As an action film, Captain America 2 was... OK. This is really the make-or-break aspect for a film like this. (That and box office--and I think the film is doing fine at the box office. We saw it on opening day at 2:40 and the theater was pretty packed, though not sold out.) And it delivers on a few scales. Let's try to break this down (because I love breaking things down. Not such a fan of putting things together afterward. Oh well).
Was the action exciting as action? Sure. It was fun to see an old-fashioned car chase and a brawl in an elevator and so on. I especially thought it was smart to keep the action sort of low-key: when it's just Captain punching a guy, we don't wonder why they don't call in Thor and everyone else on the Avengers. That said, my girlfriend thought that some of the action scenes went on a little long, and I have to agree, because--
Was the action exciting as story? Not really always. In fact, the action almost always was spectacle that didn't move the story forward and had no more narrative weight than "Will Captain defeat his enemy?" The most interesting fight scene occurred with the Winter Soldier, but almost everything else was clearing the level to get to the boss. And when the fight is between Black Widow and Robert Redford, well, la, you'll excuse me for checking my watch. (In fact, I keep thinking how much more awesome and fun it would've been if the SHIELD council had actually done something to save themselves. No offense, but in a film where we see how fallible the institution is, what sort of message does it send to make us normal people wait for the superheroes to save us?)
Was there anything that slowed down the action? For me, the film has a lot of "people staring out windows giving big speeches" moments. It might only have two of those scenes, but they stick out like a sore thumb to me. When there's nothing happening on the screen and all the info is being delivered verbally, I feel like we might as well have a flashing light declaring this "Theme discussion" or "Background exposition." In a film that has a bunch of clever and well-done scenes, these few hiccups stick out.
Uh, well, I thought I had more issues to break down, but now I'm not so sure. So, after all those posts, I would probably sum up Captain America 2 by saying that it was mistitled in the subtitle: the Winter Soldier is such a minor part of the story, though he is the best and most interesting. It was fun, but not as exhilarating as the first Captain America. And not as topical and interesting as it could be.