Movie Review

April 10, 2014

Captain America works better without Avengers

Take Captain America away from the Avengers and the old guy still really shines.

The latest film off the lucrative Marvel Comics assembly line, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is even better than the 2011 origin story (“Captain America: The First Avenger”), which capably brought the red, white and blue superhero out of mothballs.

Captain America has always been a bit underpowered as far as superheroes go. He can’t fly or shoot laser beams or knock down buildings with a single punch. His powers — he’s a little stronger and faster than normal men, and he can throw a really well-built shield with fabulous accuracy — pale in comparison to Iron Man or Thor or the Hulk.

In “The Winter Soldier,” however, Captain America is unquestionably cool again. He’s agile, powerful, smart and has evidently been watching a lot of Bruce Lee movies. His shield (is that made out of the same stuff as Wonder Woman’s bullet-deflecting bracelets?) is used in a variety of clever ways and doesn’t seem the tiniest bit pathetic.

Traditionally, Captain America hasn’t been the most complex of heroes. He is an almost blindly patriotic do-gooder, but in this sequel his patriotism is sorely tested, and he doesn’t know what — or who — to believe in anymore.

First, he questions the ethics of missions he’s sent on by SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but a government big shot played by Robert Redford may have even more troubling plans.

Chris Evans gives a little clean-shaven complexity to Steve Rogers/Captain America and gets plenty of capable support. Scarlett Johansson folds a touch of humanity into her acrobatic superspy Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, while Anthony Mackie joins the cast as Captain America’s new wing man, Sam Wilson/Falcon.

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