The Good: Action packed, genuinely emotional, and fast-paced, Captain America - The Winter Soldier is a superior sequel to the first film. Chris Evans is very likable as the hero, who does a convincing job espousing old-fashioned American values without irony or cheesiness.
Unlike the ear piercingly-noisy Man of Steel, I'm really glad the filmmakers chose not to subject this superhero to
"Dark Knight-ification." Cap is definitely a "good guy" in a classic sense - one we're familiar with but haven't seen on the big screen in a while.
There are some moments of pointed political commentary in regards to American foreign policy and the dangers of an ever-expanding government, which makes the movie seem current.
Although it's a little odd to see Robert Redford in a big-budget action thriller, he does give the movie some gravitas and it's enjoyable to see him and Sam Jackson together on screen.
The special effects are amazing, but pretty much seamless. And fortunately they don't distract from the human characters or the storyline.
The Bad: Despite references to the controversy surrounding the US government's data collection tactics (which often violate the 4th Amendment), the NSA is never directly named. I felt this was a missed opportunity for some honest, ideology-free criticism of government. Instead, the movie opts to place legitimate, real-life worries onto a conspiracy/boogey-man villain so as not to detract from the comic book-style action. A lost opportunity, to be sure.
Despite great action set pieces, much of which happens in Washington, DC, I found it odd that the populace seemed surprisingly calm (or even absent) while massive explosions were going off. Yes, I get that it's just a movie, but come on. A giant flying aircraft carrier crashes into a building near the Potomac River and DC residents just go about their business like it's no big deal? Nothing on the news?
And another thing that bothered me was that in the midst of all this, Captain America never thinks to call upon the other Avengers for help.
Who would like this movie: As far as big budget action movies go, Captain America - the Winter Soldier is entertaining and a lot of fun. The script and dialogue is well-written, the characters are appealing, and there's lots of action. Despite lost opportunities for legitimate political commentary, the movie does a good job preserving Cap as an iconic good guy.
Long time Marvel comics fans will probably notice more references and subtleties - I'm not too familiar with the Marvel Universe, and I thought the film was a lot of fun. However, hard-core fans may be more critical.
Look for the brief Pulp Fiction reference, and as it is with other films focusing on individual Avengers, stay through the end credits.
(3 out of 4 stars)
Review written by: Joe Yang