I'm always leery about formulating any opinion of a movie within twenty-four hours of watching the film. I am one of the most brutally neurotic critics among my friends, but thankfully, I can still get swept up in a movie and leave all that at the door ... usually. The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey and The Dark Knight Rises both had me groaning in my seat, rolling my eyes, and occasionally slamming my head in the back of seat in front of me. The other patrons were not thrilled.
So, here I am and here is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I ... really liked it. I mean, Jeebuz. It really caught my attention in a way that Marvel has failed to do in a while. Going backwards, I thought Thor: The Dark World was ... serviceable. I honestly thought it was a two hour masturbation-fest for Loki-fans. Iron Man 3 was ... a mess.
So here we are. I'll stick to my main pillars, plot, characters, and theme. I liked the plot, not because it was revolutionary, or new, or even surprising (it really did hearken back to 70s era political thrillers). What it was, though, was directly related to the main character. The titular antagonist of the story had an ideology that conflicted with Steve Rogers, and that made the plot more engaging than say, Malekith fighting Thor, or Guy Pearce (I refuse to call him the Mandarin) fighting Iron Man. I liked that the Winter Soldier was ultimately just a hired gun; it gave him the same feeling as Darth Vader back in Star Wars: A New Hope. He was just a guy with a job to do, and the personal relationship was just an addition that added depth.
As always Chris Evans brings a wonderful sincerity to his performance that retains a cheeky sense of humor (unlike Henry Cavill's straight-faced Clark Kent in Man of Steel). The other characters who appeared, had a fun repore with Cap. Black Widow and he formed an intimate (not sexual or romantic) relationship based on their shared experiences and how they've been effected.
I found that Anthony Mackie's Falcon resonated particularly well with me. My father and brother were both marines in Vietnam and Afghanistan respectively, and seeing their struggles highlighted through the PTSD meetings in the movie a welcome connection.
I will admit the movie completely lost my interest the more it delved into Hydra and Arnim Zola's return as purely an exposition fountain. I felt that they were ... unnecessary inclusions that were handled more-or-less lazily and shoehorned. It also struck me as a waste of Robert Redford's villainous Alexander Pierce.
The Incredible Hulk in 2008. It worked as both, unlike it's predecessor, which just came across as a 2 hour preview for the Avengers. Hopefully it bodes well for the future of Marvel's films.