Sure there’s a lot of Cap, but Black Widow is the scene stealer this time out.
Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is still catching up to modern-day. Working for SHIELD, he and Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are sent on a covert mission to free hostages, but the target turns out to be a SHIELD vessel. Worse yet, Natasha has a different mission – that Cap wasn’t told about. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) admits to keeping Steve in the dark, but with good reason: a secret threat assessment platform called “Insight” that predicts dangers to national security and eliminates it. Steve shares his concerns, prompting Fury to postpone implementing the new system – and that’s when the assassination attempts begin.
Whew! Marvel Studios certainly knows how to build a complex story on top of an existing film franchise. In probably the best film thus far behind The Avengers film and maybe the original Iron Man, The winter Soldier is a post-modern cold war spy thriller – with superheroes, of course. While Cap gets plenty of screentime, this is the first time Scarlet’s Johanssen’s Black Widow really gets to shine, proving why she can hold her own both as an Avenger and as a solo operative. In fact, the character story is both about Steve Rogers trying to figure out his place in the modern world and Natasha just trying to figure out who she really is – pretty deep stuff for a “mere superhero flick,” right? This is the Marvel difference, folks.
The revelations that occur in The Winter soldier are a game changer for the Marvel Universe, so if it hasn’t been spoiled for you yet on social media, it won’t be spoiled here; let’s just say James Bond had it easier with SPECTRE (Marvel fans would already guess, but they’ve all probably seen the movie already). Happily, this has also been firmly tied in with the ABC show “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” marking the first time in recent memory where a joint film-television franchise has simultaneously bridged the two mediums in a significant and satisfying way; nothing will be status quo following this! Adding in performances by Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka Falcon, and Sebastian Stan reprising his role from the first Captain America movie, there are very few stones left unturned.
In addition, the new Captain America film provides a number of Easter eggs hinting at things to come. The words Steven Strange are heard, aka Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme to True Believers. A glimpse at a targeting computer offers a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it preview of Stark’s presumed rebuilding of his New York tower into Avengers Headquarters, just in time for next summer’s Age of Ultron movie now in production. There’s just very little than can be said against a film this well-rounded and complete; for a movie meant to be one cog in the big Marvel machine, it stands alone extremely well. It’s also the perfect film for those 3D and X-D theaters with the buttkicking sound system and an IMAX screen. The final verdict? Trust no one – except Marvel.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)