanted each of the Captain America films to feel completely different. He wanted the first film to be this World War II story told through the perspective of a superhero saga and for this one he turned to the idea of it being set in political, espionage, and conspiracy thriller. These are two completely different tones and genres to tackle for these characters, yet it completely works for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Part of the fun of his story comes with him feeling a bit out of place in this modern technological world.
Many of the other Marvel sequels work fairly well on their own if you hadn’t seen the others that came before it. They feel connected to the overarching series and universe, but each film’s story could be taken out of context and make sense for anyone coming in new to it. I feel like it is pretty imperative to see Captain America: The First Avenger before you see this one. I think it’s impressive that the screenwriters were able to successfully connect the two films despite the numerous decades that have passed and considering how different they are in style. While this has a new story with new villains, so much of this film is in direct correlation to the events, relationships, and people of the first film. I don’t mean a slight reference or nod to those from the past. The film centers around this connectedness to Steve’s past and the loyalties and friendships he had back in the 1940s.
Marvel really lucked out with its casting choices. Each one of these actors fits right in and feels comfortable with the responsibility that comes with playing these comic book characters. Chris Evans has that all-American, boy next door charm that is vital to Steve Rogers. This is Samuel L. Jackson’s sixth time popping up as Nick Fury. Luckily for the audience and for Marvel fans, it’s more than just a cameo. Sebastian Stan makes for a fantastic villain. There is a force and menacing look behind his eyes. Joining the series is screen legend Robert Redford as one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s senior directors. Apparently, he took the job because his grandchildren are big Marvel fans, and he wanted to do a film for them to see. Anthony Mackie is another excellent addition to the cast. Not only is he a great actor, but he gets a kick-ass costume. Here’s hoping we have not seen the last of Falcon.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier boasts a run time of over two hours which may seem excessive, but it never feels long. The Russos keep the pacing and energy up without ever letting the action scenes feel too long or drawn out. The camera is so tight in on many of the action sequences. This tends to be a common trend lately especially after The Bourne series. I get the effect it has when the camera is that close up, but I would rather see the whole picture. Anthony Mackie has mentioned that they wanted to keep the action sequences as realistic as possible without relying too heavily on CGIed effects. This is an artistic choice I can definitely get behind. I have seen all of the Marvel films, especially the ones based the Avengers characters, multiple times, and I recently noticed how family friendly they turned out to be. The action and violence can be heavy duty without ever feeling gratuitous or relying on excessive gore or torture. The profanity is used at a bare minimum. Like the other Marvel films, make sure to check for the Stan Lee cameo and stay after the credits start to roll for two additional scenes.
Is it worth your trip to the movies? It seems like the summer blockbuster season has come early and it marks another win for Marvel. Make sure to see the first film first. You may feel a bit lost without a lot of that back story.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Ticket Stubs