Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”

Not as if the big man needed it, the Russos have nonetheless grabbed the syringe and stabbed Captain Rogers straight in the arm with a heady mix of adrenaline and steroids. Straight from the start, the viewer is catapulted into a fantastic action scene, which blends the typical super-hero trope of stylistic ass-kicking, with the gritty realism needed to differentiate the great captain from other beloved Marvel heroes.

In fact, there is very little resemblance to the somewhat flatter first instalment, which acted purely as an origin story for the then upcoming Avengers movie. Instead, in typical sequel fashion, the film is darker, cooler and sexier, making it not long before you are smiling to yourself in satisfaction, as Rogers plants another size-13 boot onto the chest of another bad-guy, sending them flying off the screen. But this is not to say that this fast paced cross between Nolan’s Dark Knight action and Greengrass’s high octane and vibrant camera-work is not recognisable. The Winter Soldier still sticks to the gentle blend of humour, graphic action and the inaugural post-credits teaser, which we have come to expect from the franchise as a whole.

With the origin-story shackles removed, Rogers and his fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff, are able to get caught up in a much more spy-infested plot that nicely blends the modern with the vintage, something that needs to be upheld in a Captain America movie. The plot reveals that involve the two story franchise powerhouses, S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA are somewhat predictable, but at least the decent set of villains and scene variation keeps it fresh and interesting for most of its slightly heavy running time.

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Despite some really terrific and unique action set-pieces (wait till you see Fury’s vehicular ambush), where the film possibly slips is the lack of real scene-stealing dialogue that some of the better Marvel instalments have. This makes it appealing on the eye (especially Johansson’s Portman-style Marvel make-over), but perhaps not so much on the ears. Despite this however, the ominous tone to the whole picture ensures its decent-sequel status remains and it will no doubt please audiences across the board.

Evans, Johansson and a terrific supporting cast have not just upped the Captain America stakes, the Russos have also pushed the boundaries yet again of what Marvel action sequences can entail with the right imagination and ingenuity. Throw in some nicely sinister antagonists such as Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, and one of Jackson’s more involved roles as the ambiguous Nick Fury, and Winter Soldier stands out as a rampantly involved sequel in a potentially cluttered super hero world.

Shapstik Verdict: Fantastic fight scenes, high-octane bullet-laden action and a terrific set of familiar and new characters, means that Captain America: The Winter Soldier will hit the ground running as one of Marvel’s better second phase instalments. However, after the umpteenth choreographed fight scene between the chisel-jawed captain and bad guy cannon fodder, the most ardent sceptic may just allow themselves the question: Is this really anything I haven’t seen before? The answer maybe be mostly no, but this should not retract from a fantastic looking, slick action film that has injected new life into the under-appreciated super-hero. 8/10

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