captain america winter soldier

I saw this without seeing the first Captain America movie; I haven’t committed to the whole Marvel films canon, just pick and choose those that interest me. I might go back and watch that one now that I’ve seen this, because this is probably my favorite of the Marvel franchise films alongside The Avengers and the first Iron Man. That’s actually kind of faint praise, though, because I haven’t truly loved any of them; that puts this one at around a solid “B.”

It’s somewhat overlong, and some of the plot amounts to the usual MacGuffins and phlebotinum: “To save the world you must go over there and plug this doohickey in the whatsit. It works by [techno/mystical mumbo jumbo] that precipitates a prolonged action set piece.” Also, the villain’s motivation is such a cliche at this point that I’m pretty sure I just saw the same thing in RoboCop.

But I appreciated some of the small things. First, this is a much better movie for women than most in this genre, especially the very sexist Iron Man 3. Granted, Scarlett Johansson is still the only major female character, and I’m pretty sure the movie fails the Bechdel Test, but there are also roles for Cobie Smulders and Emily VanCamp, who have less screentime but get to be active participants in the plot instead of damsels or objects to be moved around as the story requires.

There’s also Robert Redford. He elevates his material; I actually liked him better in this than in “All is Lost,” where he seemed like more a passive passenger of JC Chandor‘s direction.

Also, I enjoyed Anthony Mackie‘s character. I think that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. Since these big Marvel contraptions are so similar their quality comes down to the strength of the characters in them. On that level this one works well.