"Captain America: Winter Soldier" Review- Craigs First Take

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As Steve Rogers continues his affiliation with S.H.I.E.L.D and struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he's reunited with James 'Bucky' Barnes, who is now brainwashed Russian assassin known as the 'Winter Soldier'.
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Things are heating up in Captain Rodgers Neighborhood. The former World War figurehead turned thawed-out S.H.I.E.L.D Avenger (again ideally played by Chris Evans) has to deal with government sanctioned techno executions, a Manchurian-type villain, and the ever-present Hydra in this much better sequel to the bland original. It’s a change of pace for Marvel- even Samuel L. Jackson said the other night on “The Daily Show” that this one “actually has a plot.”

Boy does it, and even more interesting is that Marvel put it in the hands of the Russo brothers (Joe and Anthony), who haven’t done a feature length movie since 2006’s “You, Me, and Dupree”- the only action in that movie being Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson phoning it in for a paycheck. But “Captain America; Winter Soldier” is an action bonanza with incredible shoot-outs, car chases, guys who can leap over planes and others who can fly, aerial combat sequences, and hard-hitting fights all encompassing a plot that’s a bit like “Mission Impossible”, only this movie has a way better explanation for why Cap can do all this super human crap than “because he’s Tom Cruise.”

Let’s pick up from the point where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is the victim of an assassination attempt- great because of three things. 1. Because Jackson is at his bad-ass best here. 2. We see a car chase which I think is going to be hard to top this summer. 3. Fury’s car has a machine gun built into it.

For reasons involving a secret project involving huge planes with even bigger guns (making this one of the first movies to really draw comparisons to and capitalize on government drone strikes), Steve and his mission partner Natasha/Black Widow (a sexy and lethal Scarlett Johansson) are labeled as fugitives and forced to go on the run by people with designs on creating a new world order.

There are all sorts of surprises here, some not as surprising as returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely want you to think, some (like the intentions of Robert Redford’s Defense Secretary) that were poorly kept to begin with, but one (think Trojan Horse) that really switches this movie into a higher gear.

Yes, Steve is still adjusting to life in Obama’s America- he still has no girlfriend and the call to serve is not nearly as strong anymore- and this is all fodder that gives Evans, Johansson, and Anthony Mackie, playing a fellow soldier who did a couple tours in Iraq as a…you’re going to want to think pilot but…Surprise!, so much to work with. Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is fine, not so much a villain as a way for Evan’s to add another layer to Cap’s emotional challenges. And Emily VanCamp (“Revenge”) is on hand here but I’m assuming is really only being set up for a bigger role in the third film.

Overall this “Captain America” sequel is a big improvement; exciting, funny, and being intriguing without ever taking itself too seriously. And I have to admit, this movie even left me interested in what they were going to do with Cap next. For someone whose been gradually getting more and more bored with mediocre products piggy-backing off the Marvel name (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D anyone?) and drifting more toward the side of DC Comic heroes, I have to say “Cap” does a really nice job of bringing me back toward the side of Marvel. Not as great as “Iron Man” or Sam Raimi’s first two “Spider-Mans” but still really solid.