Captain America: The Winter Soldier ★★½
[WARNING: SPOILERS IN REVIEW] I really wanted to like this latest entry in the Marvel lineup. After initially being very skeptical of Chris Evans' casting; Captain Steve Rogers has quickly become one of my favorite heroes/villains in the comic book cinematic universe. I place him right up there with Iron Man, Magneto, Spidey, and Batman; with all credit going to Evans' approach to the character.
I thought I was in excellent hands through the first 20-30 minutes or more of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It resembles more of a Jason Bourne movie and also reminded me of the Splinter Cell and Metal Gear video game series as Cap' fought to save hostages on a freighter and challenged Nick Fury that his leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D. was becoming too much of a dictatorship. Scarlett Johanssen continues her flawless streak of late as, aside from her acting, this is the most fleshed out and well written part she's received as part of the Avengers team. There's also great chemistry between the two of them and they spend much of the film together. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up.
At some point, they must have felt that because they were spending upwards of $200 million dollars that they should dumb things down as the story goes on and add increasing amounts of visual effects. It comes to a conclusion with an action sequence that looks like everything we've seen before in 2012's The Avengers, the Iron Man trilogy, and heavy doses of near Roland Emmerich 2012 nonsense. In fact, a lot of the action segments throughout don't make sense when you apply any logic to them whatsoever. I'm not talking real world logic because if you do that then any comic book movie falls to pieces and you can't have fun but events occur which negate everything which happened just minutes before. For instance, what was the point of everything that occurs during the attack on Nick Fury's truck preceding the arrival of The Winter Soldier? Why didn't he just pop up, throw the explosive device under Fury's car to begin with and call it a day? Or just shoot him as he left the S.H.I.E.L.D. building instead of waiting until failing to get him in his car and spending hours tracking him to Steve Rogers' apartment?
Speaking of The Winter Soldier, that's another big problem I had with this film. Where the hell was he and why wasn't more time spent with his story? If you're going to subtitle a movie after a character you should attempt to actually make him interesting and dive into his story more than just a few scenes. They might as well have gone with Captain America: Robert Redford's Character (Because Nobody Will Remember His Name Anyway) or maybe Captain America: STRIKE Team Guy (Who If You See His Name In The Credits And Google Him Later You Will Discover Is A Villain In The Marvel Universe Named Crossbones).
We also get a horribly tacky product placement scene as the only place Rogers and Black Widow can go to see what's on a thumb drive is an Apple Store where things are perfectly framed to include the MacBook display name. They also have a goofy conversation with actor/writer D.C. Pierson who's basically playing the guy he played in a commercial for Allstate Insurance. At least we learned the big mystery of where that dude works.
I definitely liked Anthony Mackie as Captain America's new friend Sam Wilson but as Falcon he isn't given much to do since he's basically a low-rent Iron Man with non-sensical wings. I don't know what he's like in the comics but here it was like they purposely nerfed his cool factor so as not to remind us of Tony Stark too much. If he shows up in further Marvel entries I hope they give him more to work with.
The acting across the board in The Winter Soldier is well above just respectable so it's a shame the script devolved until it just took a back seat to characters running, jumping, flying, and punching through a ridiculous amount of explosions and rubble that you can't help but roll your eyes at. This also affected a sizable plot twist since by the time it was revealed I was starting to tune out. Not to mention that it's supported by some irritating supporting scenes.
A few other nods to what I liked: Rogers eventually getting out of that drab costume they've stuck him in and wearing his brighter WWII era suit, the mention of Stephen Strange, and some practical stunts that are exciting and well staged. There were times I thought this film was going to go for something daring and risky but it would always take two steps back for each one forward. There's a teaser in the end credits for Guardians of the Galaxy and we'll see if that can lead us into some fresh territory for an entire Marvel film.