This review will be entirely spoiler free.
This is a tricky kind of movie to review because generally I see the purpose of a review is to help people decide whether they should go and see it. I don’t think there were many people on the fence about seeing the most recent addition to the Marvel cinematic universe. You either had the date circled for months or superhero movies are not your thing period. Personally I was the former even though I didn’t actually see the movie until this last weekend and I’m not writing the review until now. That means I’m going to spend more time on aspects of what Marvel is doing with the franchise as opposed to discuss the cinematography or musical accompaniment(both were excellent).
Although it certainly would help to have seen the rest of the movies Marvel has put out since Ironman first came out back in May of 2008, the only real movie you need to have seen is the first Captain America movie. Seeing the Avengers is a strong second, but even going into this movie fresh, I don’t think you’d lose too much. Marvel knows they’re picking up fans as they go so the writing is doing a good job with keeping everything pretty tight. The movie even tied in well with the ongoing TV series Agents of Shield, a show that started pretty weak but has truly found its stride.
This is the ninth film set in the MCU. When you’ve done that many it’s easy for the characters to start to blend together a bit. This movie stays a Captain America movie throughout the whole thing though. What I mean by that is Captain America isn’t the same type of hero as Ironman. Tony Stark wants the spotlight for himself and his movies are going to have the badass moments all feature him. In Winter Soldier the other characters get seem to get substantially more badass moments than Cap does. That’s the way it’s supposed to be though. Cap is a leader, he enables other people to reach their peak and work together. Black Widow, Maria Hill, Falcon, and Fury all receive their own moments in this film.
One quick historical note about Falcon. He was the first African American Marvel superhero. Blank Panther was the first black Marvel superhero, published first in 1966, but he’s from the fictional country of Wakanda. Falcon was introduced in 1969 and was born in Harlem. The thing I found interesting about Falcon’s character in this movie is that Sam Wilson’s job is shown as some sort of councilor for veterans dealing with PTSD. Ironman 3 strongly indicated Tony Stark was suffering some variety of PTSD following the events of the Battle of New York in the Avengers movie. Marvel isn’t shying away from the psychological implications of extended violence.
This can also be seen in some of the dialogue options for Black Widow in Winter Soldier. One of the few criticisms of this movie I read ahead of time mentioned they thought she was presented as too ‘goofy’. She certainly has several of the funnier lines during the movie and several of these lines take place during intense scenes. I didn’t read these lines as her character being goofy. It seemed more as if her character had just become so habituated to violence that discussing dating options after kicking someone off a roof wasn’t actually a non sequitor for her. Now that Marvel has announced Black Widow will be getting her own movie, we’ll see for certain what direction she’s being taken.
Speaking of future movies, there has already been a release date set for Captain America 3. Not too shocking as Marvel sets their release dates well in advance. There was even an article back in June of 2013 that stated a marvel release in early May of 2016.  The reason the date bares mentioning is it happens to be the same weekend Warner Brothers and DC plan on releasing their Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman crossover movie. The question now is will DC move their date or simply allow both movies to be released on the same weekend. I’m certain the fans will be happy for the double feature, but DC has been losing the movie market by a large margin.
It’s a genius move for Marvel. There are three outcomes. 1: DC moves their release date, and it looks like a big win for Marvel because it proves DC thinks Cap 3 can beat the combined efforts of DC’s three biggest hitters. 2: The movies are released on the same weekend and DC brings in a bigger gross. No statement is made because it’s expected Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman should beat Captain America. 3: Captain America brings in a bigger gross. This is disastrous for DC. After the massive failures of Catwoman and Green Lantern, DC can’t take too many more missteps when trying to catch up with the juggernaut that is Marvel/Disney.
That last scenario isn’t too unlikely either. The Man of Steel movie that was released last year made 668 million worldwide. Winter Soldier has made 505 million worldwide so far and it hasn’t been out two weeks yet. We’ll see if Warner Brothers can keep the box office draw of Batman that Nolan had which was over a billion worldwide with Dark Knight Rises alone.
I would get a corner cut off my nerd card if I didn’t mention a really meaningless continuity nitpick. There is a scene in which Captain America goes as a civilian to look at an exhibit about him in the Smithsonian. The problem is the exhibit is in the Air and Space Museum. Why is it there? Sure there is plenty of military history in that museum, but wouldn’t an exhibit about a soldier be more appropriate in the Museum of American History? Even if Captain America isn’t there now, by the time Marvel is done adding movies to the already impressive catalog they are building he’ll be there some day.
★★★★☆ – It’s a fantastic movie and what Marvel is attempting to do is unprecedented. It won’t win you over to the superhero genre if you already loathe people in tight outfits doing heroic things though. A reminder of my rating system.