Movie Review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ wows audiences and rocks Marvel universe to its core

It’s official. Marvel Studios has outdone itself yet again, shaking the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to the core with its new feature, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

“Winter Soldier” brings the return of Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and is the only post-“Avengers” Marvel movie so far to directly deal with a setting and character reactions following the Battle of New York.

Now what exactly are our protagonists fighting for? That battle, without getting too specific, is that the world Cap is in now is much different than the world he came from. In the 1940s, there were very clear lines between good and evil, but now, in the digital age of data everywhere and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s international intelligence gathering, the lines are very much blurred and it is this that leads to the key conflict of “Winter Soldier.”

“This isn’t freedom,” Cap comments after seeing a top secret project S.H.I.E.L.D. is working on. “This is fear.”

Evans and Johansson play of each other greatly, keeping the story light with Marvel’s trademark wit, while still letting Cap and Widow fight one of the biggest battles they’ve ever fought.

However, the odd-couple pairing of Cap and Widow isn’t alone in their fight. They are joined by old favorites S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Deputy Director Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) as well as a new ally, Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.

Captain America (Chris Evans) faces off against the deadly Winter Soldier, who is not only a formidable opponent, but a ghost from Cap’s past. Photo from Marvel.

It’s worth noting at this point that both Cap’s and Falcon’s outfits are a bit different than one might remember. Cap’s new outfit is much sleeker and darker, reflecting the change in his character in the new world. As for Falcon, don’t expect to see anything like the spandex flying squirrel suit of the comics. Mackie’s Falcon is now a member of an elite, covert ops paratrooper unit who use specially designed wing jet-packs.

Our rogue foursome then goes off to fight their battle and everyone gets to have a part. Cap is throwing his shield, Widow is throwing down some serious martial arts and Falcon is providing acrobatic air support. Hill shows off her tech skills and Jackson’s Fury, who has been behind a desk for most of his MCU career, finally gets the action scene he deserves.

As for the movie’s title character? The Winter Soldier is basically the Soviet version of Cap. As Cap said, “He’s fast… strong… and he had a metal arm.” The Winter Soldier can match Cap move for move in a fight, can run faster than Cap and can even catch and briefly use Cap’s shield. Those who have read the comics know who lurks behind the Winter Soldier’s mask and for those who haven’t… well, buckle up. That’s just one of the plot twists that accompany Cap’s return.

And though the Winter Soldier was a Soviet creation, the Soviets do not use or employ him anymore. Winter Soldier has new bosses, bosses who seem to lurk in the murky waters that the sequel has set up. And at the head of those murky waters is Alexander Pierce, (Robert Redford) S.H.I.E.LD.’s liason to the World Security Council. For all of the “maybe I’ll tell you, maybe I won’t” attitude that emanates off of Nick Fury, Pierce has 10 times that and Redford plays it beautifully.

“In order to build a better world, sometimes means turning the old one down,” Pierce says to Cap, perhaps a bit ominously. “And that makes enemies.”

Some quick, need to know items before it’s all done: there is indeed a Stan Lee cameo and there are two post-credit scenes, one after the animated credits and one after the scrolling credits. One scene sets up part of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron”, showing us some familiar characters with some less than familiar origins and the other, while more oblique, seems to leave the door open for a Cap threequel.

“Winter Soldier” is a movie that alters the paradigms the MCU is based upon irrevocably, but it alters them in just the right way so that the MCU doesn’t collapse in on itself without said paradigms.

In short, Cap is back and he’s better than ever.