Movie review: 'Captain' still cool, but latest film just OK

A generic sequel lacks the first film's emotional punch

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEApril 4, 2014 

Film Review Captain America The Winter Soldier

Sebastian Stan plays the creepy title villain in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” starring Chris Evans.

  • CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER •• 1/2•

    Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan. Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Running time: 136 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 (2D, 3D) and Edwards 9 (2D, 3D), Edwards 14 (2D, 3D) and Edwards 12 (2D, 3D) in Nampa, Majestic 18 (2D, 3D) and Village Cinema (2D, 3D) in Meridian.

The superhuman efforts director Joe Johnston made to persuade Chris Evans to re-enlist in the comic book movie universe as "Captain America" pay dividends in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Evans really sells the earnestness, dry wit, sense of duty and righteousness of the icon of American values that he represents in this sequel, even if Johnston isn't around to direct it.

And it's great that "The Winter Soldier" is actually about something, a comic book spin on privacy and civil liberties issues straight out of today's data mining headlines. It's a freedom vs. fear movie, liberty vs. "order."

There are clever ways the story folds back into the first "Captain America" film's world, great effects and a retro-future tech that is fascinating.

But "The Winter Soldier" lacks that lump-in-the-throat heart that Evans, Johnston and company brought to the first "Captain America."

The co-directors of "You, Me and Dupree," Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, serve up a pretty generic sequel, with inconsequential villains and predictable flourishes, an epic whose epic effects lack grandeur.

From its quasifascist logo and overly imposing D.C. headquarters to the Stalinesque uniform that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sports, S.H.I.E.L.D. ("Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate" in the comics) is plainly a multinational agency that's reaching beyond its "fight evil, protect Earth" mandate.

Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce, the fellow who lords over the directorate of this ever-burgeoning security empire.

Nick Fury barely has time to fret over the idea that "to build a really better world, sometimes that means you have to tear the old one down," when he's attacked.

The Captain, Steve Rogers (Evans), and Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), set out to unravel this mystery.

Johansson, who has no hint of a Russian accent this time (not a bad move, considering how Russians are regarded this spring), makes an apt, super-sexy sparring partner for the Captain.

The fights are combinations of digitally augmented stunt-work. The directors and screenwriters find all manner of new ways for the Captain's shield to pay off, and Evans and Johansson make these shooting punch-outs cool.

Anthony Mackie shows up as a potential new sidekick, which only calls attention to the question, "Hey, where are Captain America's OTHER Avenger pals in this hour of crisis?"

But "The Winter Soldier" has long, talky, dead stretches. It's emotionally flat. It's OK for April, but not up to the higher standards of a Marvel summer blockbuster.

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