Captain America seems to be settling in to modern life. He’s got his own place and some friends outside of work, he’s even considering dating or at least being pushed towards it by Agent Romanov. He has even updated his fighting style a bit incorporating parkour and eastern martial arts into his repertoire. Now he is a lot more active and doesn’t spend so much time standing around waiting for the bad guys to shoot at his fancy shield. The action is still comic book over the top but is a lot more gritty, previously it felt like he was overly anxious not to hurt any one.
The prologue to this movie sets up how awesome SHIELD is and shows Cap leading a strike team to recapture some assets from French terrorists. Given how easily all the terrorist goons are defeated, many single-handedly by Cap, it is a bit jarring when he meets a mini-boss who is suddenly (almost) a match for the mighty Captain America. It feels like the department for bigging up Captain America and the department for putting Captain America down both got a little carried away.
For most of the film, Steve is at odds with SHIELD and Nick Fury over their plan to terminate terrorist threats before they even become a threat. SHIELD has some very cool new tech to help them to do this including some new helicarriers which are very shiny and fun to look at.
Nick has his own problems having seemingly locked himself out of some important files in a kind of Zaphod Beeblebrox type plan. This causes Nick to have some doubts about the new project too and he decides to put it on hold while he investigates. Almost immediately shady people start trying to kill Nick and capture Steve thus causing a reconciliation with Steve so they can work together to solve the mystery, yay!
It’s all about freedom and whether true freedom is to be able to do whatever you want or to have to be free from having to make any of your own choices. Hydra/SHIELD wants everyone to be the latter kind of free while Captain America/SHIELD wants everyone to have the freedom to do whatever you like (as long as whatever it is you are doing doesn’t go against what Cap wants you to do!) It is very much the communist against capitalist argument from the cold war and even the main enemy seems more Russian than his Nazi origins would suggest.
Romanov is back and as cool and sexy as ever. She gets a bit more time in this movie and we get to see her in civilian mode as well as being an agent. In between offing terrorists and racing fast cars she is trying to find a date for Cap.
Falcon is introduced in this film, first as a rare “outside” friend for Steve and later on as a trusted colleague of Captain America. Being a new member of the team with a very flimsy back story he feels a little bit parachuted in here but this actually helps in some scenes where the character struggles with the new super hero support role he has suddenly found himself in.
I don’t know if the effects have taken a step up or if directors are using them more effectively now but there are a lot of FX heavy scenes in this film and while they are occasionally noticeable, they don’t feel too intrusive. There is nothing of the blurry, impossible to focus on scenes that spoil some scenes in Thor. Some of the effects are a bit too clean and sharp to fit into the surroundings (look at the ship in the opening sequence for example) but you can see that the digital effects artists have spent a long time working on how to better integrate their work with real footage to achieve a more believable look rather than concentrating on creating more and more of the scene in CG.
Feels much more its own movie than Captain America The First Avenger but also is a lot more SHIELD centred than any other film in the series. Possibly even more SHIELD centred than The Avengers since that film has a whole host of super heroes to distract attention from the organisation and this has only one.
Some of the twists and plot devices are obvious and some are less so but still feel pretty contrived. I’m sure you’ll know which I mean if you’ve seen it. Here are some of my favourites that only contain mild spoilers:
Cap stops during a covert infiltration mission, not even in the middle but at the very beginning, potentially going up against the whole of SHIELD to deliver a rousing patriotic speech over the PA system! You could argue that this makes it more likely that any agents loyal to Cap will help out in the coming fight but I can’t help but think that Cap wouldn’t have needed help if he hadn’t alerted all the bad guys to his presence!
The plan to destroy the heli-carriers seems unnecessarily wasteful. It is laboriously explained to us that in order to destroy them it is first necessary to neutralise their threat so why not then harness their power for good? Is their argument that some things are inherently evil and can only be destroyed rather than put to a better use? I suspect that rather the decision was made as it would result in a more spectacular finale to the battle scene.
Steve releases his enemy from under a pile of girders before trying to convince him to join the good guys. Surely, even given the situation, that’s a conversation you would have first and then decide whether to remove the girders.