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Movie review: 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' furthers the bigger picture

Captain America: "The Winter Soldier"

Rating:
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Everything - and nothing at all - is at stake in the latest chapter of the continuing saga set in the world of Marvel Comics. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (opening today) is the second film for our greatest American hero, but it serves mostly as filler and set-up for the next Avengers film slated for 2015.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
2014 Marvel Studios

Overall, its not a bad film and in fact, it is a pretty enjoyable action-adventure. The problem is that the Marvel formula is wearing a bit thin. The last several entries in the ongoing story - this, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, specifically - sort of feel empty in and of themselves.

When we last left Cap (Chris Evans), he is now having to get accustomed to the modern world...the dude was created as a super-soldier during World War II after all. News has circulated that a new Soviet agent is on the loose, known as "The Winter Soldier" and it's up to Cap to stop the threat.

Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson reprise their roles as the S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury and the deadly former spy, The Black Widow, respectively. Captain America's sidekick is Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka the Falcon. Robert Redford appears as a villainous corporate guy caught up in the action.

The movie really abandons all sense of American bravado found in the first film. It also is perhaps the most serious of all Marvel movies to date. Early on, there are a few laughs generated from Captain's assimilation to modern technology, but all of that is quickly abandoned and replaced with an onslaught of explosions, chases and dangers.

Interestingly enough, the Marvel films are actually beginning to more closely resemble the comic book reader's experience, whether this is intentional or not. The joy - and problem - with the comic books is that each issue is a separate stand-alone adventure, but part of an ongoing and never-ending soap opera. They eventually take on sort of a throw-away feel, where you know that the hero is in no real danger and that everything will be OK in the end. This sucks massive amounts of drama out of the story. But each chapter, each issue, nicely sets up the next installment, giving us just enough exciting to make sure that we check back in.

This action-er felt like a film that could have plugged in any one of the Marvel heroes we've already been introduced to, or various others that have yet had their moment in the sun. The only real difference between this film and the Thor and Iron Man films is that Captain beats people up with his shield, whereas Thor uses his hammer and Iron Man his suit. Despite their unique personalities, all of these characters are growing as thin as the comic book paper that they originated on, given no real growth or arc over the series of films.

Still, Captain America: The Winter Soldier falls into "good enough" territory. Every Marvel movie since The Avengers has been a bit of a disappointment, maybe because that one was so frickin' cool. We all follow along mostly by our drive to see the next Avengers film. Imagine how great it would be if the interim adventures were equally thought out. Most of you, I'm guessing, are way more excited to see what rolls during the credits of this film than you are to see Captain America again. And that to me, is a problem.

And yes, as usual, be sure to stick around for not one but two stinger scenes during the end credits, setting up the inevitable next chapter in this endless super-hero adventure.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Run Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes, Rated PG-13

Starring : Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie

Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree) post-credit scenes directed by Joss Whedon

Opens locally on Friday, April 4, 2014 (check for show times).

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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time