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Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Believe the Hype

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This second Captain America film centers on one basic premise as a question actually. As important as freedom is, should freedom be sacrificed for security? By showing this in a thought provoking and entertaining way, this film succeeds in both script and action brilliantly.

An effortless blend of interesting dialogue and action thrills makes this a very worthwhile superhero film. CGI (computer generated imaging) bang doesn't overpower as tends to happen at least in half of current blockbuster films, assaulting movie audiences with sensory overload to weariness while disregarding a compelling story. Like a stand-up comedian who gestures too much, and or uses colorful language too much, if the joke doesn't fly, it doesn't fly, no matter whether the comedian's material is clean or not. This second Captain America film doesn't just fly but also soars, effortlessly catching thermals for prolonged flight.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier not only delivers the goods, but also delivers well packaged and presentable goods. For example just last week, Friday, opening day, I had a playful argument with a nice gentleman who immediately after our conversation was about to see the film. He told me that Cap always depends on his shield. To which I may recall from the first film Captain America: The First Avenger, he may not have always used his shield too much in action.

Well, after having seen the recent film myself Saturday the next day, the nice gentleman was definitely proven wrong in the first action scene.

During the first action scene, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America acted by Chris Evans, leads an elite team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents including Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow acted by Scarlett Johansson. Their mission is to stop terrorists aboard a naval vessel who are threatening hostages. So Cap initially believes. Soon the threat is swiftly almost neutralized as nearly all the terrorists are taken out, except their leader. French villain Georges Batroc then challenges Captain America as he says, "I thought you were more than just a shield." Hearing that, the hero quietly sheaths his shield on his back before they begin mano-a-mano.

What follows is Krav Maga type fighting between America's finest and Batroc, acted by mixed-martial artist and actor Georges St. Pierre. The fight scene may be a touch stylized; lacking some realism of the three Matt Damon-Jason Bourne films. But I'll take it, because the scene delightfully validates. Let's also not forget, he may be a product of bio-engineered strength with seemingly tireless endurance and uncannily agile, but Captain America is not Superman. When bullets may abound, his shield is not only used for protection but also as a weapon in an of itself.

In this film Cap is uneasy. Not only as he dodges a dating life, which Natasha a.k.a. Black Widow cares about setting him up with eager women she knows from S.H.I.E.L.D. during the film's light hearted moments, but Cap is also uneasy about what the world has become. After missing about seventy years since WWII while inadvertently frozen in a state of hibernation, to suddenly re-awaken into a pervasive technology-laden 21st Century, the hero is also suspicious of S.H.I.E.L. D. And when Captain America is suddenly profoundly suspicious of S.H.I.E.L.D., it is also like James Bond being suddenly profoundly suspicious of MI6.

"This isn't freedom. This is fear," says Cap almost yelling out loud to Nick Fury head of S.H.I.E.L.D. acted by Samuel L. Jackson, then astounded by what Fury reveals. That scene was shown in the previews, so no spoiler there. For there before him lies a secret vast underground chamber harboring a military-like industrial complex run amok, including three massive revamped S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carriers supposedly used for defense. But their intended use is to fulfill an ulterior motive. And that's not what Captain America signed up for.

Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce as senior head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury's boss. Even Nick Fury has a boss. Then there's Anthony Mackie who plays Special Forces soldier Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon. It was good to see Mackie, having remembering his performance in the Best Picture film The Hurt Locker. Then to complete the cast, Sebastian Stan plays the Winter Soldier also bio-engineered like Cap, for a superhero has to have a worthy adversary to keep a saga alive. All performances from the cast keeps this second Cap story engaging.

One of the critics says this film is too long. To which I thought oh here we go again. Some critics said the same about last year's Man of Steel. But none said the same about The Avengers which came out the year before. For both The Avengers and The Man of Steel according to Internet Movie Database (IMDb) have the same running time of two hours twenty-three minutes. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a running time of two hours and sixteen minutes. And like The Man of Steel which I wrote about last year as the film was earning $668 million worldwide, I also give this second Cap film five stars or a solid A.

This may encourage some to ask, "Well... is there any superhero film you didn't like?" Good question and yes, Spiderman III of the Tobey Maguire trilogy followed by Iron Man II and III just about rounds things out of my non-likes.

Yes I realize that Iron Man III had earned over a billion dollars worldwide. And I also know that you can't argue with success. Meaning, that Disney/Marvel is entitled to such undeniably impressive results from a budgeted $200 million film. Yet despite that, there were a few reasons why I didn't like Iron Man III and the biggest was how the villain was conceived.

The Mandarin is supposed to be Iron Man's greatest villain. He was born of half Chinese (father wealthy) and half British (mother aristocrat) Caucasian ancestry. Both parents died when he was very young. A brilliant scientist schooled also in martial arts, the Mandarin has always pursued world domination. Therefore I believed a golden chance was missed by not seeking a talented half Chinese-half Caucasian actor whom I am sure exists out there in Hollywood, and let the actor dive into the role given the Mandarin's very interesting background. As powerful and wealthy as he already is, the Mandarin doesn't need to ask Tony Stark for professional support after meeting at a tech conference. Furthermore, as formidable as he already is, he certainly doesn't need an actor to hide behind. And that also would be beneath him.

Superman has Lex Luthor. Batman has the Joker. The Fantastic Four has Doctor Doom. Captain Kirk has Khan. The Lone Ranger has Butch Cavendish. Sherlock Holmes has Professor James Moriarty, and Wonder Woman has Circe the enchantress, or some may also say Cheetah. All are villains who are worthy opponents, and who stand the test of time. In other words, the Mandarin should have been made in Iron Man III to be memorable. But, what's done is done.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already earned according to Box Office Mojo over $315 million worldwide from a $170 million film. So far that's good and bound to get even better. Because speaking of which, word has already been out that a third Cap film is slated to open on May 6, 2016, the same opening day of The Batman vs. Superman film. But if and when that happens get ready for fight night at the MGM. But in the meantime, the Russo brothers Anthony and Joe had both directed this second Cap film and made it very well worth it.