I have been a firm believer that the first Captain America film was one of the best to come out of Marvel Studios with probably only The Avengers as the other contender. This sequel had a fairly high bar set for it, as far as my expectations were concerned, and taking Cap out of his element in WWII meant that there had to be a pretty drastic tonal shift between the two films. Thankfully, I was not disappointed in the film at all and the change of tone was done excellently to showcase both Captain America as a hero and had a nice evolution of his history as well as the progression of the Marvel cinematic universe.
After the events of The Avengers, we see a fully S.H.I.E.L.D. integrated Cap with an updated look for his role in the world of espionage. We get Black Widow back as a main co-star and the introduction of Falcon as a new hero with Hawkeye being conspicuously missing from the roster and not even mentioned. With all the history between him and Widow during Avengers, you’d think he would at least merit a mention. Oh well. The story plays out like the comic book version of a Jason Bourne movie but in a good way. The fact that it is Steve Rogers in the protagonist position makes the main theme end up one of uncompromising morality vs “the ends justify the means” in terms of helping humanity. Thankfully, Robert Redford makes the position of sacrifice for the greater good into something you can almost see yourself agreeing with instead of it being the cackling maniacal plans of a super villain that are obviously evil.
Speaking of the acting, the movie might have been called Captain America, but it provided ample scenes for other characters to really shine. We finally get to see Nick Fury being extremely badass and showing why it is he gets to sit in the big chair. Anthony Mackie’s performance as Falcon was solid and his addition to the cast felt very smooth and natural. Even a very minor character, like Agent 13, ends up getting a fairly significant amount of character development in the little amount of time allotted. If I had to give any complaints it would probably be the titular Winter Solider’s performance but I think that was really more to do with the character being extremely one-note with even his major moment of self-reflection being done without emotion. Hopefully, future use of the character sees some better direction or a script with a more nuanced character arc. Oh, yeah, he lives through the movie so uh…spoiler alert, I guess.
The direction and pacing for the film was extremely well done. Never lingering too long on any single side plot such that it makes it drag but also giving everything enough time to develop satisfactorily. The action seemed much more brutal in this film than the first with the shield being made to seem like a weapon that could really do some damage. While the movie was PG-13 and so shied away from anything too graphic on-screen, there were plenty of deaths and often in some extremely violent ways (the guy getting thrown through a jet turbine comes to mind). Thankfully, none of it seemed to be done just to make the film “darker” or “grittier” but rather to highlight that the world that these heroes live in is a violent one and that, when it comes down to it, Captain America is a soldier forged on the battlefield.
In all, I was very impressed with this movie and put it right on par with the first movie. Being able to successfully take this property and go from a pulp adventure romp in WWII and turn it into a modern day spy thriller is quite impressive. I’m going to give this a 4.5 out of 5 and definitely recommend you see it if you are a fan of the property or not.