Captain America: The Winter Soldier pretty well surpasses its predecessor in almost all aspects. The action is cleaner and more intense, the humour is stronger and the story is less disjointed. The First Avenger was by no means a bad film, in fact it was pretty good (better than Thor). It was entertaining in many ways, but it spent a good deal of time setting up Rogers' story before he actually ended up becoming Captain America. What happened next were some of the coolest parts of the film that were only shown in a glorified montage, a greatest hits of sorts. The rest of the film was basically just one over-the-top action set piece after another. Winter Soldier gets right into the action and delivers in spades while still balancing both characters and story in a far more equal measure.
The humour is also improved by feeling a lot more on point and less forced. What works best about the film hands down is the story and whole idea of the world that it now paints. Things were different for Tony Stark after New York with his PTSD, things weren't really all that different for Thor, but things are definitely different for Steve Rogers. This is the first time we get to see him on his own and trying to adjust to the real world seventy years in the future.
Chris Evans once again perfectly embodies the titular hero with enough boyish charm and genuine earnestness that Cap is known for. Boy scouts tend to be rather boring and blasé in many cases, but Evans gives both his heroic actions and other ended doubts some serious gravitas and pathos. Scarlett Johansson continues to grow in her role as Black Window and has some pretty good chemistry with Evans in a story that totally makes sense for S.H.I.E.L.D to be involved in. Samuel L. Jackson once again returns as Nick Fury and well, he's Sam Jackson. So of course he's awesome. Sebastien Stan is great as The Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie makes for a great Falcon and Robert Redford brings some real calibre and weight to the proceedings as Alexander Pierce. If there's one actor I was really glad to see in Winter Soldier however, it was Frank Grillo, because he's a very good actor that's agonizingly underrated. He's pretty great in this movie too.
If there's one disappointing drawback to the film, it's The Winter Soldier himself, or a lack thereof. The scenes that he's in are great because he proves to be more than a worthy adversary to Cap. He's a great and hulking bad guy in the scenes that he's in, the problem is he isn't in it nearly enough. Not enough to be in the title of the film anyway. Outside of that, [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](movie:254973) is a worthy addition to Marvel's ever increasing cinematic universe.
Make sure to stay for both the mid credits scene (which will make you hardcore fans freak) and the end credits scene. Then again, if you're gonna be watching a Marvel movie, you probably already know that by now.
4 stars out of 5