a critiQal film review Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Plot: After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Evans), lives in the nation's capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow (Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon (Mackie), Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy.

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With Captain America: Civil War (2016) burning up theaters worldwide, we decided now would be a good time to go back and see what we thought of Cap’s previous adventure, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With the new film looking to start a whole new chapter in the Marvel cinematic universe, would the previous film still wow us when there weren’t quite as many guest heroes? Or did Marvel need to buck up the aging hero to make future films interesting?

Chris Evans is back as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and he’s become the character in a much more solid way than his attempts at Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four (2005). Completely comfortable in his role as America’s premier hero, he dives into the new film with an ease that makes him utterly watchable – probably for however many of these films his contract allows. While the special effects that transformed him from puny Steve to super-serumed Captain America took over in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), his character is given more chance to shine in this sequel, and Chris easily steps up to the plate.

Chris is joined by a few familiar faces in this sequel. Scarlett Johansson, as Black Widow, has made brawling sexy again, and she keeps that up here. She gets in a few of the best quips of the film too, making the viewer feel like Marvel is an equal opportunity employer in their cinematic universe. Sure, she may be one of very few female heroes so far, but with plans for more, including Captain Marvel, there’s still hope that Black Widow will get her own flick at some point too. Cobie Smulders, who was delegated to being Agent Colson’s backup in previous films, has stepped it up as well, and is a far cry from her “How I Met Your Mother” (TV) days.

Anthony Mackie joins the cast as Falcon, and Marvel does a good job of introducing yet another hero into the mix. While he’s apparently not important enough to get his own movie, Mackie plays him with a cool calm that appeals, and viewers will look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Other veteran actors pop up as well, most notably Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford. Jackson is still enthralling as Nick Fury, and continues defining why he’s the perfect choice for the character. Robert Redford shows up as well, and the meetings between these two consummate actors are a highlight of the film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier does a great job in the two roles any Marvel movie has these days: make an entertaining standalone film that is still part of the continuing story of the Marvel cinematic universe. As a standalone film, viewers see Cap, America’s hero, become a fugitive and struggle to take down an enormous threat that re-emerges, all while facing off with some personal demons. As a continuity film, the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier have a far-reaching impact within every future film (and even TV shows). To present such a monumental change while still making the film stand on it’s own is impressive, and viewers should enjoy every minute of it.

With the surprisingly good first film, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Marvel needed to amp it up a bit for the sequel. Thankfully, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to be bigger without losing sight of why Captain America is so loved. Sure, he’s a super soldier, but before that, he was just a normal guy. Viewers can relate to that normality, and appreciate that success hasn’t gone to guy’s head. He’s still an everyday Joe – he’s just got a lot more oomph behind his punches.

If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen it yet, make sure to check out The Winter Soldier before seeing the new one in theaters. It’s worth checking out, and should help with any continuity issues you might have otherwise.

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