Captain America: The Winter Soldier : To most, including myself, Captain America (depicted by Chris Evans) was definitely not my favorite superhero in Marvel’s blockbuster The Avengers, nor was his origin story satisfying enough for him to ‘par’ alongside the likes of Iron Man. However, armed with new directors – The Russo Brothers - and a striking new suit, Cap backflips out of his World War II roots and into a contemporary espionage thriller packed with twists, a thick plot and well-directed action sequences worthy of Bourne recognition. As an avid comic reader, it was interesting to watch the man behind the mask, Steve Rogers, adjust to modern circumstances after he was thawed out of the ice but equally, discover that the war-torn Hydra has been infecting S.H.I.E.L.D. since the events of World War II.
New Film, New Faces. It was critical for The Russo Brothers to add new characters in order to build up for Civil War and ultimately Avengers: Infinity War. I was apprehensive to see how Sam Wilson AKA Falcon (characterized by Anthony Mackie) would be thrown into the mix but adding his classic comic quips and more-so his wing suit played out perfectly creating a picturesque portrayal of ‘Snap’ Wilson. The Winter Soldier or Bucky (Sebastian Stan) is a fan favorite. His arrogant stance, the precision of his mercenary skills but mainly his brutal metal arm! What made him so alluring was Bucky had no memory of his childhood with Steve and was hypnotised by Hydra agents to fight against S.H.I.E.L.D. Especially in superhero movies, the audience are expected to see clean-cut heroes and dominating villains but The Winter Soldier created a diversion as a refreshing 'anti-hero' whilst the real villain – Alexander Pierce (portrayed by Robert Redford) – was plotting against them. As a film veteran, Redford carries charm in his role by not making him a 'Generic Marvel Villain' but giving him memorable morals and ultimately acts any of this movie's stars under the table. Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) and Brock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo) are also vaguely introduced but The Russo Brothers stated that their characters will be explored more in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.
Showcase Showdown. Captain America proved to be a showcase for the protagonist in viewing his key developments. The film is open about Chris Evans reprising his role as Steve Rogers but we, as the audience, are susceptible to seeing him evolve as a person and advance into an awesome superhero. Scarlett Johansson also returns as Black Widow (with a fetching new haircut) to aid Cap in his undercover operations. The audience can also see her character progress as ample screen time can create additional layers in her respective (and loved) role. Furthermore, the brutal fight choreography that she and Cap take part in is well-executed (mind the pun!) and thrilling. That being said, it also is realistic for a superhero film actually selling the core cast as lethal operatives especially in the opening sequence. Samuel L. Jackson again returns as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury into the shared universe distributing his comic relief with classic banter but ultimately delivering his strong insight on the plot in sheer moments of heroism.
Freedom Fighter. As said before, The Winter Soldier has excellent directing and cinematography throughout. No, really, The Russo Brothers have properly hit the nail on the head with this one with some stand-out scenes – the plethora of Helicarriers (basically floating aircraft carriers) above Washington D.C. is pure ecstasy. There are truly many memorable fight sequences which is the main reason why The Winter Soldier is one of the better superhero movies. I especially like the nifty little techniques that create a distinctive yet subtle comparison between Cap and generic foot-soldiers revealing that he is, in fact, ‘super-human’ rather than tons of exposition being crammed down your throat. These would normally be standard fight scenes but the directors’ quick-thinking playfully invigorates them conveying the true strength, power, and dexterity of Steve properly elevating the enjoyment. For me, these sequences completely altered my interpretation of Captain America as he doesn’t need an Iron Man suit or magical hammer because unadulterated strength and perception can express how much of a badass he can be.
High Excitement, Low Stakes. Although I was thoroughly engrossed for 136 minutes there was one, griping itch. The stakes were too low. During the climactic end scene (and believe me, it was climactic!), I felt too secure with the lives of the main protagonists and mankind leaving me with little-to-no doubt about whether they would all survive. Most of our heroes are stated to appear in future films so knowing they would come out alive completely broke my emersion as the outcome is clear. Aside from that, The Winter Soldier is a gratifying action movie possibly capable of redefining the superhero genre but especially sequels (I’m looking at you Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World!) into a thrilling blockbuster.