I’ll put this at the top: 5 out of 5- One of those rare and awesome occasions where the sequel is far better than the original. Ridiculous action sequences, character emotional development for Both Captain America and Black Widow, girl power galore, a few thought provoking moments about government reach and friendship.
Don’t read past this if you don’t want spoilers!
At the beginning of the film Steve Rogers meets Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and they bond over their military service and fitness routine. As the trailer gave away, Wilson comes to play an important role (for both the action and Cap’s character development).
Soon after Captain America and Black Widow out on a mission, only, they aren’t exactly on the *same* mission. Romanoff is not perturbed by this, but Rogers: America’s hero, golden boy and symbol of freedom, is not feeling it. He confronts Fury, who reveals a detailed plot about how they created these helicarriers to detect threats before they become threats. Meaning that people are being punished before crimes are committed. Logically, people change their minds or there are 1000 variables about why someone considering committing a crime might change their minds. But people in the US HAVE been arrested and charged with “thought crimes” and some of them have been orchestrated to create perceived threats by government agencies SO none of this is even far fetched. I always post this same information abou Eric McDavid who was entrapped by an FBI informant and then charged with conspiring to commit eco-terrorism. He didn’t actually do anything, and most of the planning and prepping was single handedly done by the informant who was heavily pressured by the FBI to not be wasting their time -which meant planning a crime involving property destruction of a logging company. He was sentenced to 22 years because the government wants “Green” to be the new Red Scare (this movie is still playing up the Red Scare, though). This theme re-emerges again later with Dr. Arnim Zola and the Hydra plot to orchestrate crimes and tragedies so that people will just hand over their freedom and say “protect us at all costs” …I live 45 minutes from Boston and we’re coming up on the year anniversary of the Marathon Bombing. When they searched for the suspect the entire city and neighboring suburbs SHUT DOWN more extreme people said we were under Marshall Law (we weren’t), it was voluntary, but how voluntary is it really when you’re being told that an armed fanatic is in your backyard and these people with the big guns are here to handle it… can you let us in your basement? People have very divisive opinions about it and I understand that. The ensuing high fiving “This is our fucking city” mentality was alarming. I thought that shutting down all businesses sent the wrong message. But no one asked me, either. But that’s part of the problem. We have no choice but to trust the people who make these choices for us.
None of this sits well with Captain America and he goes to discuss it with Peggy Carter, who unlike Steve has aged, she tells him he has to adjust to the way things have become. Then in a moment that almost turned me into a crying child (I was hung over, don’t judge me) she forgets that she was just talking to him, and starts crying because she’s so happy that he’s alive. Chris Evans is a better actor than he’s gotten credit for, because it was really his reaction that turned me into mush. It seems like a brief moment along with a joke to Black Widow that “everyone in his barbershop quartet is dead” so he has no plans this weekend, yeah Cap has next to no one.
But that all changes when he finds out that he’s not the only WWII soldier to be made super.
In an explosive scene, Fury is targeted by “The Winter Soldier” who is thought to be responsible for decades of assassinations, he even shot Romanoff once. Fury “dies’ (come on, no one thought he was dead) at Steves house and it’s revealed that his cute neighbor is really Agent 13 who has been watching out for him (Fury always has people watching each other, just happened on Agents of SHIELD where Melinda May was watching Coulson). And Steve and Natasha are sent off on this journey together to find who killed Fury, what’s on the drive that Natasha uploaded in the earlier mission and find out who can be trusted, all the while dodging Hydra agents and the Winter Soldier in intense fight scenes and car chases. With no idea who to turn to, Steve chooses to trust Natasha and Sam Wilson. While they recoup at Sam’s, after they are exploded in a bunker, Black Widow confesses that she has the same sense of betrayal as Steve, She thought she stopped working for the KGB to be one of the good guys. There wasn’t as much character development for Widow in this go around, just a glimpse, she was also sans-catsuit most of the time. She got to do a ton of standard bad ass stuff, like nurse bullet wounds while getting the drop on the Winter Soldier.
In a lengthy and interesting fight scene with the Winter Soldier, Captain realises that he’s Bucky. “Who the hell is Bucky?” the villain replies. Captain America’s best friend from when he was still Skinny Steve, he’s being manipulated and brainwashed by Hydra to take out those that they want taken out. Soon they will have the Helicarriers for that. But seeing Steve brings back some of Bucky’s memory. and at the final fight scene, Bucky pulls Steve out of the water. And it was really nicely done. In a flash back to after the death of his mother we seen Steve trying to go through it alone, so he doesn’t dissolve into a puddle over the fact that his best friend is a brainwashed assassin who doesn’t remember him. But he can’t kill him either. Sam recognizes this early and goes along (with his project Falcon suit) to make sure what has to happen does. But in the end it’s down to Cap and Bucky. Captain America orders Maria Hill to destroy the helicarrier (that he is on) and continues fighting with Bucky. And Steve says, “I’m not going to kill you. You’ll have to finish the job, because I’m with you til the end of the line.” And it wasn’t played up very emotionally, and it didn’t need to be. But it speaks volumes about what Cap is willing to live with and what he’s willing to live without. So couple the fact that this was borderline suicidal with the fact that he doesn’t want to work for SHIELD, he doesn’t believe in the path the government is taking and he’s losing Peggy? Ouch.
Meanwhile, Black Widow is taking out Redford’s character, Alexander Pierce -top brass who is really Hydra. And she has to electrocute herself to do it (she was also shot in pretty much that same spot). She’s going to put up all the info about Hydra, but in the process she could be putting out all her deep dark secrets. Since one of her main points in Avengers as well is her legacy in comics was atoning for her past, this is a sore spot. But she does it.
Then, they all have to find new jobs. Fury lets his identity stay dead (but probably not for long), Romanoff goes to find a new identity, Agent 13 joins the CIA, Maria Hill interviews for Stark Industries and Falcon goes back to what he was doing before he got embroiled in this.
At the end credits we see Bucky in the Smithsonian watching the feature about himself and Captain America. Bucky’s resurrection in comics was always controversial, he was killed off in 1948, but revived periodically, before 1968 where his death became official. He was then used as a symbol of why superheroes shouldn’t have young sidekicks. It stayed this way, as angst and a cautionary tale, until 2005 when Ed Brubaker decided to bring back Bucky. And retcon all that wherein Bucky was really a 16 year old trained operative who was trained to conduct covert assassinations. Co-creator Jack Kirby wasn’t opposed. Anyway, so he’s the Winter Soldier but in the books Cap gets him his memories back via the cosmic cube and Bucky becomes a good guy… and then he becomes Captain America. So it’ll be interesting to see the next time Sebastian Stan reprises the role again (be it for May 6th, 2016’s Cap3 or before that) and what phase it will take.
Falcon first appeared in Captain America in 1969, he was from Harlem and was a community volunteer. Tones of that definitely showed through in the film where he was counselling PTSD sufferers, I like the way they applied those traits to modern and personal purposes and I’m glad they left out his affinity for birds.
And after after the credits we get our first glimpse at Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver *squeeee*