captain america the winter soldier chris evans scarlett johansson
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, 
Robert Redford
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Year: 2014

The Quite Nice Avenger, Captain America (Chris Evans), returns for his sophomore solo feature-length effort further unraveling the vast, vast landscape which is Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. If this were a high-budget comic actioner opening a new franchise, reviewing the flick would be a different proposition. As it stands, Captain America: The Winter Soldier serves as a lynchpin tying itself to the earlier Cap standalone flick and The Avengers. And all the other Avengers standalone movies. Which is where the limitations of any of Marvel’s features come to the fore; can they ensnare new fans, satisfy existing movie fans and do a good enough job of tackling the massive comic book canon?

Cap’s second outing does.

This time around, Steve Rogers is grappling with modern day living, carrying a handy notebook containing an ongoing list of contemporary culture references he’s working his way through. Called in by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s head honcho, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) the film’s barely begun before he’s off on a risky mission in the middle of the ocean with new sidekick, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a mixed bag of no-named lackeys. The specs of the mission spiral into an uncovering of another conspiracy, throwing the intergrity of S.H.I.E.L.D. into peril, which only an off-the-grid Cap can put right.

From the get-go, Cap and Natasha riff back and forth, simulating trivial workplace patter discussing Rogers’ love life. Brotherly directorial duo, Anthony and Joe Russo, have obviously intended to instil our hero with witty chops, yet, if Tony Stark were around he’d be cowering in the shadow of his quick verbose stylings. Romanoff steals the show when it comes to heart and humour – even if her motives are constantly at question throughout. Acting as a sexy soul mirror for Cap to reflect upon, his most likeable reveals occur when he’s in her presence. Sure, Rogers is a real nice guy, and that’s undoubtedly his unique selling point, but he’s at times a bit of a damp squib who’d you kill to see act like a bit of bastard every now and again.

Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier

And while the subtitle would lead you to believe he is The Winter Soldier, he’s not, some other guy is, and his screen time and sub-plot arguably aren’t substantial enough to warrant the attention. He does however provide the catalyst for a series of badass set pieces. It’s his first appearance when the film truly shrugs off the shackles and kicks into high gear – a lengthy slow-burning car chase sequence involving Nick Fury, brainwashing, more car chases, looking cool and a bit of dangling from great heights. All the exhilaration we’ve come to expect from a Marvel flick, are synonymous with him turning up like a cross between Shredder and Edward Scissorhands. The subtle sync of The Winter Soldier into the plot wends itself nicely through Cap’s emotional baggage, binding together events and character that’ll have you shrieking “Remember! Remember!” at the screen.

There’ll always be comparisons to Marvel’s previous standalone efforts, in particular the recently-released Thor: The Dark World, which bags points for smartarse Loki and Thor’s fish-out-of-water gags. Cap 2 still surpasses The Dark World for its overall grittier, more adult mood. A recon mission undertaken by Rogers and Romanoff strays into jumpy thriller territory for one edge-of-your-seat scene, that’s an easy contender for one of Marvel’s most mature superhero moments that makes you forget the lead is wearing spandex.

That’s not to say there is an absence of superhero comic content, because it’s chock full of it. Roping in the brilliant Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, a steel-winged Icarus with a mouthful of snappy one-liners, there’s a bromance to be further explored here, no doubt which may be ventured into for the third installment.

All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a damn fine entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that blows the first flick out of the water. My only quibble is: when are we getting a Black Widow movie?

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