Marvel seems to be getting it right more and more. While the idea of a sequel usually makes people roll their eyes, Thor: The Dark World and now this second installment of Captain America have more than stood up to their predecessors; in Cap’s case, this one actually improves on the original.
Somehow, these films are finding ways to become even more graphic—more like actual comic books come to life—and even though there is a basic fakeness to it all, that very fakeness is what makes the visuals so successful. After a heavy-handed plug for Under Armour, we again catch up with Chris Evans, a cutie born to be a movie star if there ever was one. Here, he is stealthy and lithe, engaging in fight scenes that are more and more gymnastic and even acrobatic—meaning, pretty fun to watch. With a bit more heavy-handedness as we meet fellow war vet Sam Wilson, soon to be known as The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the point is driven home: these guys have seen combat, and should therefore be respected.
Happily, The Winter Soldier is dominated not only by Mr. Evans, but also by the Marvel ringmaster himself, Nick Fury (the one and only Samuel L. Jackson). Here, he really gets to flex his muscles, more so than in most of the other films. Unhappily, though, we also find a lot more of The Black Widow (aka Scarlett Johansson), a rather abstract, throwaway character who isn’t quite superhero and seems more like a casual ‘babe’ for the Captain to sort-of flirt with.
Most viewers will wish they could see more of Sebastian Stan in the film, known for his turns as The Mad Hatter on Once Upon a Time and Carter on Gossip Girl, here playing the shadowy Winter Soldier, a deeply damaged and brainwashed friend-turned-foe.
While the opening of the film may feel a little lumbering, and there is a palpable lack of interesting locations, things pick up quite quickly, with a smart plot development calling to mind a lot of the current news reports circulating about just how much the government can pry into our private lives. How far might that lack of privacy go? The Winter Soldier answers that question with chilling, lethal results. This is a dynamite popcorn movie that updates the comic book genre and sets the bar high for the next phase in Marvel’s cinematic universe.
Also, prepare to meet some exciting new characters in the sneak peek add-on scene at the end!