So far, we have little evidence, based on the output we’ve seen so far, that Avengers 2 will do anything but completely dominate the box office.
Captain America 2 is the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that continues to develop established characters until we reach the next chapter in the Avengers saga. Captain America is now the third Avenger to get a sequel to his exploits and boy, did they whip up a doozy. The film is directed by little known directors Joe and Anthony Russo (most well known for writing several episodes of Community) and their direction plus the script, kinda goes beyond your average superhero shlock film. Viewers may find more in common with the latest Jack Ryan film rather than the rest of the films in the MCU. Captain America 2 is portrayed as a political thriller, rooted very more so in realism (it’s still a comic book movie, so that don’t think that everything’s going to follow the laws of physics). I actually think it shares a lot in common with the Metal Gear series in terms of its political intrigue and weapons of mass destruction. It’s a very mature take on what has been established as a light-hearted franchise, and it’s going to be very interesting on where Marvel goes from here on out.
The story of Captain America 2 is predictable (to a fault) but it keeps you interested the whole time. Captain America intercepts sensitive data on SHIELD while undergoing a rescue mission. This data is linked to a project called Insight, which features three helicarriers designed to stop terrorist attacks before they even happen. However, this data causes Captain America to become compromised when he refuses to hand the data over out of fear that the project will be used for unsavory purposes. As a result, he ends up getting targeted by SHIELD and they dispatch an asset, the Winter Solider, to take care of him (meaning, in case this went over your thick heads, kill him).
Despite featuring his name in the title, the Winter Soldier actually doesn’t show up for most of the movie. He appears occasionally, roughs some shit up, and then disappears. However, the Winter Soldier is rather imposing as a villain because he is ruthless and methodical as an assassin, capable of besting even Captain America in a straight up fight. He also throws a few fancy knife moves his way which, unaided by CGI, looks damn impressive. To say any more about the Winter Soldier as a character would be considered rather spoilery but, despite his identity being not-so-secret, I’m going to hold off here for the time being.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America is every bit as reliable here as he was in every Marvel movie. Despite his moniker as a “Boy Scout,” he is shown to be a little more complex than just a goody-goody. He gets down and dirty in his fights, likes to get up close and personal just so he can smack you in the face with his shield. Seriously, that shield is freaking awesome, the way that it’s utilized as sort of a boomerang and all the other crazy tricks shows that the filmmakers had quite a lot of creative potential when designing the fight scenes in this film. Props to Evans for being America’s hero.
Rounding out the cast is ScarJo as Black Widow (expect a lot more character development in this film, always a plus), Anthony Mackie as Falcon (who is awesome in every film he’s in). Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles as Maria Hill and Nick Fury respectively. And even Hayley Atwell returns as Peggy Carter for a touching scene that provides some closure for Captain America. You also, surprisingly, have Robert Redford in this film as a SHIELD leader, who brings a more charismatic approach to the entire film with his presence. It can’t hurt to have the founder of Sundance behind the lens, can it?
Just in case you’re curious, you kind of have to see the first film in order to understand everything that’s going on here. Characters from The First Avenger reappear and are repeatedly mentioned, even including multiple themes that you may not have expected to recur. Like I said before, anything else and I’ll be lynched for spoiler-talk so just go see it and you’ll know what I’m talking about. But while we’re on the subject of spoilers, I’d recommend that you stay behind for the two extra-credit scenes embedded in this film. Nothing else to say, just letting you know ahead of time.
For all film soundtrack fans out there, sorry to say, but it is atrocious. I have no idea what Henry Jackman (X-Men First Class, Wreck-it-Ralph) was thinking but this couldn’t possibly be the score Marvel had in mind, could it? Where’s the melody? Where’s the Captain America March? It played in the opening once but is never played again. The majority of it is synthesized loops of pounding drums and unpleasant noises. The motif for the Winter Solider is just a synthesizer MRI effect combined with the sound of a processed shriek. Simply hideous. They should have brought Alan Silvestri back, or at least Brian Tyler.
The verdict? Captain America: The Winter Solider is a solidly told movie that has its own unique niche while providing necessary character development integral to Avengers 2. It is a smart, pulse pounding thriller that’s chock full of action and suspense. While it the plot may be easy to determine, you probably won’t care, just as long as you get your fix of punches, guns, and explosions (if you can survive the debilitating soundtrack). Also, there is a blatant, yet quick, Pulp Fiction reference that is eye-rolling but just so…right that you can’t help but laugh (I thought the guy sitting behind me was going to shit his pants from laughing so hard…what do you know.)
Final Score: 83/100