Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier has been getting almost universally good reviews, both from professional reviewers and (especially) from people on my Twitter feed. And I just don't know what to say. Well, let's start at the beginning: what do we expect from a Captain America movie?
- There's going to be a lot of action.
- There's going to be some man-out-of-time issues.
- Noble and potentially sacrificial actions.
That is, putting Captain America in the modern day means we're going to have more melancholy and lost identity issues: Captain America has no family, no friends, and no clear enemies. He doesn't even have a shared pop culture storebank. He's literally a museum piece in the sequel, when he goes to the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian--which was a slight lull in the action, but a clever way to remind people of the first movie.
Another excellent scene saw Captain America going to visit the somewhat senile Peggy Carter, as a further reminder that he is alone, and potentially living in the past. This is something that we don't necessarily expect from a Captain America movie: melancholy. In the first movie, he may be disappointed with his role, but he's always sure of his place in the larger society. In The Avengers, there's some hints about how he no longer fits so easily, no longer is sure of the rightness of his side.
Captain America 2 takes this idea and turns it up: fewer Nazis and/therefore more uncertainty. Does it work?