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Movie Review: 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

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2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” gave us pretty much what we’ve gotten from every Marvel film adaptation up to this point: an action-packed adventure with plenty of fights and explosions, tied together by a very loose plot that is just enough to act as a foundation upon which to place it all. All in all, it was a good film if all you were looking for was a bit of fun entertainment, and now we even get a sequel to continue the titular hero’s adventure with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” At this point, we know exactly what kind of film to expect, so it comes as no surprise that what arises is pretty much more of the same, but as you buckle down for a two-hour rollercoaster that barely takes a break long enough for you to catch your breath, you may find yourself asking: “Is that really such a bad thing?”

As the film opens, we find Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) continuing to adjust to his life in the present day. Working for SHIELD under the direction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Steve (aka “Captain America”) carries out dangerous missions, including rescuing hostages from a hijacked freighter. A sudden attack on Fury’s life eventually forces Steve to go on the run. Unable to trust anyone, Steve must band together with his closest allies, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), to fight a growing threat from within the very agency he worked for.

Indeed, this sequel to the 2011 hit is pretty much two hours of action sequences strung together with the usual good guys vs. bad guys plot. However, it once again shows that something this basic can actually be a good amount of fun. There’s no deep, complex plot and no major character development, but like the other Marvel films, there is a good amount of spectacle that makes for a pretty quick two hours. In particular, the attack on Nick Fury is a great example of the pulse-pounding action that the film delivers, which compounds with the introduction of the mysterious “Winter Soldier,” a warrior who appears to have skills equal to those of our hero.

This is where the writers attempt to plug in a more emotional thread of the story, which I won’t go into detail about, but it does show that they are at least attempting to make the film a little more than non-stop action. That being said, the “Winter Soldier” ends up providing some of the best action sequences in the film as he squares off with Rogers. It does make one wish that there were more hand-to-hand battles as opposed to the overuse of guns, but the few we do get are spectacularly choreographed and stunning to watch.

The biggest drawback facing the film is that the head villain this time around is not nearly as memorable as the one we had in the previous outing. In the first film, we had the wickedly evil Red Skull, portrayed by Hugo Weaving, who gave a wonderfully over-the-top performance. For the sequel, we have a SHIELD official by the name of Alexander Pierce, played by the great Robert Redford. Redford does what he can with the role, but there just isn’t much there to work with, making his part rather forgettable. Perhaps they wanted most of the attention to go to the “Winter Soldier,” but if that’s so, then why bother getting someone of Redford’s talents to play such a flat character?

With it being so similar to the other films of the Marvel universe, it also falls prey to the same issue as the others, that being that the ending is once again dragged out for too long. It’s understandable that the writers of such a film would want to have a large, spectacular finale, but as I’ve had to say several times before, it shouldn’t be to the point where the audience is starting to become a little bored with it, especially when we are well aware of what the final outcome is going to be. This is not to say that it’s not done well. The special effects and fight scenes are top notch as they are throughout the entire film, there just isn’t much of a point in stretching out the climax when there’s no need for it.

It basically comes down to this: if you have enjoyed the Marvel films up to this point (“Iron Man,” “Thor,” “The Avengers,” etc.), there’s a very high chance that you are going to enjoy this one as well. If you’ve never seen any of the other films, but are a big fan of the action genre, then you’ll probably have a great time as well. It may not offer anything new to the Marvel universe, but like the other films, it’s highly entertaining and a lot of fun, making it worth the two-hour investment. 3/4 stars.

Starts tonight in theaters everywhere.

Now playing in theaters: Nymphomaniac: Volume One, Pompeii, Labor Day, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: The Wolf of Wall Street, The Best of Bogart Collection, Beneath, American Hustle, Kill Your Darlings, The Slumber Party Massacre, Inside Llewyn Davis, In Fear, Oldboy (2013), Cold Comes the Night, Gravity, Mr. Nobody, The Americans: Season One, Hellbenders, Rocky: Heavyweight Collection, Chicago: Diamond Edition, All is Lost

Also be sure to check out my lists of the Best and Worst Films of 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.

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