Bust a Cap

"Remember back when I was the Human Torch? That was weird."

"Remember back when I was the Human Torch? That was weird."

Rated 4.0

A few years back, I wrote that Captain America: The First Avenger, while having a slick retro look, came up short on “action pow.”

With Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel takes care of Cap’s first film’s shortcoming and brings an awful lot of “Pow!” in a more modern setting. Chris Evans, as the title character, is really coming into his own as an action superstar, and it doesn’t hurt that Scarlett Johansson gets a lot of screen time kicking people in the face.

Like Thor 2 and Iron Man 3, The Winter Soldier shows us how an Avenger deals with life after saving New York City from an alien attack. Cap is just trying to catch up on modern culture now. His list of things to do includes watching Star Wars and Star Trek, trying Thai food and listening to Nirvana, and he’s attempting to settle into a world after being frozen for 50 years.

Of course, he’s not going to be able to just kick back and relax because evil still exists below the United States’ shimmering surface, and governmental wrongdoings are going to challenge Cap’s ability to remain loyal to the country he symbolizes.

After an attempt on the life of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson just Samuel L. Jacksoning it like only Samuel L. Jackson can!), attention is called to the likes of somebody called the Winter Soldier, a fighting machine with powers similar to Cap and an identity that won’t be revealed in this review.

Cap’s mission eventually leads him to the rediscovery of HYDRA, the evil movement started back in the Nazi days, now controlling members of the government. With Black Widow (Johansson) and Falcon (a well cast Anthony Mackie) at his side, Cap looks to take down HYDRA, kick the Winter Soldier’s ass, and possibly work in a date somewhere during the whole mess.

New to the Marvel universe would be Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. Mr. Redford gets a chance to do some new things in this prominently featured role, the details of which will not be revealed here, either. (Damn—I can’t really write a lot about this movie without ruining things.) After his bravura performance in last year’s All is Lost, and his badass work here, Redford is experiencing a nice late career renaissance.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, whose past works include mostly TV shows and the horrible You, Me and Dupree, prove to be surprisingly successful when it comes to piloting a huge summer blockbuster behemoth. Their action scenes crackle with a zippy, kinetic energy, especially during the Cap and Winter Soldier smackdowns. They also do well with the visual effects, with the return of the flying aircraft carriers and a firecracker of a finale featuring crumbling buildings and fights upon the aforementioned carriers falling from the sky.

As always, a bunch of folks got up and left before all of the post-credit action played out. People, never leave a Marvel movie until the screen goes permanently black.

There’s one “during the credits” sequence that occurs after a few minutes of letters on the screen, and another “post credits” sequence before everything goes dark. I would say about 20 percent of the audience got up and left before the “during credits” sequence, but then a solid 50 percent more left before the final bit. Audiences are learning, but they still haven’t quite figured it out. Stay in your seats until the dudes with trashcans enter the theater!

So, the summer movie season officially gets off to solid Marvel start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, which looks like a lot of fun, are still coming, so there’s plenty of potential Marvel goodness in the near future.