The Marvel film studio has done an outstanding job making comic book movies the most exciting and lucrative genre released today. Yeah, they don't own every comic book film that comes out (not even some of the Marvel characters) but the reason why the other studios cough up so much money to make these films now with increasingly impressive quality is because the amount that they're pulling in is more and more. Nowhere is that more impressive than what Marvel and Disney are doing with the ever expanding world of The Avengers. A total of nine films have been released, all of them linked together, and a rumored plan to release more until the year 2028! However, with all those swings you're bound to strike out here and there.
One thing that I like what Marvel/Disney is doing is righting a wrong even when it's been financially successful. For instance, the first Captain America film made a butt load of cash but it wasn't very good. Granted, it was hard to pull off a period comic book film starring (in my opinion) the dullest of The Avenger characters. Knowing those were the hurdles, maybe that's why they went with a low risk but high boring choice of Joe Johnston as director. The guy has expierence doing big budget action films like Jurassic Park III and The Wolfman but hasn't made a really good one since Jumanji or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. So what Marvel did was not ask him to do this but instead brought in the unconventional choice of brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, who's expierence consist mostly of quirky TV sitcoms like Community, Up All Night and Happy Endings.
The switch in tone totally works and although Winter Soldier isn't funny or has a focus on comedy at all, it does feel lighter and less heavy. This compliments the script which is more of a government espionage story than the usual superheros smashing cities in an attempt to defend the planet. You kinda have to tell Captain America stories that way since the character doesn't really lend himselt to a whole lot of excitement. He doesn't turn into a green montster, he's not a robot filled with swag and he's not a god from outer space. He's just Steve; a normal boy scout who happened to luck out with some extra special performance-enhancing drugs. But the Russos pull it off better than Johnston did.
Putting S.H.I.E.L.D., Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johanson at the forefront more than they have in any of the other films was a major asset. Those two actors have the chemistry and screen presence to offset Captain America's derpiness in every scene where there isn't action. The addition of Robert Redford (All is Lost, All the President's Men) was odd but enjoyable and Anthony Mackie (8 Mile, Million Dollar Baby) was enjoyable but odd. It was almost as if Mackie's character of The Falcon was added simply to be buzzworthy since he feels shoehorned into the film; I mean that as a character not as an actor.
When this entire Avengers canon is finished and we look back at the collection, I wonder which ones will stand out as the best. It's interesting because none of the films have been bad yet and even the ones that are at the bottom of the list have still been flashy and thrilling. Is Captain America: The Winter Soldier a film that will thrill audiences and catapult the franchise even further into the stratosphere? I don't think so but it still makes for fine popcorn chomping faire. It's gorgeous actors shooting guns, blowing stuff up and driving fast cars in a world of corrupt politicians; what could be more American than that?
Listen to Gavin's interview with one of the stars of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie: