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Captain America Sequel Explores Themes of Ethics, Trust

  • Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2014 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
<i>Captain America</i> Sequel Explores Themes of Ethics, Trust

DVD Release Date: September 9, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: April 4, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Run Time: 136 minutes
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, and Joss Whedon (post-credits scene)
Cast: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Frank Grillo, Cobie Smulders

"For as long as I can remember," muses Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, "I was just trying to do what was right. I'm not sure I know what that is anymore." In the latest Marvel thriller there are good guys and bad guys... but who is who? Following the lead of Iron Man 3, this comics-inspired caper has a darker tone than the original Captain America adventure; it also has a better plot.

Gloom, doom, and political overtones aside, you can always count on Captain America (Chris Evans, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer) to be the quintessential clean-cut, all-American hero. For those who arrived late to the Marvel Universe party, back during WWII Steve Rogers was a patriotic-but-puny kid deemed too sickly for active service until a special top-secret experiment turned him into super soldier "Captain America." Due to a series of unfortunate events, our hero was out of commission for some seventy years before coming out of hibernation in time to help save the world (New York in particular) in The Avengers.

Which brings us to 'present day.' As our story begins, Steve is slowly acclimating to this not-so-brave new world and finding it tough going. His old army buddies are long dead, his social skills are outdated, and his moral compass is having a hard time finding true north. The real-world political parallels in the not-so-subtle subtext are hammered home again and again: what freedoms would you willingly hand over in order to enjoy the illusion of safety? Could it be the ones "protecting" you are your most dangerous foe? Who can you trust?

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According to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, RoboCop), director of espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., you can't trust anybody. That includes S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, which may not be quite as benevolent as their smooth head honcho Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford, All is Lost) would have you believe. Eventually Steve will have to trust somebody; every hero needs a sidekick and this story gives him two worthy ones.

Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Don Jon), may not be a superhero but her mad fighting skills more than make up for the lack of any super powers. While Redford’s casting is a nod to political thrillers of the seventies, Johansson plays a decidedly modern woman. Her ruthless fighting is matched by an equally determined effort to find Steve a girlfriend, two activities she often does simultaneously. Natasha is more than comic relief; her snarky comments can't quite hide the vulnerable woman beneath the attitude.

This film also introduces Sam Wilson, The Falcon (Anthony Mackie, The Adjustment Bureau), whose laid-back charm and nifty wings are both welcome additions to the team. Sam is a good match for Steve—a little more streetwise but equally committed to doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, despite his billing in the movie's title, the Winter Soldier himself—a fearsome opponent whose appearance is the stuff of nightmares—is not really that integral to the story. He's significant, particularly to Captain America, but more of a weapon than an actual opponent. The real villains here are the ones disguised as friends.

But enough about characters, this is an action movie and there are enough explosions, gunfire, and car crashes to satisfy even the biggest thrill seeker in the audience. The body count is high—true villains don't let a few hundred (or thousand or million) innocent bystanders stop them from going after their prey—but it's not all that gruesome and most of it zips by so fast even squeamish viewers will hardly notice. The hand-to-hand combat is particularly impressive, designed to make even the fittest viewer feel like a slacker while watching our heroes leap here and flip there. Even in a modern-day setting Captain America is old-fashioned good-vs.-evil fun.

Note: as usual with this franchise, you'll want to stick around through all the credits. All of them. You'll miss out on important information if you don't.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Several characters drink champagne
  • Language/Profanity: Very minor and mostly obscured by explosions/gunfire/other noises. He**, da**, and son of a b.
  • Sex/Nudity: One veiled reference by an older man to a relationship with a young woman who “hurt my back.” A kiss used as camouflage to throw off pursuers and some amusing conversation about it. A couple of bare male chests.
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense:  LOTS of explosions, shooting, hand-to-hand combat, people falling-jumping-being-thrown-from great heights, quantities of car crashes, and some impressive wielding of the Captain's shield as a deadly Frisbee. It is a comic book, after all.

Publication date: April 4, 2014