The second of three Marvel films to hit cinemas in 2014, The Winter Soldier follows everyone’s favourite defrosted World War Two veteran as he tries to adapt to life after the events of The Avengers and finds his whole world come crashing down with the reappearance of an old friend.
Welcoming back other Marvel favourites including Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, The Winter Soldier also introduces a host of new characters, most notably Anthony Mackie who is excellent as The Falcon, and Sebastian Stan as the titular Winter Soldier, previously seen as Bucky Barnes in the first Captain America film. The film’s baddie is provided by Robert Redford, whilst various other Marvel characters make smaller appearances or cameos (though saying exactly who would spoil the surprise).
The plot centres on ideas involving government surveillance and a totalitarian state, mixing a little 1984 with the more recent WikiLeaks scandal, and these are interwoven with the existing Marvel canon with a surprising amount of care which means it never feels like the writers are trying to shoehorn in ideas to make the plot seem more current. Little nods to other characters in the Marvel universe remind the audience that Captain America is part of a bigger world, but the amount of character development within the film is what really impresses. Captain America has been accused of being the most boring character in the Marvel cinematic universe, but Chris Evans works overtime to make him a highly watchable and sympathetic character. As with Thor 2 things seem to take a darker turn which sets up nicely for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, due to hit cinemas next summer.
In a refreshing change there is less of an emphasis on computer generated special effects and more live action, which makes the film look all the more impressive. It’s interesting that the film’s directors, Anthony and Joel Russo, are better known for their work on television comedies such as Arrested Development and Community, as the film does manage to combine a rather serious plotline with the familiar Marvel sense of humour that fans have come to expect. As is now expected, there are mid and post credits scenes, but it’s the former of these that really pulls an ace from the proverbial sleeve and will have fans on the edge of their seat.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Marvel universe or have not seen the first Captain America and Avengers films, it might be difficult to follow as it relies quite heavily on previously established information, but for those who are up to date on the latest action it is bound to impress and, in many ways, surpasses its predecessor. Fans now have a year to wait before the action continues in the next Avengers film, but at least we have this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy to tide us over until then…