Phase 2 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been quite interesting to say the least. First off, we had the very entertaining – yet really polarizing Iron Man 3, and secondly, we had the good but still underwhelming Thor: The Dark World. And while I still reap quite a bit of enjoyment watching these characters in their solo adventures, I feel that there is this feeling of fatigue of these solo films knowing that we have already seen these characters assemble together in one of the most enthralling Summer blockbusters of all-time, and although they are still interesting characters on their own, there’s a sense of desire to see them assemble again. Granted, following up The Avengers is a tough battle to climb, but that shouldn’t stop these films from adding more layers and pushing the superhero film genre.
And it is for that reason to why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only the best film of Phase 2 of the MCU, it may be the best film overall – with the exception to The Avengers. This film is the first sequel of these standalone films that exceeds its predecessor on virtually every aspect. Captain America: The First Avenger was an enjoyable war film injected with the signature Marvel blood. It served as a well-done origin story to Cap and definitely set up The Avengers well. However, The Winter Soldier just takes the best elements of its predecessor and takes them all to just another level of pure blockbuster excellence.
Anthony and Joe Russo take over Joe Johnston’s directing chair and passionately created a great adaptation of the character of Steve Rogers. When I first heard that these two were set to direct this film, I was thinking that this was an odd choice knowing these two mainly from having writing contributions two of my favorite sitcoms, Arrested Development and Community. But from watching this film, I no longer doubt their sensibilities behind the camera, knowing that these two not only know how to create a brilliant final product, but are also able to show love and respect to the fans – much like what Community has also done for appeasing its fans (there’s also a great nod to Community fans in this film).
Chris Evans has always been excellent as our titular character, giving amazing sensibilities in his sequences that demand his physical prowess, and more importantly his lovable attitude. He perfectly embodies Steve Rogers’ patriotism and well-being to a tee. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow is also terrific in her most complex role as this character. In this film more than any other, she proves to all the naysayers why she is a vital member of The Avengers and truly takes this role as her own. The back-and-forth between these two characters showcases some of the best chemistry that we have seen in the MCU. Also, Samuel L. Jackson is finally given more to do as Nick Fury as he plays quite an integral role to the film’s story. Also, numerous newcomers from Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon and Hollywood icon Robert Redford both give excellence in their roles throughout the film.
But where this film truly shines is the way this film not only transcends the superhero genre, but also how it brings Steve Rogers to his most vulnerable state he has been in. First off, this film isn’t your typical superhero film. In fact, it’s very much an espionage/political thriller that happens to have enough action to satiate your appetite. And thankfully, these non-conventional aspects are just as entertaining, if not more so than the action sequences which are enthralling to see. But it is through The Winter Soldier’s story that truly elevates this film from a great comic book film to something quite special in this MCU. The character of The Winter Soldier poses a threat to Steve Rogers not only in the physical side of things, but more importantly through the personal side. Without giving much away, when the film explores the threat that the antagonist brings, it rings through our minds that this is truly the toughest situation that we see Cap face in these films. It’s personal, thought-provoking, and gives quite an emotional pull-off for the character that is the most satisfying we have seen him experience.
The Winter Soldier is the in my mind the best standalone film in the MCU, even beating out the original Iron Man. With terrific performances by its ensemble, impeccable direction by the Russo Bros, mind-boggling action setpieces, and an incredible watermark on Steve Rogers’ character, it is definitely one that all fans need to see.
And by the way, the two scenes during the credits will only make you even more excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier earns a 4.5/5