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'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' clearly one of Marvel's best offerings


Marvel Studio’s release of The Avengers in 2012 resulted in a level of success unmatched by any superhero film before or since. While Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World had the unenviable chore of following in its footsteps, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is clearly the best post-Avengers film by a landslide. At the same time, it surpasses the star spangled shield slinger’s original 2011 outing: Captain America: First Avenger, and the film’s rather sophisticated storyline sets a new precedent for future Marvel movies as they continue to expand their cinematic dominance of the comic book universe.

Photo: Tampabay.com


Two years have passed since Captain America (with a little help from his friends) put an end to Loki’s reign of terror in New York City, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still coming to terms with adjusting to civilian life. He now lives in Washington, D.C., where he is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., who is overseeing a project titled Operation: Insight, which consists of three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites carrying intel that will detect and eliminate enemies before any possible threats are carried out. While S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) stands by the project, Rogers balks at the idea, fretting over the possible George Orwellian overtones that would devalue the privacy of everyday citizens.


Shortly after meeting with Rogers, Fury is mysteriously denied access to the project, and an assassin named the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) destroys Fury’s SUV in an attempt on his life. After narrowly escaping, a battered and bloodied Fury approaches Rogers and hands him a flash drive regarding classified government information. When Rogers refuses to divulge the information Fury gave him to S.H.I.E.L.D. officer Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) the next morning, Rogers is suddenly marked a fugitive by Pierce and is now on the run from the government, who will do anything to prevent Rogers from leaking the top secret information.


Having nowhere else to turn with virtually nobody to trust, Rogers contacts Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). When the two access Fury’s information, they discover that not everything is what it seems with S.H.I.E.L.D., and a possible government cover up could be part of a bigger conspiracy that not even Captain America can stop on his own. Having barely escaped the jaws of death at the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D and realizing the two are vastly outnumbered, Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a local war veteran who gains access to his former “war equipment.” With their crew assembled, Captain America, Black Widow, and Wilson (now known as Falcon) set out to stop the Winter Soldier, the launching of the Helicarriers, and anybody who stands in their way of uncovering the truth behind the real motives of S.H.I.E.L.D.


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While the nostalgic First Avenger might carry just a bit more charm than its successor, Captain America: The Winter Soldier effectively blends, action, humor, drama and espionage into a compelling conspiracy thriller that easily ranks as one of the best superhero movies to ever grace the silver screen. The movie is more modernized than First Avenger and certainly more sinister, resulting in a nice contrast between the two films. Unlike most polished Hollywood blockbusters, Emmy-winning directors and brothers Anthony and Joe Russo rely less on computer generated special effects, which add a more personal in-depth feel to the action scenes, which are spectacular despite appearing rushed at times. The stunts are bolder, the story is more riveting, and all of the actors are on top of their game.


Evans continues to do a solid job developing the character of Rogers as he adapts to modern society, all while still maintaining Captain America’s edge. The supporting cast is superb. Mackie turns in a remarkably strong performance as Sam Wilson that could possibly warrant his own spinoff series (depending on how Falcon is received). Although his companion Redwing was noticeably absent and he seems to get lost in the midst of the chaotic final battles, Wilson is a nice compliment to Roger’s predominantly straight laced demeanor. As the film’s primary female lead, Johansson is given considerably more to do than her roles in Iron Man 2 and the Avengers, and it pays off. Much like the film itself, her attitude borders between cynicism and realism. This is something Rogers initially has a hard time coming to terms with, but slowly begins to understand as the stakes get higher and they gain each other’s trust. Jackson shows a side to Fury you normally wouldn’t expect from the confident, sure-handed leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and last but not least, Robert Redford is, well, Robert Redford. He never turns in a bad performance.


The political overtones of Captain America: The Winter Soldier are too blatantly obvious to ignore. The ideals that Rogers felt so strongly about in the 1940’s aren’t quite what they seem almost 75 years later, as he tries to reconcile the way things should be with the way things really are. Are these ideals indeed new? Or was Rogers blinded by patriotism in his first act as a soldier to where he failed to see they existed in the first place? Are things always black and white? Can the good guys also be the bad guys? And to paraphrase the words of Redford’s Pierce, in order to build a better world, do you have to tear the old one down?


Pretty deep for a superhero movie, but treat yourself to this one. And as always, stick around for the credits.



Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: Tampabay.com