Captain America 2: the franchise is back with a bang!

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

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Way back in 2008, the first instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released; Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. What was so damn great about Iron Man was the fact it wasn’t completely over the top, it dealt with war in the Middle East, and Tony Stark wasn’t your typical superhero; namely Marvel had created a different breed of Superhero film. FINALLY, in 2014, they’ve managed to create that same sort of equal, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and, my God, is it refreshing.

Marvels’s darkest film yet

To start off, one great thing about The Winter Soldier is lack of comedy. Sure, The Avengers was funny, but Iron Man 3? What happened there? Thor: The Dark World had its moments of hilarity as well, but don’t tell me there weren’t times when you cringed. With The Winter Solider almost all the humour has been stripped away, with only a few actually funny jokes left in, leaving behind what could be considered to be Marvel’s darkest film yet. The themes found in this film echo that found in today’s world. Political corruption, the effect of war on a person, and America’s self proclaimed status as World Police are all in some way or the other addressed during the course of the film. For a superhero who goes by the moniker of Captain America, this is fantastically hypocritical.

But can we really call this film a superhero film? Sure you have Cap, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but their actions echo more of a Spy film, for example, the raid on the ship at the start of the film combines sleek choreographed fighting with a lot of actual violence for Disney Marvel film; quite easily one of the best scenes in the entire film. Cap looks sleek in his black and dark blue suit giving a very 21st Century vibe to the film, and tying in with the themes presented in the movie. Of course, the classic red, white and blues come back into play at the end of the film, which, with the action sequences, makes it the most ‘Superhero-movie’ part of the entire film.

On the subject of Superheroes, there are more than enough references to tease fans of both the comic books and the movies. Keep an ear out for references to Captain America and his Howling Commandos (that’s actually Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos in the comics) as well as name dropping the likes of STEPHEN STRANGE! Not to mention the mid-credits scene, featuring Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch being held prisoner by Baron Von Strucker, a nice lead into Age of Ultron.

The edge of your seat

Back to the movie itself, and I had a few worries when I first stepped into the cinema. With The First Avenger, it started off with potential, with Steve Roger’s back story, transformation and eventually taking up the mantle of Captain America. But then it all got a bit silly. Hydra became a laughable group, with laser weapons, stupid hand gestures and *that* scene where the Red Skull killed off pretty much every major Nazi apart from Hitler. It was ridiculous, it was overblown, and frankly, after the fantastic Iron Man, looked like a bit of a joke. Hydra obviously return in The Winter Soldier, but happily are more of a threat than before. They use proper weapons, they actually kill people, and, believe it or not, actually cause some significant damage to Captain America. The viewer is shocked when The Winter Soldier shoots Cap several times, nearly killing him. It’s intense and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, more so than any other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We do almost drift into the foolishness at one point. When Cap and Black Widow encounter Arnim Zola’s ‘brain’ in the form of a huge system of retro computers, Hydra’s master plan is revealed in a series of weird segmented video clips. This, along with Zola’s exaggerated accent feels quite silly, but also predictable, and is perhaps my only complaint about the film. The idea of recreating Zola as a series of computers is clever, but revealing the plan feels like a cop out. Once it had been revealed that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD, it almost seemed annoying we’d never been let in on this before the film, surely that’s quite a big thing to reveal nine films in? Some of my faith was restored however, when it was revealed that only a select number of agents were working for Hydra, and not the entirety of SHIELD as I had falsely believed. Aside from this one plot detail I took issue with, I was generally pleased with how the rest of the film panned out. Of course there were aspects of the film that were predictable; yes, of course Cap was going to stop them baddies before they wiped out millions of people, and no, they were never REALLY going to kill off Nick Fury, but these can be excused for the sake of the story.

Photo - Marvel

Exquisite special effects

Elsewhere, one particular field the films excelled in was Visual effects. The general consensus with Marvel films are that their special effects are incredible, and that is most certainly still the case with The Winter Soldier. The Helicarriers are exquisitely produced, and create some epic cinema. My favourite effect however appeared during the scenes in the Smithsonian museum. I really enjoyed the ‘footage’ from World War Two, showing Cap and his gang rounding up Nazi… sorry, HYDRA, troops. It looks so authentic, it could be hit perfectly into a news reel of the time.

For a moment, it looked Disney were going to turn the MCU into a laughing stock, quite literally, with the amount of puns found in the likes of Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, but thank God for The Winter Soldier. This film has brought the franchise back to reality with a bang, and what a bang! Dark scenes, eye popping action, and enough plot depth to satisfy even the hungriest fan. Marvel, please, stop making films that try too hard to be comedies and don’t stick to the source material, and start making more films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.