After the double dose of disappointment Marvel offered us a year prior (The Wolverine, Iron Man 3), I was certainly nervous about the direction the company was taking for its second phase, even though Thor: The Dark World wasn't too bad.
Thankfully, Marvel came back to prove me wrong, very wrong, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the present day-set sequel to The First Avenger. The real worry I had going into this one was that it would just feel like yet another Avengers Assemble, giving up on the retro feel of the first Captain America movie altogether, something I personally love about the character and that particular flick. As it turns out, The Winter Soldier is deeply rooted in the character's history and we actually get to see how that history had an impact on Steve Rogers' present. Sure, the film goes for a decidedly modern thriller vibe but it still manages to feel like a superhero movie and keep some good old-fashioned camp intact.
With Joss Whedon taking the Tony Stark persona and extending it to his Avengers universe, giving it all a light-hearted, jokey feel which clearly bled into the second Thor movie and Guardians Of The Galaxy, it is incredibly refreshing to see a Marvel movie which takes itself more seriously, never going overboard with the sarcastic lols and feeling the need to push its content into farce territory. I mean, I think we can all agree that most superhero movies are somewhat ludicrous but that doesn't mean we need to reference that every time. Why not just honour the material and present to the audience a seriously made yet fun ride? After all, why do you think all the good Batman movies are so awesome?
The Winter Soldier sees Cap/Rogers (a pumped-up Chris Evans) go head-to-head with S.H.I.E.L.D, questioning Nick Fury's (Samuel L. Jackson) secrecy and new mega-plane-building project. And, just like in Avenger Assemble, it turns out that Rogers was very right to be suspicious. With Fury being targeted, S.H.I.E.L.D. essentially being taken over by Robert Redford's big cheese and some badass-looking, mysterious assassin showing up every so often to cause mayhem, it looks like the world needs Captain America more than ever. Yes, it's odd that the rest of the Avengers aren't there to help out but I'm sure they're busy with their own crazy plots. At least Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is there to assist our hero and provide extra brains and ass-kickin' moves. Plus, new addition Falcon (a perfect Anthony Mackie) brings with him some welcome fire power... and wings.
The reason why this sequel is quite probably the best Marvel movie since, I guess, the first Captain America movie, is the way its plot develops: you've got some genuinely neat twists and turns here and they're all handled with class and knowhow. And, with a fantastic new villain (the best Marvel's given us in a long while) kick-starting most of the thrilling action scenes in this movie, the whole thing makes The Dark World look like a Saturday Morning cartoon. This, shockingly, actually feels like a real movie rather than just a collection of amusing moments.
Suffice it to say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a must-see for any fan of The Avengers and the Marvel universe. The film's not perfect, admittedly, but its shortcomings (some dodgy CGI de-ageing etc.) are nitpicks considering how genuinely good 98% of it is. Finally we get a Captain America movie that doesn't feel rushed and another Marvel film which not only takes its character seriously but its audience also.
Perfect popcorn entertainment with more brains than many in the genre.