Let’s face it: Captain America is not the most exciting of the Avengers. It probably has something to do with both his powers – basic super strength and agility looks a tad underwhelming compared to the likes of Iron Man and Thor, without the appeal of “Wow, I could actually do that if I had the training!” that someone like Black Widow brings to the table – and his character – he’s a nice guy, but nice can be dull. That said, I enjoyed the first Captain America film – so what’s the sequel like?
We find Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans) carrying out operations for SHIELD – while he’s slightly more used to the present day now, he’s finding it hard to come to terms with SHIELD’s more questionable approaches to military defence. After some time setting the scene, things abruptly take a nasty turn, with SHIELD Director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) being attacked in his car by an assassin called The Winter Soldier, and Steve suddenly finding a lot of his supposed allies gunning for him. Along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and his new pal Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), he goes on the run to figure what’s going on and how to put things right.
The story is well done: it’s a bit more complex than most superhero movies, and there’s quite a bit of moral ambiguity to start off with, though this fades later on. The threat involved in the film is also more complex, and thus feels truly serious. Like most Marvel movies, there are some particularly cool moments here and there: for example, I like Captain America’s notebook of historical and present-day things he needs to catch up on. It was a bit confusing as to why Captain America should be interested in the 1966 World Cup Final – has his experience with Peggy Carter made him an Anglophile? – but apparently the scene is actually different depending on what country you’re watching the film in. (In France, it’s the 1998 World Cup.) The ending appears to be (at least) a partial game-changer, the sort of thing you might expect from the second Avengers movie rather than a Captain America sequel – I’ll be interested to see how it plays into future Marvel movies, not to mention (hopefully) Agents Of SHIELD.
As characters go, with the focus being on Captain America (unlike in The Avengers – yes, I’m supposed to call it Avengers Assemble since I live in the UK, but I don’t care, it’s The Avengers), it’s good to properly see his adjustments to the modern world and modern values. I particularly liked his interactions with Black Widow, which really serve to expand her character after what we already saw in The Avengers. Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury makes good use of the screen time he gets, but what else do you expect from him?
Unfortunately, none of the other characters are especially interesting, and that’s the film’s main problem: there’s not much to make it stand out from the crowd as superhero films go. As I said, Captain America is not the most exciting hero, and while the action in the film is certainly good, most of it isn’t really anything you haven’t seen before – maybe I’ve just seen too much CGI action these days. The pacing of the story has some slow periods, and some of the twists in the plot didn’t surprise me all that much.
There’s a few nitpicks too, like how in the first action scene, our super-soldier hero mows down a bunch of enemy soldiers one by one with simple efficiency, yet the non-super-powered level boss is able to put up a significantly better fight. Also, while I like how Captain America has a Smithsonian exhibit dedicated to him, why is it in the National Air & Space Museum?
Overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is average – it’s got plenty of good elements to it, but there’s nothing to make it really impressive or especially fun. Still, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re invested in the Marvel cinematic universe. Rating: 3/5.