After somewhat praising director Joe Johnston for his restraint with “Captain America: The First Avenger” back in 2011, it’s odd that I find “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” a more complete film in the endless barrage of superior hero movies due to its nonstop action sequences.

The real impressive feat here is comedy directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s (“You, Me & Dupree” and “Welcome to Collinwood”) total switch from the type of material they are familiar with.

That, or does it mean anyone can direct these types of mindless films because it’s the producers and studio heads who are really in control?

Either way, the writing behind Black Widow is great, and this film finally chooses to view her as a main character, equal to the male superheroes.

Steve Rogers (Evans) continues to struggle with the modern world. When a fellow ex-military friend asks him what makes him happy, he isn’t sure just yet.

After the world-changing events in New York (i.e. “The Avengers”), SHIELD is working on all sorts of threatening new protective measures.

Nick Furry (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself at odds with his old friend Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who has a secret agenda that doesn’t include Furry or his team.

Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) keeps pushing Rogers to date and get out into the world, but his past, especially the events surrounding his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sabastian Stan), continue to haunt him.

The Marvel universe continues to abide by the “separate but equal” concept that these movies are connected (events here set up “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), mention Stark multiple times, reference The Hulk and even Thor, yet logically make no sense that they would exist in the same world.

For instance, when Furry is being brutally attacked in a scene that would have put Washington, D.C., on lock down, no one comes to his aid; even with the thousands of people witnessing the event.

The entire integrity and reliability of SHIELD is compromised in this film, but Avengers are no where to be found. I guess Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and everyone else is on vacation because Black Widow says in one scene, “Everyone we know is trying to kill us.” Everyone, she says.

There are a lot of comparisons in the difference between Captain America and everyone else; Stark embraces the future, while Rogers looks to the past.

That idea becomes realized when the real villain in this film offers a Captain America shadow, if you will.

“Winter Soldier” might fare better because it isn’t plagued with back story like the first film was when fleshing out Rogers’ past; however, the fight sequences become exhaustingly monotonous.

The real excitement here is with Black Widow. Johansson’s talent and body language really make her the centerpiece.

Another nice little moment, if you know your history, is that Redford actually discovered Johansson and cast her in “The Horse Whisperer” back in 1998, so their “I’m sorry, did I ruin your moment,” scene is pretty special.

Final thought: It may be Captain America’s movie, but Black Widow steals the show.


'Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sabastian Stan

GRADE: B

The Silver Screen

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. More reviews are available at texasart

film.com.

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