Blame it on climate change, blame it on marketing patterns or blame it on the variable school year. Whatever the reason, the arrival of Captain America: The Winter Soldier signals the beginning of an ever-earlier summer movie season.
This Captain follows up the original 2011 mega-hit about the Marvel superhero with vague superpowers.
Handsome Chris Evans again steps into a role that fits him as perfectly as Iron Man fits Robert Downey Jr. And — thank goodness — Scarlett Johansson again breaks up the boys’ club by playing the dangerously multi-talented Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow.
The meandering screenplay from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely uses a simple twist: The protagonist is on the run and only turns to those he trusts — even if Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) often repeats his mantra of “Trust no one.”
When it looks like the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have been betrayed, Steve Rogers — Captain America — jumps into the middle of a web of intrigue. A suspect gathering of government officials and industry pitchmen promises complete homeland security with their huge new airships, all garishly conjured up on even larger green screens.
The directors, brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, have no trouble keeping viewers engaged. They orchestrate a succession of quick-cutting action scenes, which might have been better served with fewer close-ups from cinematographer Trent Opaloch. With so much time and money obviously spent on these scenes, pulling slightly back for a better view might have helped audiences appreciate them more.
Even so, the fight scenes rapidly follow one another, thrusting the good Captain against foes he had long thought conquered. It might be hard to follow some of the double- and triple-crosses, and the reappearance of long-vanquished foes, but it’s usually not too difficult to separate the good guys from the bad.
To lend the film gravitas, Robert Redford plays a duplicitous Cabinet member. To lighten the film for a very short time, Gary Shandling plays a sniveling corporate hack. Anthony Mackie contributes strong supporting work as Sam Wilson, Rogers’ eventual partner transformed into the flying Falcon. And, to give the film noted grace and beauty, Emily VanCamp and Hayley Atwell appear, doing little more than making everything look better.
BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic who has contributed to the Denton Record-Chronicle for more than 20 years. He lives in Dallas.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Rated PG-13, 136 minutes.