There are likely a lot more coherent reviews out there, but what the heck. Here we go.
First, I loved it. I do not think it's the greatest superhero movie ever. Nor do I think it was better than Captain America: The First Avenger.
Winter Soldier is a mighty fine piece of film. It's got political intrigue, some spectacular special effects, equally awesome fighting sequences and enough pleasant surprises to put a smile on my face.
Remember that I'm a long time comic book junkie. In fact it was the story arc about the Winter Soldier that rebooted by deep love of comics, thanks to a discussion with author and friend Brian Keene. After going on a rant about the things I was hearing (I won't mention exactly what because that's part of the storyline and while I do not mind spoilers, most other people do). Long story short, Brian made me see the error of my ways and my love of Captain America was rekindled successfully.
I say rekindled because my relationship with comics is often love-hate. As an example, I love what's going on with the Marvel movies. I absolutely hated The Man of Steel, despite desperately wanting to love it. I'll get back to that in a minute. First, the Winter Soldier.
The directors and writers said they wanted to do a 70's style spy thriller and that';s what they did. Only, you know, with a serious budget, extra special effects and, yeah, superheroes. This could have been a James Bond movie with the level of political intrigue and doodle dealings. Hell, if Daniel Craig had shown up, I would have probably thrown in a few good cheers.
The story revolves on one level around Steve Rogers, Captain America, trying to deal with a world that is very, very different from the one he left behind at the end of WWII. That is, deep at its soul, one of the issues that has always been there in the Captain America stories. The best of them at any rate, at least as far as I am concerned. And do you know when they had most of those stories in the comics? If you guessed in the 70s you would not be wrong.
That added beautifully to the story. Know what else worked spectacularly well? The Falcon. I was dubious about how they would make him work in the story, but I should't have been. It was handled very well indeed. Anthony Mackie does a fabulous job playing the part of Sam Wilson and I like the interesting twists they made to slide him more comfortably into the role of the Falcon, from his background to the final deign of his wings. Loved it. As Superman said years ago, "You'll believe a man can fly." Man, I want a set of those wings.
There have been statements, more than a few, saying that Scarlett Johannson stole the show. Not at all. She was a well balanced part of a very solid team. I love that she got some serious air time. I also love that she never fell into the role of damsel in distress. That's a lady who can kick some serious posterior. Again, Kudos to Marvel for getting it right.
All in all, I genuinely loved it, from beginning to the two snippets at the end, about which I will say nothing at all.
I did not like it better than First Avenger. I will not compare it to First Avenger. There is no comparison. You have a good old fashioned World War Two Nostalgia tale in the first movie and you have a high tech super spy thriller in the second. Might as well compare the taste of a key lime to a banana. They are different beasts that happen to star the same main character and that, for me, is a very real part of the appeal of the franchise.
Now back to an earlier statement.
Man I REALLY wanted to like Man of Steel. I did. But the problem is, and I know that not everyone will agree with me, that wasn't a story about Superman. It was a story about an orphaned Kryptonian who is raised in a small community on Kansas, and who later becomes a reporter in Metropolis, but that's all they have in common. See, Superman would have managed to save the day without letting untold thousands die horribly as collateral damage in his fight. He would have never let his father die the way he did. He would have, by all the is good and right, moved the freaking fight out of the Metropolis City Limits and had his fight with Zod where an entire city with a population of millions couldn't be slaughtered. That's what Superman does. That's what makes him Superman and not just that really strong guy who can leap tall buildings and is faster than a speeding bullet.
the TV show Smallville did a far better job with a much smaller budget.
I loved the cast. The special effects were brilliant. The storyline was decent. Just a shame that Superman never showed up.
Now, I know someone is going to point out that the Avengers had almost as much damage. That's true. Know what? They did their best to save the innocents. They even stopped a nuke. Yeah, I know the Man of Steel fought on both sides of the planet without any backup. He still failed for me.
Captain America, on the other hand? That man was front and center. He walked the walk, talked the talk and fought the good fight.
In other words, Captain America brought the spirit of the comic books I was raised with along for the ride and Man of Steel left its heart and soul back at the train station.
I hope they manage to get it right by the time Superman Vs Batman makes it to theaters. I will not hold my breath, but I will hope.