This will be a spoiler-free review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I personally avoided most of the coverage on this movie, so I was able to see the movie with few expectations. I strongly recommend that you try to see this movie without being spoiled first. There are a lot of cool surprises throughout the entire film.
Captain America 2 is the most recent entry in the Marvel movie universe, and, in many ways, it does the best job of bringing the universes together in a grounded story and setting that still stays true to its comic book origins. The characters and story elements pulled from other Marvel movies no longer feel like winks and nods; they feel like natural parts of this story as well as critical pieces of the greater narrative. Elements from The Avengers and the Thor and Iron Man movies are woven into the plot in ways that both reference the past and hint at the future of the franchise.
In some ways, Winter Soldier handled Captain America much like Avengers handled Hulk. It made him cool again! I felt like Cap was a little marginalized in The Avengers. He was a little too one-note. Too much of a Boy Scout with few powers battling alongside monsters and gods. And the first Captain America movie was clearly an origin story, so it took awhile before we even saw him don the suit. I enjoyed that first movie, but didn’t consider it to be great. But the sequel puts Cap on par with the rest of the Marvel superheroes. From the very first mission early on in the movie, we see a man who has come into his own. He is confident and capable, and strikes with amazing speed and precision. Watching him surgically take out an entire squad of enemies is SO cool.
Now that’s not to say that he’s invincible. At the core of the film, we see a bunch of highly skilled mortals in masks. But their mortality is what makes the movie so gripping. These are people that can be hurt, that can suffer, that can even die. There are real stakes for these characters, and it helped to develop Captain America as a fleshed out human being. The movie is also really funny at times, and Cap isn’t the butt of the joke anymore. He’s nonchalantly hilarious.
It’s also worth noting that this is a great Black Widow movie. She’s always been fun to watch, but her personality is on display a bit more than it has been in the past. She still kicks butt, but its good to see her be a little more vulnerable.
Just as the first Captain America film was a period piece, I feel that the sequel is as well- only the period is our time. The movie feels like a modern-day thriller that just happens to have superheroes in it. It does a great job of shedding light on our society and some of the hot topic issues we see today. Who can you trust? How much information should one organization have? How much of your freedom are you willing to give up for your safety? In a digital age, what can be considered secret? Winter Soldier raises these questions in ways that surprised me.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is important to the Marvel movie universe because it essentially changes everything going forward. There are key plot elements and reveals that will have a heavy, direct impact on all subsequent movies. In fact, ABC’s Agents of SHIELD hinted at ties to Winter Soldier in its most recent episode, and future episodes will address some of the universe-altering changes caused by the movie. I can’t wait to see what Avengers 2 has in store now. I was excited before, but this movie really sealed the deal. I don’t know if I’ll go as far as to say that Captain America 2 is the best Marvel movie, but it’s certainly up there in the top echelon. Call it an A, a 5/5, whatever… It was a truly great movie. Run out and see it this weekend before you get spoiled!