‘Captain America’ sequel a hit

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Apr. 17 | Modified: Apr. 17
‘Captain America’ sequel a hit

Chris Evans stars in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.'

Like the character himself, the very concept of Captain America seems like a fish out of water.

He’s a superhero from a bygone era, when comic books saw their fictitious heroes fighting very real threats, often draping themselves in the American flag and, in this case, actually socking it to Adolf Hitler.

When director Joe Johnston brought the captain to life in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” he did so in the most fitting and fun way possible: an imaginative period piece that plays like a rousing adventure from that time — but with superheroes.

In the new sequel, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo (TV’s “Community”) have a more difficult task ahead of them: making this hero relevant in a modern setting. And they do it with aplomb.

Back in the Captain’s heyday, discerning between good and evil was clear as black and white. Today, however, it’s never been grayer. Surprisingly (yet refreshingly) for a Marvel Studios film, “Winter Soldier” is almost slightly subversive, as our hero weighs the cost of freedom against an increasingly broad (and grim) concept of national security.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, “Sunshine”), aka Captain America, is still adjusting to life in present day Washington, D.C., lending his super-soldier talents to the homeland defense agency, SHIELD. When SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, “Jackie Brown”) reveals the organization’s new fleet of high-tech aerial battleships, designed to eliminate threats before they even happen, Rogers questions the morality — or lack thereof — behind it.

But even Fury is skeptical, suspecting a potential security breach, which could prove calamitous were the ships to launch on schedule. He brings his concerns to World Security Council member Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”), who grants Fury more time to investigate.

But when an attempt is made on Fury’s life, Rogers realizes there’s less time than they thought. He, too, is being targeted by a mysterious assassin, known only as the Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan, “Black Swan”), who has a direct connection to the Captain’s past.

With SHIELD operative Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, “The Prestige”) as his only ally, Cap sets out to uncover the identity of the Winter Soldier and those who hired him. Needless to say, their path is rife with twists, turns and top-notch action sequences.

Whereas “The First Avenger” resembles a Saturday matinee World War II adventure, “The Winter Soldier” plays like a 1970s conspiracy thriller, complete with political intrigue, duplicity aplenty, thoughtful cinematography, actual stunts, practical special effects and Robert Redford.

By keeping things grounded (relatively speaking), the Russos create an approachable film with much more to offer than computer-generated spectacle. The characters come first and foremost, and quality performances from all around let audience members actually invest in their protagonists. A

nd it’s the smaller things that deliver this depth, like Cap’s to-do list of all he missed before awakening in the 21st century — “Moon Landing,” “Berlin Wall (Up & Down),” “Nirvana (Band?)”— and a visit to his former flame from the ’40s, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell, “The Duchess”), now in a nursing home.

It comes down to character, and “The Winter Solider” is a testament to the relevance and longevity of one of Marvel’s most iconic titles.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 20, or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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