‘Captain America’ goes beyond superhero standards

Traditionally, the first weekend in May is the time that kicks off the summer movie season, a season filled with blockbusters and big budgeted spectacles that superhero films seem to have the claim on lately. To move ahead of the pack, Marvel decided to lay claim to the month of April for their big cinematic universe flick. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” follows Captain Steve Rogers as he struggles to cope with the customs of the new world (our world) that he has been thrown into after being frozen in ice for decades. We saw him in action in 2012’s “The Avengers,” but now new directors Anthony and Joe Russo give us a look at Rogers’ life among the world’s new technology and its ideas on freedom and homeland security. This might be a bold statement to hear, but this new “Captain America” is the best superhero movie since “The Avengers,” and quite possibly the best stand-alone Marvel film. Yes, even more so than the first “Iron Man.”

What makes “Winter Soldier” stand out above the rest of Marvel’s slate of superhero flicks all comes down to the plot. While films like “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World” by no means have bad plots, they never manage to rise above being “a good Iron Man movie” or a “good Thor movie.” “Winter Soldier’s” script is filled with characters and story elements that work as a top-notch political thriller that could work as an exciting film even if Captain America was taken out of the equation. Mission after mission, Rogers still struggles to figure out what the organization he works for, S.H.I.E.L.D, is actually about and what he is fighting for. This brings up questions and dilemmas that have never been explored in a Marvel superhero movie before, or other movies for that matter. After an attack on S.H.I.E.L.D, Rogers and Natasha (aka Black Widow) must go on the run from Alexander Pierce (played by Robert Redford) after he makes them the most wanted fugitives in the country to try and cover his tracks.

Another aspect of this film that makes it stand above the rest is the fact that it gives its supporting characters a ton to do. Obviously, you go to a “Captain America” film to see Captain America in action, but it is nice to see that the supporting cast has a lot of meat to their roles and all get to shine in great moments throughout the film. This cast includes Samuel L. Jackson returning to the role of Nick Fury (director of S.H.I.E.L.D), Scarlett Johansson returning as Black Widow and Anthony Mackie joining the crew as “The Falcon” (the sidekick role), who might be the coolest sidekick to ever grace the big screen. This film also features one of the most memorable comic villains in recent memory, the Winter Soldier. While he may not tread the same waters as the Joker in terms of iconic impact, the Winter Soldier packs an incredibly large punch and gives the audience a villain with an emotional connection to the hero sent out to stop him. The driving force behind what makes this particular franchise work is the dedicated and commanding performance from the star himself, Chris Evans. Evans plays the role with conviction as he is tested and put through an emotional roller coaster while he tries to piece together his personal life and figure out if this is the type of organization he wants to stay in.

The Russo brothers are not known for directing action scenes. They come from the world of comedy, where they have produced and directed episodes of NBC’s “Community,” with their biggest feature film being the Owen Wilson comedy “You, Me and Dupree.” Having never worked on a film of this caliber, I do not think I was alone in fearing how it might turn out. Little did we know that the Russo brothers can now add “talented action directors” to their resume because they have captured some of the most exciting and well-choreographed combat and car chase scenes I have seen in a long time — scenes that put the first “Captain America” to shame.

It is getting to a point now where you need to catch up and see the other Marvel films leading up to the latest one in order to follow what is happening. I feel as though I would have been lost had I not seen the first “Captain America,” as there were a surprising amount of its story elements embedded in “Winter Soldier.” But if you have been keeping up to date with each hero’s story and you enjoyed the first “Captain America” (like I did), then you should find a whole lot more to enjoy from this new entry. It improves upon its predecessor in almost every way imaginable. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” does not just work as a great superhero movie, but a great movie altogether — a movie with political espionage and excitement around every corner.