I like superhero movies in general. I’ve enjoyed the Marvel superhero movies, in particular, especially how each superhero is allowed to have his own story and personality, while all the stories are woven together in the Marvel universe. The latest addition to the Marvel series, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is one of my favorites so far.
Several familiar characters return, most notably Steve Rogers/Captain America, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Bucky Barnes. Anthony Mackie is a great addition to the cast, as Sam Wilson/Falcon, and (spoiler alert!) Robert Redford makes an outstanding bad guy, playing politician Alexander Pierce.
Rather than summarizing the film, I’ll jump right into what did and didn’t work well.
Generally, characters worked very well: New characters and returning characters meshed well. Casting was perfect. The characters—all the main ones and any secondary ones with enough screen time for it to be pertinent—had clear, credible motivations. Their individual strengths and weaknesses influenced their actions and the course of the story. I liked how the characters had to confront their weaknesses and make choices that changed them, over the course of the film, and I liked how choices—even good choices—had consequences that were not necessarily good for our heroes.
There were a couple of small holes and a couple of spots where I would’ve liked a bit more detail, but generally the plot was strong. It was clear, it didn’t waste time on superfluous red herrings, it didn’t try to be too complicated or grandiose. It was just good, solid superhero fare. Though the fight scenes got too frequent for my tastes (I like good, well-choreographed combat as well as anyone, but too many fights get a bit dull), there was generally a good balance of fight scenes and conversational, story/character-building scenes. The scene between Steve Rogers and an aged, frail Peggy Carter was simple and sad and completely beautiful.
My one beef with the plot was the handling of the Winter Soldier. I’m sure they didn’t want to give everything away, since this story seems likely to feed into the next Captain America movie, but for someone like me who never read the comic books and didn’t re-watch the first movie before viewing the second, the level of detail they offered left me confused. If a character is important enough to be featured in the film’s title, I think the character deserves enough focus and detail to satisfy viewers who might be new to the franchise.
I think my favorite parts of the film, though, were its themes. First, the whole movie was remarkably wholesome. I guess you get that with as refreshingly wholesome a character as Captain America, but I really appreciated how that trait was allowed to permeate the movie. Also, the movie asked—and, good for the film makers, did not completely answer—some tough questions about fear versus freedom and the prices of both.
I thoroughly enjoyed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s probably too intense and violent for young children, but should be interesting and enjoyable for everyone else.
Release Date: April 4, 2014 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (minor social drinking)
Language: 2 (occasional use of “s-word” muffled by battle noise)
Sexuality: 0 (nothing inappropriate—really, nothing. Have I mentioned I love the Captain America movies?)
Violence: 3 (lots of combat and explosions, main characters in intense peril)