Once the Marvel engine got properly up and running with the first Iron Man movie, every entry in the movie universe has been at least good, and sometimes great.. except for The First Avenger's first entry. Dull, by-the-numbers, bogged down with too much exposition, it was far and away the worst Avenger entry to date. Which is why it brings us so much joy to announce that its sequel is one of the best. Smart, exciting, funny and action-packed, the first great blockbuster of 2014 has arrived!
Chris Evans is back as Steve Rogers, making the slow journey of acclimatising himself to the modern world of tricky government dealings and underhanded espionage. He is used early on by the US government to save some hostages on board an American naval ship, which turns out to be a cover for Black Widow (Johannson) to retrieve vital information for SHIELD. Annoyed that Nick Fury (Jackson) didn't reveal his full plan, Rogers is made privy to an even larger plan, involving Fury's boss Alexander Pierce (Redford) and a fleet of automated helicarriers.
If this all sounds complicated, it's because it IS complicated, and that's a good thing. While the information and details can get a little dense, it never gets confusing, and importantly, it never gets dull. It is very much All The President's Men, played out where some of the spies have superpowers. In between tense, topical conversations involving drone warfare and falsifying terrorist threats, we get some of the greatest action scenes in a Marvel movie to date. Between the awesome car chases and some brilliantly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, this is also the most grounded and violent action we've witnessed in a comic-book movie - outside of the recent Dark Knight Trilogy.
If there are any snags (and there always are), it's the titular Winter Soldier. Built up as the big baddie, he actually makes very little impact, and the 'surprise twist' of who he actually is will be a surprise to absolutely no-one. Also, the CGI-filled finale doesn't satisfy in the same way some of the early, in-camera action scenes do.
However, by developing some of the already much loved characters, and introducing some new ones, including instant favourite Anthony Mackie as airborne sidekick Falcon, directors The Russo Brothers - the guys behind some of the best episodes of Arrested Development and Community - have given us a Captain America movie that can actually compete with Iron Man and Thor. And, as per usual, stay for the end credits!