“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” defies the laws of comic book movie sequels. At best, it should be a transition film. Fortunately, it seems no one bothered to tell directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and screenplay writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that this film is a sequel.
In case you forgot, 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” left our hero, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), stranded nearly 70 years in the future. 2012’s “The Avengers,” action-sequence-filled film, left little time to explore Rogers’ struggle with adapting to modern-life.
So, now we find ourselves in 2014, with a hero whose been thrown into a reality that barely resembles the 1940’s world he nearly died defending.
That’s a lot of baggage, but The Winter Soldier carries its heavy load with ease.
Now living in Washington, D.C., Rogers is adjusting to contemporary society, while working with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s S.T.R.I.K.E. team.
During a mission to free hostages aboard an agency vessel, the Captain discovers that his fellow agent, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) have their own agenda. It quickly becomes clear that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the force for good that Rogers believed it to be.
Following a series of tragic (and plot-spoiling) events, the Captain finds himself in the office of senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Shortly after their meeting, he’s branded public enemy number one, and drops off the grid with some help from Agent Romanoff.
The story calls into question the power of S.H.I.E.L.D., and asks some big questions about when protecting the “good” in this world goes too far.
The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), serves as a human-embodiment of what S.H.I.E.L.D. has become. Once Steve Rogers’ best friend, Bucky Barnes, he has been transformed into a cold, killing machine.
While the film covers some seriously dark and heavy subject matter, it still has the humor, action, and style that made its predecessor such a success.
Part of the appeal of the first film, was the style of the 1940s. A period comic book movie had not been done before, and The First Avenger set the bar really high for any that may follow. That being said, the success of the first Captain America, made it hard to imagine a Steve Rogers outside of the 1940s or “The Avengers.” Yet somehow The Winter Soldier pulls this off flawlessly.
Most of the credit for this belongs to Chris Evans. As the only link between the two films, it would be hard to give credit to anyone else. He maintains the character he created in the first film. Captain America may be a superhuman, but it’s the genuine and humble Steve Rogers who shines through in Evans’ performance, and makes the character work in any time.
Keeping with Marvel tradition, the movie also has an almost unbelievable cast. With Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson as “supporting” cast, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this film is bigger and better than anyone expected it to be. That list doesn’t include the equally impressive, Cobie Smulders (as Maria Hill), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), and Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / Falcon), who may not be household names, but they should be.
If you don’t consider yourself a Marvel fan, or even a fan of the comic book movie genre, this movie is still worth checking out. It’s an action-packed, political thriller with a soul.
And perhaps, it still is a transition film to the next Marvel flick — “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” But “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” does it with style, and leaves us on the edge of our seats, wondering what happens next.
If you missed “Captain America: The First Avenger,” or need a refresher, check out my review here: “…Come Together”
…also stay to the end of the credits (I know, true Marvel fans already know this).
…just for fun: