There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
After Loki's attack on New York, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is trying to adapt to living in the modern world. Knowing no one outside Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Steve is struggling to find his place. His only connection to this modern world is through S.H.I.E.L.D., so he continues serving the agency as Captain America. After his most recent mission, however, he has a run in with a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier.
The Winter Soldier is a deadly assassin, but little is known of the man's identity or who he works for. Nonetheless, Steve begins to suspect the Winter Soldier is working for Hydra, a Nazi variant organization with ties back to Captain America's involvement in World War II. It has long been assumed that Hydra is dead, but after another deadly attack by the Winter Soldier, Steve and Natasha begin to believe otherwise. As they dig deeper into the mystery of Hydra's return, they begin to suspect that Hydra was never truly dead, and that it has instead only been dormant. Now it seems their time has come to reveal themselves, and their mission is once again one of world domination.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Captain America & The Winter Soldier (+10pts)
Impactful Death (-3pts)
S.H.I.E.L.D & Hydra (+8pts)
The Scale (-4pts)
Black Widow & Falcon (+6pts)
Pro: Captain America & The Winter Soldier (+10pts)
While the shield action was a little ridiculous at times, I still enjoyed Captain America and Steve Rogers a lot in this movie. The shield seemed like it should have been fatal to some of the people it hit, but otherwise, the Captain America action was awesome. It was interesting to see the different ways Captain America used his shield, and it was awesome to see all of the action the character was in. Then there was Steve Rogers, who was trying to figure out his place in the world, while trying to wrap his head around the return of Hydra and the complex politics of modern America. He came from an age where the line between good and evil was clear, and he was struggling to navigate in the modern world, in which that line was blurred. This meant that the Captain America stuff was awesome, and the Steve Rogers stuff was interesting, which made this a pretty effective main character.
Then there was the Winter Soldier. I do not want to say too much about the character—in case you are one of the few people reading this review who does not already know the Winter Soldier's identity—but he was a really effective antagonist. Despite me knowing who he was, his presence was still mysterious, and he was established as being incredibly dangerous. He was a formidable adversary for Captain America, and anyone who was not Captain America was essentially a sitting duck if he was coming after them. The Winter Soldier was cool, he was mysterious, and his connection to Steve Rogers made him feel relevant, as opposed to just a random, generic villain for this sequel.
Con: Impactful Death (-3pts)
This movie could have been a lot more impactful if the filmmakers had committed to a character death. There was a specific character who was attacked and probably should have died, but it was as if the filmmakers wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted the drama that comes with big character deaths, but they did not want the ramifications of, you know, killing the character off. Thus, they had the character almost die, only to have it not really lead to anything. The filmmakers had the opportunity of changing the game with these movies—in terms of how audiences do not really worry about the fate of the protagonists—by killing off a major character. This death would have also been devastating to many characters in the MCU, including the main character of this movie, and it would have been interesting to see the stories that could have come from that. Instead, the filmmakers set themselves up for something incredibly impactful, only to cop out when it came to time to deliver.
Pro: S.H.I.E.L.D & Hydra (+8pts)
I will get into my issues with the scale of this later, but I liked the whole Hydra infiltration aspect of this story. It gave this movie a political, spy, thriller vibe that really set this movie apart from other movies in the MCU. Steve did not know who he could trust, and he did not know how deep the whole thing went. What he did know was that Hydra was very much alive, and that it had embedded itself in positions of power throughout government. What this meant was that while Steve was trying to find his place in the modern world, that modern world was crumbling around him. It really stacked the deck against Steve, Natasha, and their few allies, and it made it feel like the odds were insurmountable. This was a Captain America movie, so it was safe to assume he would figure things out by the end of the movie, but the whole Hydra infiltration thing made this a suspenseful political thriller that I enjoyed watching—it being a superhero movie was just the icing on the cake.
Con: The Scale (-4pts)
While I enjoyed the whole storyline of Hydra resurfacing within S.H.I.E.L.D., I thought the scale of it was a little ridiculous. I understand that Hydra was an organization of spies, but the sheer number of spies made me think that, logistically, it would have been impossible for Hydra to keep the secret as long as they did. It is the same reason that conspiracy theories like the moon landing being fake fall apart. There is simply no way, given the number of people necessary to fake the moon landing and to keep it a secret, that such a secret could be kept under wraps after all this time. The same would have been true with Hydra existing within S.H.I.E.L.D., which is made even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is an intelligence agency. I liked the thriller storyline that came out of Hydra secretly hiding within S.H.I.E.L.D., but I do not buy that no one within S.H.I.E.L.D. would have figured it out sooner.
Pro: Black Widow & Falcon (+6pts)
It was interesting to see Black Widow in the role of a spy. In Iron Man 2, she was technically spying on Tony Stark, but this meant taking on the role of Tony's assistant, which was not exactly interesting. In The Avengers, she was basically just a warrior, fighting to defend New York from aliens. In this movie, she joined Steve on his spy journey. I liked seeing her in the role of they spy, and I liked watching her partnership with Steve throughout the movie.
Falcon (Anthony Mackie) was a great new addition to the MCU. His dynamic with Steve was a lot of fun, and I thought his story of a veteran helping other veterans was interesting. The whole wing thing was a little far-fetched, but this was the MCU. We have seen a raging Hulk monster, countless Iron Man suits, super-soldiers, and aliens, so was the idea of mechanical wings really that crazy? Anthony Mackie brought really effective humor to the role, he had great chemistry with Chris Evans, the character's story was interesting enough, and the Falcon wings made for some really cool action sequences. This made Falcon a strong character all around.
Con: Predictable (-3pts)
To start, this was a superhero movie, so I was never worried that Captain America would not save the day. Because of that, this movie was predictable at a base level. On top of that, the identity of the Winter Soldier was obvious to anyone who watched the last movie, and at the very least, anyone who did not would know that the Winter Soldier would be someone important to Steve's story, because of how much emphasis was put on the identity being a secret. Finally, the question of which characters would turn out to be secret Hydra agents was pretty obvious to me as well. For the most part, this was an effective, suspenseful, political thriller set in the MCU, but a number of the reveals and outcomes were pretty predictable, and it definitely took some of the air out of this thriller's tires.
Grade: B+ (89pts)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a definite step up from the last couple movies in the MCU. With this movie, we saw Steve Rogers trying to adjust to the modern world while that world was simultaneously crumbling around him. The movie had plenty of awesome Captain America action, and it had an awesome antagonist with the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier was mysterious with respect to how he was around, but his identity was pretty predictable, even if you did not know that identity before starting the movie. Nonetheless, the connection between Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier was compelling, and the action sequences involving the Winter Soldier were both exciting and intense.
I liked Natasha Romanoff's dynamic with Steve, and I loved the introduction of Falcon. Then there was the whole Hydra rising storyline, which gave this movie a fun, political thriller vibe. The scale of that storyline was a bit ridiculous, the outcome of that storyline was fairly predictable, and there was a potential death that the filmmakers played it safe with. I say this to point out that the movie was not without its issues, but it was definitely one of the best movies in the MCU thus far.