After a humorous, playful introduction to who will eventually become The Falcon (Anthony Mackie)—who goes on to play a great Falcon who we’ll hopefully see again, regardless of the rumors about Age of Ultron—Captain America: the Winter Soldier throws you into the action with a “business as usual” mission for Cap (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and team. Aside from foreshadowing, basically, the rest of the movie, it’s just a great showcase of Cap’s, and even Black Widow’s, skills in the ass-kicking department. It’s fast paced and well choreographed and even gives us our first glimpse of former long-time UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre’s action chops as Batroc the Leaper. Okay, so maybe there wasn’t much chop there, and he only spoke in French (his native language—he’s from Quebec, Canada) but the fight sequence with Captain America was impressive.
After a great car chase and general vehicular destruction, we get our first glimpse of The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Merciless, menacing and shiny—you know, because of the arm—he really does look the part. Originally created by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the folks that designed the costume and overall look really hit the nail on the head. The pages of Brubaker and Epting’s fantastic Captain America run literally came to life on the screen in that first glimpse and the one shortly after where, as you’ve seen in trailers, Cap throws his shield at The Winter Soldier’s back and he turns and catches it like it’s just a plastic Frisbee.
Moving away from the two title characters, for a moment, to Black Widow who gets some heavy screen time this go-round and, thankfully, not just in a silent eye candy role. This time, she actually seems like a complete character. Admittedly in her previous appearances, maybe aside from The Avengers, she’s seemed fairly one dimensional and, well, just eye candy. With all her screen time in The Winter Soldier, Scarlett Johansson actually shows she’s (both herself and Black Widow) more than the stereotypical comic book woman. She’s tough, smart, and witty and has some good chemistry with Evans. Her constant attempts to set up Cap with, well, anybody were well timed and funny and at one point she even attempts to take on The Winter Soldier herself with a crazy leap onto his shoulders and some razor wire. It was refreshing to see her stand out like the cerebral assassin she is, instead of the half unzipped Black Widow that some might immediately picture when she’s mentioned—that only happens once, and it’s brief so thanks costume department for giving her practical clothes to wear. If this is the type of Black Widow we’d see in a potential spin-off movie, count me in.
Speaking of Widow’s attempt at a one on one with the crazed, brainwashed Winter Soldier, the fight that immediately follows between Cap and WS is without a doubt one of the best the Marvel Universe has seen. It was brutal, fast, and hard hitting with some insane knife work in between blocking and punching each other. It can’t be said enough how well these interactions were choreographed and executed, either by stuntmen or Evans and Stan themselves.
Lots of people are going to be wary of spoilers, so this review avoids them like the plague. If you know Captain America and you’ve read the comics, there’s no reason to talk about who The Winter Soldier is because you already know. You already know what this sequel might be alluding to, and you probably enjoyed the hints at future Captain America villains and the name dropping of other characters yet to have their own movies or make an appearance. If you haven’t read the comics, you need to. First and foremost, the Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting run that chronicles The Winter Soldier, and beyond. Hell, the entire Brubaker run is something you really need to check out. It’ll give you perspective on a lot of this movie and potentially what’s being set up for the future of the Captain America franchise. Go and buy, and of course read, some comics.
Without a doubt, Chris Evans was born to play Captain America. Every time we see him in the red, white and blue he gets better and the character gets deeper. As someone who can’t really count Cap among his favorite characters, Evans, and writers like Ed Brubaker and even current Captain America writer Rick Remender, is sure doing a lot to change that. Captain America: the Winter Soldier is better than the first Captain America, which was still a great movie, and the future and possibilities for a third are endless. Marvel has struck gold, and every time they set out to do a movie it’s done with great respect to the source material, obviously, and executed with a great cast on screen and off. You can’t lose with a Marvel Studios production, so saying that might put this into perspective: aside from the mega-movie that was The Avengers, Captain America: the Winter Soldier just might be their best one yet. Oh yeah, it’s that good. Go check it out when it hits theaters April 4th, you won’t be sorry.