Marvel is building the largest franchise in movie history. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar investment for the company.
And you know what, it's been pretty good so far. Even the most mediocre Marvel movies have something to like.
There have been a few outright stinkers like Iron Man 2 and Thor but for the most part, it's been a solid run.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best Marvel movies, able to stand up with X2 and Spider-Man 2.
The plot is a bit contrived and when the Winter Soldier's identity is finally revealed, it isn't dramatic at all. My reaction was "Well, glad Cap finally caught up to everyone else." It just doesn't quite come together in the ways it should, but the plot is just a backbone on which to hang a whole lot of really well shot and staged action sequences.
For the most part, the action sequences are solid, but there are a few parts that felt a bit too much like a video game. The opening sequence, set aboard a giant SHIELD research ship, is reminiscent of the opening to a Call of Duty game.
It's kind of sad that one of the movie's selling points is that you can actually tell what's happening in the action sequences. There are plenty of long takes...well, relatively long since even a two second shot during a fight scene counts as long these days.
The action sequences have a geography about them that many movies don't bother establishing. Most movies will simply have three different fights seemingly happening within the same larger battle, but they have no connection. The directors of The Winter Solider, however, take the time to establish how everything fits together. It just gives that movie an extra touch that is rarely seen these days.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the movie is that Nick Fury is finally given something to do. Instead of barking orders at people and standing back to watch his plans unfurl, we finally get to see him kick some ass. Samuel L. Jackson has quite a few good, dramatic scenes in the movie, but when he and Black Widow are beating people up, that's when things are really entertaining.
Thankfully, blissfully, the movie tones down the smug, annoying and completely over the top Marvel Sarcasm™ that plagues so many of their movies. We get it, Tony Stark and the other Marvel heroes are a bunch of smug assholes who can spout of cheesy lines while nonchalantly fighting villains. Since The Avengers, Marvel has been steadily upping the amount of sarcastic lines in their movies because the fans seem to love it. With Iron Man 3, it was annoying and made it harder to enjoy the movie. With Thor: The Dark World, it was too much and was enough to make me dislike the movie quite a bit. The Winter Soldier seems to have finally found the right balance and the movie is that much better because of it.
Now we just have to wait and see how awesome Guardians of the Galaxy will be. Hopefully Marvel can keep up the quality output.
Viewed in theaters