Marvel’s Cinematic Universe can do no wrong in its second phase, which has started after The Avengers and leads up to Avengers: Age of Ultron. While Iron Man 3’s plot twist annoyed fans, it was still the highest grossing film of last year. Thor 2: The Dark World didn’t perform as spectacularly as Iron Man 3, but still reached the box-office top ten with a very solid entry into the franchise. Meanwhile, while Marvel’s first live-action television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is struggling to get great ratings, it’s performing solidly and continues to deliver amazing stories filled with Marvel cameos. And then there are the one-shots and the planned new Agent Carter series… Yes, Marvel is definitely at the height of its popularity.
What better time for Marvel to release their best movie yet? Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. While the first film was essentially a superhero war movie, this newest film, helmed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, is a spy thriller with rollercoaster pacing and gorgeous character moments.
Following the events of Captain America: The First Avenger and his subsequent thawing from the ice that kept him a prisoner for seventy years, Steve Rogers—a.k.a. Captain America—fought for New York City alongside Marvel’s other superheroes in The Avengers. Two years later, Captain America works alongside Black Widow as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing Nick Fury’s dirty work. That is, until a regular op yields unexpected results and the Captain finds himself on the run from those he works for.
During the last few months, I eagerly followed the hype surrounding The Winter Soldier. I read every interview with cast and crew and every raving early review, and watched and rewatched every trailer and TV spot for the movie. I even managed to get a lot of plot points spoiled while unsuspectingly browsing Reddit. Let me tell you, though: nothing I read and watched prepared me for the amazing experience that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though I knew of all the plot twists in advance, the way this movie was executed still blew my mind. The sheer impact these events have on the Cinematic Universe made me catch my breath several times. I was literally on the edge of my seat for almost the entirety of the movie.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier does nearly everything right. From a spectacular car chase to an astonishing fight scene in an elevator, from baffling plot twists to heart-rending character moments, this is an almost perfect film from beginning to end. The implications for the future of the Cinematic Universe are manifold. Frankly, I can’t even imagine how Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will go forward from this. More importantly, The Winter Soldier sets up Avengers: Age of Ultron splendidly. The question that’s kept fans speculating since last ComicCon—who created Ultron?—is being answered in a perplexing and unexpected way.
As I said, though, The Winter Soldier is almost perfect. After the events of The Avengers, all of the superheroes went their own way again. Iron Man and Thor have already had their own adventures since, and all of these films were missing one important aspect: their superhero colleagues. Where were the other heroes while Iron Man was battling terrorists threatening America? Where were the other heroes while Thor was waging an epic fight for the future of the entire universe? And again, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where is Tony Stark while Captain America fights for the future of the agency Tony’s dad, Howard Stark, founded? Where were the other heroes? Most sorely missed, though, was Hawkeye, who is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Black Widow’s partner. His absence in The Winter Soldier—he isn’t even mentioned once—was most glaring indeed.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best installment in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe yet. It is the perfect lead-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Aside from some missing superheroes, it is a faultless, overwhelmingly spectacular cinematic event. If you’ve yet to see this film, brace yourself for over two hours of breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat awesomeness that will exceed even your wildest expectations.