The first Captain America film, I felt, was one of the weakest of the phase 1 Marvel films. I liked how they set up the character of Cap and the origin story was pretty much cut and dry to his comic counterpart. And why I think Chris Evans was the perfect embodiment of Cap in that movie, I think the character himself was left kind of flat. They had the essence, the spirit and everything that made Captain America what he was, but there was something…missing. In the end, I believed that Captain America: The First Avenger, was just an okay set up for the following Avengers movie. We got that the Cap was a leader, was good at what he did and was the kind of guy any soldier would follow into battle, but what was missing was that thing that said THIS IS Captain America, the boy scout of the marvel universe, whose unyielding belief in the right could conquer any wrong. The guy, who when you saw appear on screen, you knew would make everything okay. There was glimpses of it in the Avengers, but only small ones.
So fast forward to now and Captain America is back, bigger, badder, darker and better than before. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only the best of the Marvel Phase 2 films thus far, but is only behind the Avengers as the best Marvel film. Now when I say dark and Captain America, you think those two words can’t possibly go together, but how wrong you are. Months, (maybe a year or two after the events of the Avengers, it’s never made exactly clear) Cap finds himself being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D, who recently has gone out of its way to be more a taker of freedoms than a defender of it, and Cap, coming from a different time, isn’t really down with the whole deal, which leads into the heart of the story. The parallels between what’s going on in this movie and what’s been going on in the world since September 11th 2001 are hard to miss. Sometimes the movie doesn’t shy from punching you square in the face with them. But what the movie doesn’t do is preach, it simply tells the story it wants to tell while managing to wrap the viewer in a well thought out, structured story that’s lined with some of the best action seen in any Marvel movie, including the Avengers.
This movie manages to do what The first Cap film and the Avengers only sparsely managed to do, show you exactly what makes Captain America CAPTAIN AMERICA. There’s more to the man than the serum that made him super. More to him than just his beliefs and love of the Red White and Blue. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has done what very few of it’s predecessors (Dark knight saga excepted) shows that a so-called comic book movie can be more than just mindless entertainment. That it can tell a story that makes you think about the very world you’re living in and just how much a society is willing to give up in order to protect itself. The ripple effects in this movie will be felt throughout the Marvel universe (I expect the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D show will certainly change based on what happens, hopefully.), and I’m interested to see just what direction the following movies will take after, what has to be a game changer, for the Marvel universe.