By Graham "GSM" Matthews
If it wasn't already apparent from my review of "Guardians of the Galaxy", I am by no means an avid comic book reader, so please keep that in mind while reading the following. Rather, I'm big fan of the Marvel movies, or the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" as it's been known to be called in recent years. I will not be making any comparisons between the movie and the comics since I know nothing about the latter, so don't expect any expertise in this review regarding the background of the characters (aside from the prior installment). Writing simply as a "casual viewer" so to speak, I'll be discussing my overall enjoyment of the film and why you, too, should give a watch.
As is the case with any sequel, the most common question I'm asked whenever I rave about "Captain America: The Winter Solider" is, "Don't I have to watch the first film beforehand?" Technically, yes, but it isn't mandatory. You may not get some of the swerves/references that are made in the second film if you don't watch the predecessor, so to enhance your viewing experience of the sequel, I'd recommend watching the inaugural installment of the franchise first. Keep in mind, however, that the second one is far more entertaining and isn't as cut and dry. More often than not, the first film is better than the second, but that wasn't the case with Captain America, or at least in my opinion.
I saw the first Captain America in theaters in August 2011. At the time, I wasn't as into the Marvel movies as I am now. I didn't follow the franchise and I certainly knew nothing about how they were building toward The Avengers. I was invited to go see it with my brother and uncle, and being someone who loves to go the movies, I wasn't going to turn down the offer. So, I went and enjoyed it. It didn't blow me away or anything, but as a casual viewers, I thought it was a good movie with a solid story. It may not have been one of my favorite films of that year, but I was still inclined to go see the sequel when it came out this past April. Since I didn't have high expectations, I ended up loving "Captain America: The Winter Solider" and thought it was phenomenal.
Let me start off by saying that the first film and the sequel are two completely movies. The first Captain America is more story-oriented, used to introduce the viewer to the characters and the plot. The second film, on the other hand, contains much more action, excitement and shockers. There were several points in the movie that took me by complete surprise (in terms of swerves) to the point where I turned to my brother who I went with to see it and said "Wow!" Very rarely does a movie accomplish that for me, so for that alone, I give it two thumbs up.
The cast is pretty much the same from the predecessor, but all the actors played their parts well and had great performances. Again, though, I took notice more of the storyline developments than the acting, but it wasn't like the acting was terrible and it took away from my enjoyment of the film. That wasn't the case whatsoever. Not often do I walk out of a theater as I pumped as I was after seeing it, going to show just how much of successful job they had done in getting me invested as a viewer. I didn't got the opportunity to see it for a second time, but if given the chance, I would have. Seriously, it was that great, but you probably already knew that.
Remember, I'm speaking as a casual fan. I'm not sure what the hardcore comic book fans thought of the film, but I imagine they were receptive toward it since the movie was both commercially and critcally successful. It was the highest grossing film of the year until "Guardians of the Guardians" surpassed it just recently, and it's not hard to see why. It captivated me as a viewer and it has a little something for everyone to enjoy. There's often a misunderstanding that if don't read comics, you won't enjoy the movies. I'd like to think that perception went out the window years ago with the release of "Iron Man", but some people still believe that because it's a "sci-fi" film, it's not for them. I'm the perfect example of someone who only watches the movies yet still understands the story and finds enjoyment in them.
Also, be sure to stay tuned until the very end for the obligatory post-credits scene. I'm not sure whether it set up The Avengers 2 or the next installment, but either way, they did a good job of building intrigue for whatever's next. As of this writing, "Captain America: The Winter Solider" is officially out on DVD, so definitely go out and purchase a copy. Along with "Guardians of the Galaxy", it's one of the best movies I've seen all year. Who would have thought they'd both be Marvel movies? As noted, I'd recommend watching the first installment before watching this movie, but if you're bored by the first Captain America, don't think it's the norm. The second one is much better and well worth a watch.
Should you watch this movie? Yes.