Bigger not better sequel
Long and exhausting, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” seems to follow the all-too-familiar mantra of blockbuster sequels – more of everything is better—but it can’t be accused of lackluster filmmaking. Despite some annoying camera technique and a now generic final battle bonanza, this follow-up to 2011’s “Captain America “The First Avenger” has a lot to recommend.
For starters, Chris Evans is still fabulous as Steve Rogers, aka “Cap,” the WWII hero who finds himself an old-school S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in today’s much more complex world. Director Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) is assassinated moments after telling Rogers to trust no one in the organization. Can he trust former KGB spy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), who now fights for the good guys as martial arts master Black Widow? What about government chief Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who oversees the mysterious “Project Insight” that seeks to weaponize state-of-the-art “helicarrier” warships? Will the supposedly defeated nefarious “Hydra” rear its ugly head?
Befriending Rogers is war veteran and PTSD counselor Sam Wilson, who may become a key ally as things unfold. Cap’s old friend Bucky returns, only now he’s been brainwashed and is hell-bent to challenge Rogers as the “Winter Soldier,” a foe of similarly impressive strength.
If that sounds like a lot of characters, it is. When “Winter Soldier” focuses on the characters, even though they seem endless, the soul of the story surfaces and reminds us why the first installment seemed so grounded and unusually heartwarming.
The film feels topically relevant, with government power running amok and personal liberty at stake. The action sequences are well choreographed, although the jittery and often too-close camera work feels so last decade. Everyone has great chemistry and the nods to the previous installment work particularly well – especially what could have been a contrived hospital bed scene involving Cap’s former girlfriend, the now elderly Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
The second installments of the “Thor” and “Iron Man” franchises fell into the same trap, thinking that louder, longer, and more elaborate were what audiences demanded in a sequel. (The human body count here might be the highest in superhero film history.)
There is nothing in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that will anger die-hard fans, but little to inspire general audiences either. “The Avengers” film remains the benchmark boilerplate and it is beginning to look like it will never be eclipsed.
3D Treatment: Good but not required to enjoy the film
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.