Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Main cast: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Sebastian Stan (James "Bucky" Barnes), Cobue Smulders (Maria Hill), Frank Grillo (Brock Runlow), Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), and Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury)
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo


Now that the origin story is out of the way, Captain America: The Winter Soldier lets our hero get down in business in the present day. Of course, he has shown his chops as the world's best traffic police in The Avengers a while back, but now he gets to do his thing without being overshadowed by other superheroes. Oh, wait a minute. Black Widow and Nick Fury are here too.

At 95, Captain America is just living day by day, unsure of what he would do. He obeys orders, because that's what he is trained to do. Everything else is outside his comfort zone, and the poor man is already out of his depths trying to fit in in this present day. He turns down Black Widow's suggestions on the ladies he could date, spending free his time sitting by the bedside of the now elderly and ill Peggy Carter, his love interest back in the 1940s. The man keeps himself busy helping SHIELD do things that normal soldiers can't do, and he develops another bromance with a former paratrooper, Sam Wilson. Seriously, at the rate Steve gets so cozy with so many guys, he's going to be the favorite pee-pee pincushion of every fanfiction author and GIF makers on Tumblr... if it hasn't happened already.

Trouble arises when someone inside SHIELD gets Nick Fury apparently killed, and worse, this someone hijacks a satellite killer missile project that SHIELD is working on. Nick wants to design a system that would allow SHIELD to track and kill potential threats before they become dangerous, you see. The satellite thing can lock in on any target in this world, so if SHIELD wants to kill that annoying guy in the chicken suit squealing outside a fried chicken joint near its HQ, all Nick has to do is to give the order, the satellite would lock in on the guy's coordinates, and some aircraft-thing would send a laser down to fry the guy ASAP. Steve objected to this programme, as he's all about freedom and people living without fear of Big Brother keeping track of their every move, but Nick didn't listen because Hollywood wants to tell another story that gives the right wing brigade the finger.

So, now that Nick is out of the picture and the system is hijacked, plus SHIELD is now chasing Steve and Natasha because the bad guy is now in charge in SHIELD, our heroes must somehow find a way to stop the whole plot from happening and killing millions of people. In their path is the mysterious bionic villain known as Kai Leng from Mass Effect 3, oops, I mean the Winter Soldier.

Interestingly enough, this movie gives almost equal attention to both Captain America and Black Widow, giving them a playful partners-in-crime camaraderie that, refreshingly, never translates into romance. If you're interested in the movie version of Black Widow, this is the one to watch as she gets the most character development of all the movies she has been in. Garbed in ordinary clothes instead of spandex, Scarlett Johansson gets to show off some dramatic acting instead of just posing around and doing some fancy high kicks. Unfortunately, Chris Evans has bigger biceps than acting chops, so often, it seems like the poor dear lady is playing off a plank in a same scene. Mr Evans isn't that bad - he's pretty, which makes up for a lot of sins - but he's grossly outacted in every scene he shares with Ms Johansson.

The plot itself is pretty standard, with explosions and chases and what not. While the choreography is nifty and fast, there is nothing here that hasn't been seen before. It's odd, though, how there would be explosions and buses flying all over but no cops would come to the scene. The bad guy's identity is obvious, so there is hardly any suspense during the "revelation" moment. I find myself far more interested in the character-driven moments.

I know I've mentioned that Chris Evans isn't exactly a great actor, but I'm actually glad that his range is limited. The script calls for the perdictable angst typical of the second movie in super hero franchises, and Steve broods considerably here. Mr Evans doesn't have the ability to make Steve too broody, though, so this movie is fortunately free from obnoxious and overlong navel-gazing moments of whining and self pity, such as those that made the middle of Iron Man 2 tedious to watch.

Poor Anthony Mackie is stuck playing the stereotypical black sidekick who, for some reason, becomes unquestioningly loyal to Steve. Sam has no personality of his own outside of being a convenient sidekick when Captain America and Black Widow need a third wheel to help them out. Black Widow gets the typical Hollywood "strong lady" treatment: she looks cool posing and looking all badass, but she can't win even once against anybody that isn't some random nameless mook.

At any rate, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an average action flick, all things considered. I feel that it is better than the previous movie, however, because it has some stronger human elements and the plot doesn't rely too much on the stupidity of the villains to make the good guys shine. I'm also tempted to give it some bonus points because Chris Evans is so easy on the eyes even when he's completely clean shaven like a doll.

Rating: 71


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