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10 Apr 2014

Action! The Exciting 'Captain America' Sequel Improves on the First Chapter

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Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Back in 2011, I wrote that Captain America: The First Avenger, while having a slick retro look, came up short on “action pow.”

Well, Captain America: The Winter Soldier brings an awful lot of “action pow” in a more-modern setting. Chris Evans, as the title character, is coming into his own as an action superstar—and it doesn’t hurt that Scarlett Johansson gets a lot of screen time kicking people in the face.

As Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 did, The Winter Soldier shows an Avenger dealing with life after saving New York City from an alien attack. Cap is trying to catch up on modern culture and settle into a new world after being frozen for almost 70 years. (His list of things to do includes watching Star Wars and Star Trek, trying Thai food, and listening to Nirvana.)

Of course, he’s not going to be able to just kick back and relax, because evil still exists below America’s shimmering surface—and governmental wrongdoings are going to challenge Cap’s ability to remain loyal to the country after which he’s named.

After an attempt on the life of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), attention goes toward somebody called the Winter Soldier, a fighting machine with powers similar to Captain America.

Cap’s mission eventually leads him to the discovery of HYDRA, a virus-like, evil movement that has been controlling members of the government since the Nazi days. With Black Widow (Johansson) and Falcon (a well-cast Anthony Mackie) at his side, Cap looks to take down HYDRA, kick the Winter Soldier’s ass, and possibly work in a date during the whole mess.

New to the Marvel universe is Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. Redford gets a chance to do some new things in this prominent role, the details of which will not be revealed here. (I can’t really write a lot about this movie without ruining things.) Thanks to his bravura performance in last year’s All Is Lost and his badass work here, Redford is experiencing a nice late-career renaissance.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, whose previous works include mostly TV shows and the horrible You, Me and Dupree, prove to be surprisingly with this blockbuster behemoth. Their action scenes crackle with a zippy, kinetic energy, especially during the smackdowns between Cap and the Winter Soldier. They also do well with visual effects, especially the return of the flying aircraft carriers, and an amazing finale featuring crumbling buildings and fights upon the aforementioned carriers as they fall from the sky.

As always, a bunch of folks got up and left at my screening before all of the post-credit action played out. People … never leave a Marvel movie until the screen goes permanently black. There’s one sequence that occurs after a few minutes of credits, and another sequence after the credits (just before everything goes dark). About 20 percent of the audience got up and left before the first sequence, and then another 50 percent more left before the final bit.

The summer movie season (yes, I know it’s barely April) is officially off to solid Marvel start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy (which looks like a lot of fun) are still coming, so there’s more plenty of potential Marvel goodness in the near future.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is playing at theaters across the valley.

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