First off. If your sole purpose in reading this is my advice on whether to go see this move or not, then yes. Go see it.
I don't do a lot of reviews, and this is a Marvel-movie. Being a fan, I'm not sure how I can possibly be objective, so to prepare before going to the movie, I made a list of questions to answer. The list was developed after considering the reactions to other superhero-movies of the last couple of years. The answers have two versions, a really short one, and one explaining why. Possibly with minor spoilers for the thinkers among you.
Will fans get angry after seeing this movie?
Short answer: Some, probably.
Long answer: There's no major “Mandarin in Iron Man 3” moment here. Mostly, people hold the identities and convictions they do in the comics with some up- and downplaying of certain characteristics. And yet, anyone hoping to see a ridiculous Batroc ze Leaper with a phony French accent (I know they're out there) will be disappointed and possibly angry about it.
How will this movie fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Short answer: Perfectly
Long answer: Iron Man 3 kind of broke the perceived continuity with its representation of the Ten Rings and the Mandarin, as opposed to the one in Iron Man. Marvel later did some damage control with the Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King that restored it. No such damage control will be needed for this movie. Instead it adds something to the setting that should have a major influence on both future Marvel films and future episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How is the general tone of the movie? Short answer: Dark Long answer: See short answer. S.H.I.E.L.D. has done a great job so far in solving world crisis after crisis, until Avengers happened. Then they went into overdrive to prevent such a thing from happening again. It's a battle of oppressive order vs. potentially chaotic freedom, and Captain America is torn between his nature as a soldier and his belief in freedom. It's also a history lesson on how S.H.I.E.L.D. became what it is, and the events and people involved in leading them to the events of the movie.
What's Black Widows part in this movie?
Short answer: This is her movie as much as Captain Americas
Long answer: About a week ago, I made an outline of a list of events that would need to happen in a Black Widow solo feature to launch her successfully as a main character. While I was watching, I mentally checked off every single item on that list, down to the aftermath. Somewhere behind the Captain America vs. Winter Soldier, and the history lessons and Caps outrage at how far S.H.I.E.L.D. was willing to go to secure order, was a movie about a spy with more identities than she knew what to do with (and none of them her own). She gets betrayed by her employers, and latches on to a soldier with no incentive to trust her. Not for romance or comfort, but because they both need each other to stay alive and get the job done. Throughout the movie, she shows snippets of what it means to be a spy in her world, by blending in with cold calculated tactics, appearances notwithstanding. Scarlet Johansen is great in this movie, and anyone who says differently can fly over to Bergen and say that to my face.
And the Falcon?
Short answer: Damn he's slick!
Long answer: I love the guy! He's one of the two first characters to appear on screen, and he never stops being awesome. If I say anymore I'm afraid I'll go over in spoiler territory, but damn! He's the closest thing this Marvel Studios has come to a comedy sidekick, and he's still a relevant, serious, awesome character.
Action scenes any good?
Short answer: Yes. Hell yes!
Long answer: I brought my wife along for the ride, and she kind of falls asleep once the explosions or fighting scenes drag out or get repetitive. This time she didn't, and there's several reasons why. This movie has one of the most inspired car chases I've seen. Any fight sequence or shootout involving the Winter Soldier just oozes coolness, and it's just plain refreshing to see a movie where each character has their own very distinct fighting style. From Batrocs legs to Winter Soldiers arms, Caps shield and Widows bite, the choreography is just plain nice!
Any negative impressions from the movie?
Short answer: Well, yes. A couple
Long answer: The pacing struck me as a little weird. It went all out in the beginning, properly introducing all the characters and making sure Widow and Cap showed that they have very different priorities during missions. Then things slowed down considerably during the second part of the first act. The payoff during the second and third act were well worth it, but it still felt somewhat unnatural after the action packed intro-mission. Also, the importance of some of the threads and people were hard to place, even when you had all the details the movie offered.
Other comments or predictions?
Short answer: No
Long answer: Yes. [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) will build on more than Iron Mans A.I. going bonkers. While Avengers built on threads revealed during Captain America: the First Avenger and Thor, its sequel will be strongly influenced by events revealed during [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973). Even if this movie wasn't strong enough on its own merits, and it is, I'd watch it to see the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe unfold.
Thank you for your time. Anything to add, or any questions? Take it to the comments below.