Captain America is the best stand-alone Marvel studios movie yet. The film manages to take a superhero who is very generic and boring and find the elements that make him such an appealing and long-lasting part of the superhero genre. I highlighted the aspects I would focus on in my review for the first Captain America, The First Avenger and almost by magic, they are exactly the aspects that the sequel manages to use and deploy successfully.
One of the most interesting aspects of Captain America is the idea that he is a fish-out-of-water. He’s a 1940’s soldier thrown into the 21st century. This was hinted at but quickly breezed over in both the first Captain America and the Avengers movie but I’m pleased to see that it’s included properly in Winter Soldier and used to both comedic and slightly tragic effect.
The second element of Captain America is actually using his worst quality and manipulating it into an interesting angle; his patriotic ideal of right and wrong. Every character, even the superhero himself, needs a flaw. Iron Man is arrogant, Batman is tragically scarred and even Superman suffers from being an “alien” on Earth but Captain America lacks that character defect. Place his morals and idea of righteousness to the test, then he becomes someone people can root for.
This is where the two great aspects mix. Captain America isn’t working for the Army fighting the evil Hitler anymore, he is working for SHIELD, not always knowing who his enemy is or whether he is on the “right” side. This means he is up against the heroes, villains and the system itself and putting Captain America on the run from the system he is working for becomes a master stroke, making the character, and subsequently the movie, much more interesting.
It helps that Captain America seems the dumping ground for support heroes. Winter Soldier is used to develop both Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury and it’s a great addition to the movie. Nick Fury actually gets his own action sequence which becomes one of the best of the movie while Black Widow is given a huge chunk of the story which demonstrates why she is included in The Avengers.
Even the new addition of The Falcon is handled well, not overloading the movie with too many characters or adding a new hero with silly powers. Captain America is much more rooted in “realism” rather than silly, fantastic elements and the movie works much better because of this.
It means we get some amazing set-pieces. It feels much more like a spy movie than a superhero movie. It features a flying man, a soldier that can jump from planes without parachutes and a villain with a bionic arm but as a movie, it shares very little with Thor or even Iron Man, demonstrating the scope and ability of Marvel to keep their properties fresh.
A hero is only as good as its villain though and that is where, again, Winter Soldier outdoes it’s predecessor. The villain is much more interesting and matches Captain America much more than Red Skull ever did. He has a decent backstory too and an actual motivation other than just being “evil” for evil’s sake. Not to mention that Winter Soldier vs Captain America gives us some much cooler fight sequences, better than anything we saw in First Avenger.
Overall, Captain America is a bold, brave and different to any other Marvel studios superhero movie. It doesn’t rely on super powers but instead on a character driven story with interesting elements and amazing set-pieces. As a whole, the Marvel Universe is changed too, meaning that things are going to get much more interesting for the best franchise around at the moment.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)