Captain America: The Winter Soldier

By on April 5, 2014
Scar Jo Winter Soldier

In the latest installment of the ongoing and interconnected Marvel Universe films, the focus centers once again on the heroic “Captain America” for the second time, with the enigmatically-titled “The Winter Soldier.”

In the film, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, is still readjusting to life in the modern age, when duty calls once again.

You’ll recall that the bulk of the first “Captain America” movie, “The First Avenger,” took place in the early 40’s during World War II, as we saw Rogers go from a skinny weakling to the muscle-bound titular character. The film ended with him awakening from a coma in the present day before being approached by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to join a new mission, that mission being the basis of the superlative “The Avengers” film.

Now Rogers finds himself on the wrong side of the law when S.H.I.E.L.D. (aka the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) is compromised by an unknown source from within. After a slam-bang action sequence in which Fury proves himself to be one tough cookie to nail down, he contacts Rogers with the information, tasking him to find out who the culprit is before it’s too late and S.H.I.E.L.D. gets taken over by the nefarious HYDRA, a criminal organization seeking- what else?- worldwide domination.

So, basically, Rogers is tasked with taking down the modern-day equivalent of the Nazis, only worse, as they have people in the highest ranking positions imaginable. Not knowing who, if anyone, to trust, Rogers turns to pal Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, “The Hurt Locker”), a former military man who helps those suffering from PTSD and the delectable Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka “The Black Widow,” with whom he just worked with on a covert op that opens the movie in impressive fashion.

That’s about the gist of things, only with a lot more nerd-tastic details going on that likely feature a lot of comic-related stuff that will delight those in the know and sail right past everyone else, as per usual. I must say, it’s an impressive achievement to maintain that balance between pleasing the die-hard fans of this stuff and providing relatively easy-to-follow material for everyone else, but the team in charge has things down to a science at this point, and the Marvel machine continues to hum along like nobody’s business.

Though I was a bit underwhelmed with the last “Thor” movie, which fared best when it focused on planet Earth (as opposed to Asgard, Thor’s home planet, and others in the “Nine Realms”- if you have to ask…), this was a giant step up to near “Avengers” perfection for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Joss Whedon’s opus is tough to beat, and this doesn’t quite rise to those heights, but it’s solid enough to deliver the goods, that’s for sure.

The action is regular and incredibly impressive, particularly in terms of how it’s set-up and choreographed. From The Black Widow’s jaw-dropping gym-tastic butt-kicking at the beginning, to Fury’s impressive evasion of all manners of foes, to the final showdown involving several aircraft carriers and a whole lot of stuff blowing up, this is just well-conceived all around, action-wise. Yes, the main story elements can be a bit on the eye-glazing-over side, but that sort of thing is to be expected for a comic book film.

Overall, though, it’s just streamlined enough to be relatively non-invasive, certainly more so than the aforementioned “Thor: The Dark World.” I would say that whether or not you choose to go 3D or not is a matter of taste. If you can’t get enough of it, then, by all means, you won’t be disappointed, but for those who take 3D with a grain of salt, you can skip it and be just fine and not feel like you’re missing out on much. It’s not bad 3D, mind you, just nothing spectacular enough to give one pause, either.

All in all, I’d give this one a solid B+. It’s a marked improvement over the first film, with a nice dose of humor sprinkled throughout and some fantastic action. As one who particularly likes female action heroes, it was great seeing more of Scar-Jo in her full Black Widow glory than we did in “The Avengers,” so that alone was worth the price of admission for me. For the rest, if you like this sort of thing, I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed.

And yes, there are post-credit sequences, two to be precise, though only one is essential, really. The other is more amusing (think the second one in “The Avengers”) than necessary, so once you see the first one, you can leave, unless you’re a Marvel completeist.

Regardless, I can’t wait for “Avengers 2,” because, let’s face it: no one does it quite like Joss Whedon. But for now, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” gets the job done just fine.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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