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‘The Winter Soldier’ a resounding success

4/8/2014

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a fascinating organism — each separate Marvel franchise touches and interweaves with the others.

In the case of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” that universe is shaken to its core.

“The Winter Soldier” picks up after the events of “The Avengers” and continues with unabated force. There are helicarriers (aircraft carriers that can fly, awesome), action and strong performances galore. The action is occasionally over-the-top, but the majority of it is grounded (as much as comic book action can be), and all of it is a blast to watch.

Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers/Captain America to great effect. Evans nails the “man-out-of-time” part of the Captain America character — he’s a man of a different generation, a simpler generation. Putting Cap in the midst of modern-day issues is a fascinating commentary, particularly with the film’s primary theme about the difference between living free and living in fear.

“The Winter Soldier” is one of the rare sequels that actually tops its predecessor. Furthermore, this is, in my opinion, the strongest standalone Marvel release since “The Avengers.” I even would go so far as to put “The Winter Soldier” in the company of the first “Iron Man” and the first “Thor” at the top of the non-Avengers Marvel pyramid.

There is so much to like here. “The Winter Soldier” is a film that knows what it is. There is definitely an espionage component, and it is so refreshing to see a more even approach. I am tired of last-minute, completely unpredictable, out-of-left-field twists.

Cap is a straight forward, old-fashioned hero, and it’s wonderful he has a movie that plays to the character’s strengths and not to the overused “shock value at any cost” credo.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe never will be the same. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” succeeds in its own right, but also lays the groundwork for next year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” — and that’s wicked exciting.

• 5 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.

james.gerstner@gmail.com