Unlike the majority of theatre audiences, I tend to feel left out when it comes to the Universe of Marvel-my only interactions with it have been through the star-studded, action-packed films based on its long list of original stories. These films cater to those who already know the story, assuming modern audiences have a working understanding of heroes, villains, and the backstories to these films.
Not this time, though. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the highly anticipated sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. The film was welcoming to us strangers of the Marvel Universe. Superhero aficionados and naive moviegoers were equally accommodated by the film-even we degenerates who find ourselves confusing Captain America and Superman were met with open arms.
In six years, Kevin Fiege, president of Marvel Studios, has produced nine Marvel movies with eight different directors, all connected in some way, despite the stark variance in time, location, and attitude from film to film. His massive success continued with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Marvel’s foray into the American cinema will continue for at least the next decade, as Fiege has releases already planned up until 2028. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, taking the cue of its predecessor, highlights the best of what the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, and more broadly, the superhero genre, has to offer.
The Russo brothers’ latest is a success by any measure-the 136-minute tale features Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson as the classic bad-guy-killing protagonists. The two are easy to appreciate as a duo. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of global spy service S.H.I.E.L.D., deploys Captain America (Evans) and the Black Widow (Johansson) on a mission to rescue a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship overtaken by pirates. While it appears the mission is a routine rescue procedure, it turns out that Fury himself is in danger, as it’s revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised at a high level. Fury is viciously assaulted in broad daylight by an assassin called The Winter Soldier. Captain America and the Black Widow quickly discover that no one within S.H.I.E.L.D. can be trusted, as they attempt to expose the individual who controls the assassin.
The protagonists begin to understand that the villain they are fighting is actually the military organization they have been instructed to defend. The film does well expanding its surreal plot to deal with real-world issues, playing off the actual fears of audience members. The movie is reminiscent of The Dark Knight film series, with terrorism and modern-day concerns adding substance to the film’s central conflict.
The casting for the film was particularly successful. The powerful role of Fury, the flirtatious yet ferocious Johansson, the cutthroat, callous, and merciless character of a S.H.I.E.L.D. leader played by Robert Redford, and the powerful and stoic Evans as Captain America work together seamlessly to produce a thrilling product and myriad exciting, well-directed action scenes.
While they have very little experience in the action/adventure genre, directors Joe and Anthony Russo do exceptionally well with creating a stimulating action piece. The brothers’ experience mostly lies in television, as they are known best for their direction of comedy series Arrested Development and Community. The extremely well-choreographed live stunts and action scenes in The Winter Soldier come as somewhat of a surprise from the brothers. The Russos incorporated less CGI and more live stunts into the film, creating a product more realistic than most in the superhero genre, acting more as a thriller than one of the overdone, special-effect-ridden action films many in the genre have been.
While the film can feel somewhat long at times, the final product makes good on the film’s $170-million budget, including captivating visuals to complement Winter Soldiers‘ well-staged plot. Of all the Avenger films, this is likely the most successful, as the plot, casting, and production come together to create an entertaining and exciting picture. Captain America: The Winter Soldier provides a thrilling, realistic, and thoughtful superhero movie that truly anyone can enjoy.