"Captain America: The First Avenger" may have been my favorite movie in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. I've actually enjoyed all of these Marvel Studios movies from "Iron Man" to "Thor: The Dark World". I have also been enjoying the television series "Agents of SHIELD". I will say, however, that "Thor: The Dark World" was my least favorite film in this Marvel Cinematic Universe. I enjoyed the movie, but was disappointed with it at the same time. So, going into "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" I had both high expectations and a fair amount of fear. I had never seen a Marvel Studios movie I would consider to be bad and the first Captain America movie had been possibly my favorite of the entire run. I felt like maybe it was time for the inevitable Marvel Studios movie failure or at the very least something that didn't live up to the promise of the first Captain America movie.
Fortunately, my fears were vanquished by the end of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". First off, I think the action in this movie is some of the best the Marvel Cinematic Universe has offered so far. I mean, sure, there is plenty of joy in seeing all the heroes coming together and battling alongside each other in "The Avengers". That's hard to top. There was also an action sequence at the end of "Iron Man 3" that I found to be jaw-droppingly awesome. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" rivals and possibly tops these with action scenes that are extremely well choreographed and filled with applause-worthy moments.
I have talked about in a previous review how movies can sometimes just add scenes so that that they can fulfill a certain kind of movie checklist. Sometimes a car chase, for example, can be added to a movie not because it makes any sense in the context of the film, but because it makes sense to have a car chase in an action movie and that particular movie wants to be one. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" offers no such type of posing. Sure, Captain America himself as well as Black Widow may do a lot of action movie posing in this film, but the movie itself is not a poser when it comes to delivering quality action scenes. The action scenes in this movie are very well thought out and are filled with the kind of excitement that the best action scenes all have.
The plot of this movie is a strong one as well. It combines not only a story that greatly impacts the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, but that impacts the characters in this film as well on an emotional level. There is a good balance here between character development and plot development. We get to know the characters of not only Captain America, but Black Widow in particular, better than we knew them before. There is soul-searching, romance, and lots of intrigue going on in this story alongside all of the awesome action.
Scarlett Johansson in particular does a great job here. In this movie, Black Widow becomes one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She covers the action moments with ease as well as offering a complex mind for Natasha Romanoff. Chris Evans must also get lots of credit, of course, because his interactions as Captain America with Black Widow offer some of the best moments of the film.
Now, onto the criticisms. The score here is simply not as good as the one for "Captain America: The First Avenger". The composer for this movie was Henry Jackman and not Alan Silvestri who did the previous Captain America movie. Alan Silvestri's score was one that I felt went beyond the average action movie score. It had a stronger theme than the average movie scores of today. Maybe that was because of the time that the movie took place in. It was a time not seen in any of the other Marvel Studios movies and thus the score may have stood out because of this. Whatever the reason, Henry Jackman's score for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is not as memorable and much more generic to the current scores of our time.
Another criticism that I have for this movie is one that possibly was inevitable considering the fact that this movie is a sequel. This is a much less stand-alone movie than "Captain America: The First Avenger". This movie is sometimes less focused on telling its own Captain America story and more focused on the impact that this story may have on the Marvel Universe as a whole. For the most part, I think it balances the more personal and more universe-wide elements well, but there were times I felt the movie could have made its story more personal. For example, I think the character of The Winter Soldier and his relationship with Captain America could have been delved into and fleshed out more, but it is clear they are waiting for future movies to explore those things further.
Then there is the end credits tease. The movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become known for having a special scene after the credits that teases future films. Actually, now they have been doing two scenes: one in the middle of the credits and one after the credits. Usually one is more involved with teasing future plot points and the other is more of a joke kind of sequence. Here we get two scenes that tease at future plots. Only one of these scenes is revealing at all. The second sequence, which is after the credits, is totally predictable and hilariously drawn out in a way that makes the viewer think they will get a shocking reveal, but instead only offers a moment of total predictability.
Overall though, my criticisms against "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" are small ones. This is a very satisfying addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it doesn't quite reach the heights of the previous Captain America movie, I do think it is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous Marvel movie, "Thor: The Dark World". This movie also did something that I don't think has ever been done before in that it actually furthered the plot of a television show. "Agents of SHIELD" and the Marvel Cinematic Universe seem to be very much in synch these days and it is an impressive feat for them to have achieved. I may have had some fears about "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" going in, but having seen the movie I must say that I not only consider it a success, but I consider it to have re-invigorated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.