"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a treat for Marvel fans and an even bigger treat for Captain America fans.
This sequel ups the ante in terms of the action, laughs, and storyline from "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011). It is a juiced-up, 2.0 version of Captain America, just as the Iron Man sequels were upgrades to that franchise.
What makes "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" different from the Iron Man movies is its sheer realism. The life-or-death car chases, intense hand-to-hand combat, and shootouts with rippling machine-gun fire are reminiscent of a Bond or Bourne film. In fact, if you took a slightly less-jaded Jason Bourne, put a metal shield in his hand, and plopped him down in the Marvel Universe, you'd get the Captain America of this movie.
This characterization allows the Captain to reach new levels of badassness. One of the best examples of this occurs early on, when S.H.I.E.L.D sends in Captain America to clear out a ship full of terrorists. Watching the Captain kick, punch, and swing his way through weaponized vehicles and people is fun, but things get interesting with the appearance of the Winter Soldier.
For the first time (no spoilers here if you've seen the trailer), an enemy is able to stop the Captain's shield, mid-air, with the vice-like grip of a metal hand. At this point, you know the game is on. The Winter Soldier tests Captain America's physical strength, but also his resolve, as details come to light that cause the Captain to question everything he's been fighting for. More than just a good guy vs. lunatic/bad guy tale, the film delves into political debates over government control and the price of order and safety in a post 9-11 world. While adding to the sense of realism and relevancy, this political element and the dialogue devoted to it can slow the movie down.
See/Rent/Skip: See: Movie tickets are expensive nowadays, but the last 1/3 of this movie makes it worth the price of admission. The climactic action scenes dazzle, and the Falcon is particularly cool to watch as he flips and dodges around the screen, raining bullets down on enemies from two machine guns. Black Widow and/or Scarlet Johanssen fans who wait also stand to miss out on the bigscreen eye candy of her character sliding around screen while administering butt-kickings in tight black pants.