Captain America: The Winter Soldier reignites the Marvel Universe

In 2011, Captain America: The First Avenger was released. Taking place during WWII, the film detailed the origin story of Captain America while introducing crucial plot points to be explored in later Marvel films. 3 years later, Marvel has proven itself with guaranteed hit after hit. Yet, the second stand-alone Captain America film diverts from the tiring superhero formula.

The first aspect that stands out in the film is the tone. With the origin story, a fun, adventurous tone was apparent. The sequel proves to be grittier. It does not go to the lengths of gritty superhero movies like Man of Steel, but the optimistic vibe is noticeably scaled down. The way this is achieved is by upping the body count. A lot more deaths are shown on screen than in any previous Marvel movie. Another contributing reason is the minimized comic relief. Sure, jokes are made, but when the story amps up, so does the film’s effort to take itself seriously.

Despite the grittier tone, the fun and excitement is still present. Each action sequence is seemingly better than the last, supplying one v. one fighting, car chases, and firefights. The choice to rely on CGI as little as possible proves to be rewarding, as fights are more entertaining and realistic when combined with the excellent fight choreography seen in the film. Additionally, the pacing of the film is less laid back than that of the Thor movies. Many action sequences and sudden reveals leave a sense of danger that does not leave until the film’s conclusion.

However, a similarity with other Marvel installments lies in the focus put on Captain America’s struggle to adjust to the present day. Like Iron Man and Thor, Captain America has to deal with the life-altering struggles a hero has to deal with. Yet it’s the realization that the struggles Captain America faces are merely those of average people (i.e. acclimating to the loss of loved ones) that adds much needed depth to this blockbuster.

With every blockbuster, negatives are unavoidable, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception. The film asks the viewer to accept things that might be “reaching”. One example is the use of Captain’s shield. Bouncing almost perfectly off of an object and into the Captain’s hand every time can get tiring very fast. Another example is the convenience of special gadgets/weapons that might cause a viewer to question the realism of the film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier also improves upon its predecessor(s) by having more useful dialogue, creating an entertaining chemistry between the female and male leads, and diversifying each action sequence. The film makes up for its less charismatic lead by relying on supporting characters, keeping the slower parts of the film interesting. With the last of the standalone films released in “phase II” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves to be the best standalone film since the bar-setting Iron Man (2008). Whether involved fans or not, the film will entertain the masses.