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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Year: 2014
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Studio: Disney
Director: Anthony Russo/Joe Russo
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Christopher Markus/Stephen McFeely/Ed Brubaker/Joe Simon
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Jenny Agutter

The first Captain America was, frankly, crap. It looked cheap, it had the same generic superhero origin story as any other and had every other trope that was already tired and well-worn a decade before (interchangeable villains, love interest, etc etc – parables for movies themselves, more or less).

This iteration looks much better. The action is more cohesive, the scope more sweeping, and the performances better. Does that make it batter movie? Not even close.

The bar for a Marvel superhero movie is, unfortunately, too low to rise above. What these movies do, they sometimes do well, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier does. What I have a problem with is what they do in the first place. Every movie in the Marvel canon is interchangeable, and with more of them coming down the pipe, the hallmarks they've used since the beginning are just getting more boring.

Finding something fresh like Downey Jr's performance as Tony Stark in Iron Man used to be possible, but even that's tired now. The structure, the huge CGI climax, the whole thing has been done to (and far beyond) death.

I will say one thing for the writers behind the movie (and presumably the creative direction mandated by overseer Kevin Fiege). Somebody is keeping in mind that they're movies, not episodes of a TV show. With the destruction of an element that's so entrenched to the Marvel universe after Cap (Evans) and his friends discover how compromised it is, there's definitely a sense of 'how can they come back from that now?'

They of course will, and we'll all rinse and repeat until the fandom runs out and Disney finally offloads the strip-mined Marvel for a song, long since having made their billions back.

The plot? The stories of these things are hardly worth relating, they're all so indistinguishable. But if you're that keen...

Steve is getting used to life in the 21st Century when some new menace (that's actually an old menace) shows up that goes right to the top of SHIELD. When it appears director Nick Fury (Jackson) is assassinated and the death is pinned on Rogers, he takes Scarlet Widow or whatever the fuck she's called (Johansson) and the token black guy who'll be his sidekick by putting on some winged suit machine (Mackie) and goes rogue to save the day (like we've never seen that before, let alone in superhero movies).

SHIELD has constructed a fleet of those helicopter aircraft carriers we saw in The Avengers, and Cap doesn't like it, giving the movie its major theme of surveillance and security through fear, not freedom. But when it turns out the bad guys have their fingers on the trigger, the carriers are going to be launched from SHIELD operations and turned on the general public. Something about killing 20 million people to save the planet or something – I didn't pay enough attention.

The seemingly-indestructible assassin who apparently killed Fury keeps showing up to fight before Steve finds out it's someone from his past, and after a few cycles of action scene-expository scene-action scene, everybody can finally reach the CGI clangfest where the heroes have to bring the carriers down before they can turn the guns on.

Like usual it stitches the sentiment to current events quite adeptly (the NSA spying on us all for our own good, in this case), but it's the same white hat/black hat crap Hollywood's never grown out of, just with bigger budgets.

Everything you need to know is right there on that Marvel logo on the poster, or the title of the page for the listing of this film on Boxofficemojo.com, where it's called 'marvel14b'. It's just a product rolling off a conveyor belt.

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