[The following Captain America 2 review excerpts are SPOILER-FREE.]
It's fair to say that anticipation is quite high for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the next release in Phase 2 of Marvel Studios' shared Cinematic Universe. Early buzz surrounding the project has been extremely positive, buoyed by exciting trailer footage that suggests the Russo brothers (making their action genre directing debut) may have produced a film that will please more than just the die-hard superhero/comic book crowd - it might just be an excellent piece of filmmaking, taken on its own merits.
The Winer Soldier doesn't open in the U.S. until April, but the film will begin its expansion into European markets next week. Marvel's review embargo has lifted ahead of then (our official review will drop on the movie's U.S. release date), so - in keeping with a proud Screen Rant tradition - we've put together several informative excerpts from a number of the first official critical reactions to hit the 'Net. (As mentioned, they are SPOILER-FREE.)
Much has been made - by the filmmakers and studio executives behind Captain America 2 - about how the script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger) plays out like a smart and relevant political action/thriller - one which just happens to feature superheroes as the main characters, that is. So far, a number of the early reviews seem to agree that the film does, in fact, have teeth as a political conspiracy thriller.
For case in point, check out the following excerpts (click the link for the full review):
["Captain America: The Winter Soldier”] trades the earlier film’s apple-pie Americana for the uneasy mood of a 1970s paranoia thriller... Chockfull of the breathless cliffhangers dictated by the genre, but equally rich in the quiet, tender character moments that made the first film unique among recent Marvel fare, “The Winter Soldier” marks a generally assured return to features for sibling helmers Anthony and Joe Russo...
With “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the corporations behind one of the most lucrative series in contemporary cinema dare to step outside of their safety zone, not only tossing the building blocks of a film and television canon up in the air but also using a mainstream entertainment to ask provocative questions about our own government and about the compromises that we are willing to make in a technological world where privacy is rapidly disappearing around us.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" may not be the perfect representation of the comic books, but that's actually a good thing. Instead, it gains huge points by working as a standalone movie set in the world of espionage and world politics that's different enough from previous Marvel movies to be more accessible for non-comic fans than anything Marvel's done thus far.
Other reviewers are likewise quite positive with their outlook, though they caution that the Captain America sequel doesn't tread far enough into non-superhero genre territory, as to win over any moviegoers not already onboard the comic book movie bandwagon (not that Marvel needs to worry about that, for the time being):
The central conflict of this film is completely absurd – and may have far-reaching implications for some of the other Marvel properties – but the series continues to luck out with its ace casting choices, zippy dialogue and fast action. Despite all the explosions and ridiculous technology, you still care about Steve Rogers, whose anachronistic seriousness trying dutifully to fit in to our jaded times is as apt a metaphor for remix culture as anything else. This entry won’t win any new converts, but anyone already invested in this series is going to have a blast.
While the conspiratorial antics are effective enough to drive the story forward, it’s hardly likely to appeal to anyone looking for the next Three Days Of The Condor... In fact, if the sequel suffers anywhere, it’ll be attracting superhero-adverse outsiders. Casual references to wider Marvel mythology are batted about so faintly in the background that they’ll be totally unnoticed by the uninitiated. Quibbles aside, the movie hits all the Saturday-night blockbuster beats so effectively, it’s hard to complain.
One thing that most everyone agrees on, though, is that the action filmmaking (camera work, fight choreography, high-octane set pieces/sequence) is overall top-notch and makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier an exciting and non-stop thriller cinematic ride - though, moviegoers who aren't keen on Impressionistic action scenes (translate: rapid-fire editing) might find the approach to be overwhelming at times:
The Russo brothers... had no blockbuster movie experience prior to making the sequel, but absolutely crush it with thrilling car chases, stylish fight sequences, and a collection of epic set pieces. Even characters whom we have become familiar with other multiple stories move in new and interesting ways, and the Russos’ camera captures every punch, kick, jump, lunge and block with top-notch visceral energy.
First and foremost, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is the best action film out of the entire Marvel movie universe so far, bar none. Just in terms of sheer impact and choreography and execution and clarity of geography and did I mention impact because DAMN. If that is all that this film did well, that would be enough for me to recommend it.
[Captain America: The Winter Soldier is] brimming with vehicular chases, surprise attacks, shootouts, fist fights, Energy Baton takedowns, miraculous rescues and surprising demises. The action is voluminous, and when it involves machines, it's fine. However, when humans go at it one on one, directors Anthony and JoeRusso... go nuts, forsaking credible and exciting action within the frame for overcutting of such intensity that you can't tell what's going on.
Finally, as you would expect, there are critics whose feelings on the Captain America sequel definitely fall in the realm of lukewarm and/or disappointed. So far, the dominant complaint isn't that the film is, per se, badly-made on its own terms - it's just that the movie is par the course for Marvel Studios, following two Phase 2 releases (Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World) that likewise drew complaints about the studio treading water:
Still, you can’t help but feel disappointed that a film with a relatively spicy premise becomes, in the end, so risk-averse. Is it possible for a franchise so swollen with its own success to still accommodate real creative bravery? Money, time and the four more Avengers films currently in production will tell.
The thing is, for the most part, this is a formula that works. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is packed with short bursts of inventive action, there are neat gags and cool universe-building moments for the fans and a weighty standalone story at its core. But it is also exactly what we expect from Marvel now and, as such, this is the first film in its catalogue that doesn't feel particularly fresh or exciting.
On the whole, it sounds as though the critical outlook for Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that the film is just as much of a crowd-pleasing affair as previous Marvel Studios' releases, yet also shows genuine signs of real growth and creative progress for the young studio. (How much growth, well, that's up for debate.) Sounds like it could make for an excellent start to 2014's slate of Marvel superhero/comic book blockbusters.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in U.S. theaters on April 4th, 2014.
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