After the hideous 'Punisher', 'Ghost Rider', and 'Fantastic Four' movies, Marvel Studios clearly realized that releasing comic films wasn't sufficient to attract and maintain fans. The stories needed strong actors and excellent writing. 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' continues the recent tradition of well-crafted Marvel films. Like its 2011 predecessor, 'Winter Soldier' hits the same sweet spots concerning character, nostalgia, writing, fight choreography, and casting. How much did I love it? Like candy, I want to watch it again and again and again and again. 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' hit my sweet spot and it didn't stop until the final credits.
In present-day America, the film's opening setting, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) experience a new threat. Unable to trust anyone, Captain America and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) go underground with assistance from Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie). On the surface, the film addresses the unnamed yet aptly titled villain, the Winter Soldier, yet beneath the covers, the writing, fight choreography, characterization, acting and overarching storyline demonstrate Marvel's continuing dedication to quality action film-making.
By keeping Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ('Captain America: The First Avenger', 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and 'Thor: The Dark World') as the head writers, Marvel reinforces its belief in strong story and plot over mindless action and unconnected fight scenes. Impressively, Markus and McFeely craft a story far smarter than initially expected. 'Captain America: Winter Soldier' covertly follows three different themes, starting with the underlying meaning of Winter Soldier: a soldier loyal to his country through the winter of scarcity; soldiers testifying against a country's atrocities despite strong patriotism and partially frozen soldiers re-acclimating to civilian life. The film mixes contemporary NSA discontent with returning soldier difficulties while addressing the past usage of political agendas to guide patriotism towards social extremes. The film makes traditional soldier Steve Rogers accessible to the modern-day while maintaining his Boy Scout core and kickass fighting sensibilities.
The film pushes home the importance of characterization and plot over comic fighting by partially abandoning superhero uniforms mid-way through. Like 'Iron Man 3''s writers, Markus and McFeely emphasize the film's stand-alone quality through civilian clothes. Without the uniform, it isn't a film about Captain America, the Marvel hero, but a script about a man fighting for his beliefs. In stripping off his clothes, they flesh out his character, not as a super solider but as a solider, while simultaneously delving into Fury's background and introducing Sam Wilson.