Captain America: The First Avenger was the best remake of Spider-Man ever made. It's way better than the actual remake of Spider-Man made a year later, but both are about weak nerds who get superpowers and face even more responsibility than ever. I thought Thor was Thorrible but I found Thorrible 2 more entertaining than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. To be fair, Thor: The Dark World had Tom Hiddleston.
Someone is attacking S.H.I.E.L.D., maybe from the inside, so it's up to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to uncover the conspiracy. I'll keep the details vague, because even though I didn't like the movie, I'm not a dick. Still, I'm being critical here and if you read between the lines, you'll figure out spoilers, so I'm still issuing a spoiler warning from here on out.
As an espionage thriller, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is more Bourne Legacy than Bourne Ultimatum. To give you one example of weak scripting, Rogers and Romanoff evade detection in a mall by kissing as the top agents walk by. Really? The old "pretend you're kissing me" schtick works for the most famous superheroes in the world?
The conspiracy plays out like the screenwriters read The Huffington Post after The PATRIOT Act but didn't know that TV's "Person of Interest" was already doing this. I'm all for a patriotic metaphor. Captain America symbolizes something good and pure. This plot, though, is what Team America ridiculed, although perhaps the marionettes took it from the right wing agenda. Battleship had a more sophisticated understanding of patriotism, recognizing the value of our veterans even when facing extra-terrestrial invaders. Winter Soldier just says, "War on Terror: bad. Freedom: good."
There are so many "surprise" twists it's like the M in M. Night Shyamalan stands for Marvel. As a die hard M. Night defender, even I say it got ridiculous here. Many of the twists are predictable by the casting alone, so I guess this will be some kids' first exposure to stunt casting. The Pulp Fiction reference almost makes it all worth it. Look for it, but the plot also requires ridiculous amounts of exposition, including a museum presentation and a villain so purely monologuing that all he is is a voice of exposition.
The Winter Soldier himself is barely a factor in this plot. Considering we know both from comic books and casting who The Winter Soldier is, they hold the reveal off for too long. By then, Cap only has a very superficial attachment to him. One flashback is supposed to remind us why he cares, and I guess the general goodness of Cap too. It reduces the title character to less of a supporting player and more just a big boss to be defeated. Maybe defeated with some reservation, but still just a big boss.
I'm not going to beat the shaky cam drum again, but come on. The action of The Winter Soldier has more problems of constructions than execution though. Stuff crashes into other stuff, and that's it. There are a few cool chain reactions, but by the end it just looks like they reused Helicarrier action scenes from The Avengers.
They still cannot make human beings falling through the air look right. I'm not talking about Falcon. Falcon is fine, but when it's just Steve jumping off something really high, it's the same blurry green screen composite we got 15-20 years ago. You'd think if they just can't pull that effect off, they could easily write a different stunt. I can't imagine anyone looking at it and going, "That looks great! Let's put that on 50 foot screens!"
I've heard a lot of praise for Black Widow, along the lines of that she deserves her own movie. I have to question what the appeal of this character is, let alone as a hero. Is her strength that she lies to every man she's ever met? That's not feminism, that's sociopathic. Being emotionless is not strength. Even Cap knows that, as he does his best to bring emotional weight to the contrived plot mechanics of The Winter Soldier. I do want to ask someone though, does giving Romanoff red hair make it easier to double her putting a stuntwoman in a wig? I'm all for letting real martial artists handle the heavy stuff, and the wig makes it seamless.
Praise for Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been pretty unanimously positive. This is what the fans want, so they will get more of it. I celebrate them, but I have to keep it real. It's only superhero comfort food, and I was hoping to be wowed.