Amongst the Marvel universe, usually there is a disconnect between the worlds of the superheroes and reality. Sometimes this disconnection is very obvious and direct (as with Thor and the dealings of Asgard), and other times the disconnect is more subtle (as with Iron Man). Try as the studios might to add “real world situations” into the storylines, the disconnect is ever present (Asgard is still otherworldly even when Thor is on earth, and Iron Man will always have super wealth and sci-fi level technology).
Enter, stage left, Captain America. While the character Steve Rogers (aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans) is a type of genetic alteration/mutation, what the Captain films capture is much more common to the everyday man: cultural clashes and trust.
What makes Captain America unique is the presence of “old school” chivalry, integrity, dignity, tactfulness, and the respect for authority. Taking these virtues and placing them 70 years later into modern-day America brings about the culture clashing. What the Captain has to figure out is how to stay true to the virtues he holds dear while simultaneously dealing with issues of trust: can those in power be trusted with that power, or is there a point where that trust is broken…and can broken trust be restored? How does one respect authority when said authority is potentially corrupt?
While not quite as good as the first Captain America, Winter Soldier still rises to be one of the best of the Marvel films (behind only The Avengers and the first Captain America film). The main reason the second falters from the first has to do with film mechanics. Sibling directors Anthony and Joe Russo have most of the experience with directing TV programming (several episodes of Arrested Development and Community). Winter Soldier is a grand opportunity for the Russos, but also new territory. While they made a magnificent film, some of the hand-held and “shaky-cam” effects were actually more distracting than suspense-building. Such camera work can be very effective (as with Saving Private Ryan), but was not executed to the best potential here. Sometimes the camera would pass the point of interest and have to backtrack as if it were live documentary footage. When most of the film is shot with still, focused, intentioned shots, such directorial and cinematography change is rather jarring and incongruent.
Even with the camera/editing choices, Captain America: Winter Soldier is far above and beyond most of the other Marvel entries (and one of the better “superhero films” in general). The best addition to this entry is a welcomed appearance of Robert Redford as S.H.I.E.L.D. supervisor Alexander Pierce. Every time he opens his mouth to speak, the words and scene glows with class and style. Redford has a mastered craft of acting and delivery, even when his delivery is reminiscence of Martin Bishop from Sneakers.
From the hilarious opening scene all the way through the potentially Oscar-nominated special effect extravaganza ending, this second Captain America film is filled with suspense, great script writing, and philosophical musings rarely found in popcorn popping films.
If you see Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the theater, make sure you stay to the end of the credits, as there is an additional scene both during the credits AND at the end. Both will play a role in developing Captain America 3 and the Avengers: Age of Ultron.
*very mild Spoiler Alert concerning the footage during the closing credits*
In the middle of the credits is a short scene that gives a preview of what Avengers: Age of Ultron will be containing. First, we are introduced to Captain America’s arch nemesis Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, and Strucker has obtained Loki’s staff (the same one used to in the Avengers). He also has imprisoned the twins: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. I share this for those who are not major comic fans, and since Joss Whedon has already announced the presence of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch on the internet movie database (imdb.com), I’m not really spoiling anything too great. J