Review: “Captain America 2” is Smart, Bold, but Limited

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Ashland, Ore. – Captain America: The Winter Soldier  is the ninth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and potentially the boldest. Though the original Captain America doesn’t hold up nearly as well as its predecessors’ debuting films (Iron Man and Thor), its sequel is not disappointing.

Cap 2 focuses on Steve Rogers adjusting to the modern world, working alongside Black Widow, Nick Fury, and other SHIELD cohorts. A regular mission goes awry, and before long the Captain is considered a renegade agent by his own organization. The result is a Marvel film that’s less comical and  lighthearted, and more of a Jason Bourne-meets-traditional superhero movie. Kevin Feige, a producer of the movie, said, “We really want to make a ’70s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie. Just like with the first film – we got Joe Johnston because we said, ‘We want to do a ’40s World War II movie masquerading as a big superhero movie.'”

It’s a welcome change in the Marvel franchise. The action is generally well-executed, and Chris Evans shines brightly as the most genuinely good-natured superhero in the Marvel universe.

One interesting aspect is the introduction of shades of grey. Marvel tries to up the ante by showing how the good guys aren’t always so good. However, this is undercut by making the villains so irredeemably evil that there’s little moral obstacles in rooting for even the most ‘grey’ characters.

Additionally, the film tries to present the moral dilemma of trading security for freedom, with more than a few obvious shout-outs to drone strikes and Edward Snowden. There are a few interesting moments with this theme, but it’s ultimately delivered heavy-handedly. The writers are admirable in creating a Marvel film that’s smarter than any other, but it’s still difficult to take seriously.

On a similar note, Marvel recycles some of the same story arcs, ultimately sticking to the same punches. There are many twists and intense moments in Cap 2, but at this point the audience is already expecting them.

Ultimately, Captain America: The Winter Solider is a superior entry in the Marvel franchise, and easily the best post-Avengers superhero flick, with the widest ambition. Most audiences will thoroughly enjoy it. However, fans have to wonder how Marvel is going to keep the franchise fresh as the series continues. The same plot, characters, and story can’t continue on forever.