Not many superhero movies are as good as the original, or live up to the hype. After watching Captain America : The Winter Soldier, it is on par with Marvel’s flagship mega-franchise, The Avengers. Period.

As a fellow comic-book fan and nerd, I was never really a fan of Captain America, but after watching Marvel’s latest masterpiece, he is now one of my new favorite heroes, thanks to the solid portrayal of the former genetically-engineered super soldier, Steve Rogers, played brilliantly by Chris Evans (The Avengers, Captain America : The First Avenger)

Set two years after The Avengers—referred to as “New York”—Captain America : The Winter Solider, finds a more disillusioned Rogers questioning his place in the modern world and whether or not he is truly fighting for freedom or for the hand of fear. Rogers comes across some deep and buried secrets such as Project Insight and that of S.H.I.E.L.D.’S past, as well as it’s even darker origins, after meeting up with director Nick Fury(Samuel Jackson)in Washington, D.C.

Not to run the risk of spoiling the movie, this writer will say that The Winter Solider—like the Avengers—did a remarkable job of casting and continuing the story continuity from both the first Captain America movie such as Rogers meeting up again with his long-lost love—and seriously aged—Peggy Carter(Haley Atwell), flashbacks of his time in World War II, and seeing his own exhibit at the Smithsonian and delving into his past friendship with “Bucky” Barnes/Winter Soldier(Sebastian Stan).

Adding Academy-award winner Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, a senior director of S.H.I.E.L.D and an old friend of Nick Fury’s, lent a real sent of gravitas to the movie. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and newcomer Emily VanCamp (Revenge) as Sharon Carter/Agent 13 were all great in there respective supporting roles, Anthony Mackie’s breakout role of former Airborne paratrooper Sam Wilson/Falcon stole the show.

While not having super-human powers or genetically engineered like Captain America, Falcon stood out on his own, thanks to his ability to fly courtesy of an experimental new exoskeleton, which later on comes in handy in the climax.

The added layers of political betrayal, deceit and intrigue make Captain America : The Winter Solider feel more like a Tom Clancy-esque political conspiracy thriller, than a Marvel summer tent pole. Which is a compliment, as it really makes a viewer watch in anticipation for what happens next.

The sleeper elements of an old foe by the agency that he once served, Captain America finds out what it’s like to be feel the proverbial rug pulled out from under him and what really sets this movie apart from its other Marvel contemporaries.

As the title of the movie suggests, the main villain(hero?)of the movie is Barnes, now known as an enhanced Soviet mind-controlled assassin known as The Winter Solider—who is tasked with taking out Captain America, whom was thought dead after slipping off a train in Captain America : The First Avenger.

Due to their past, Rogers and The Winter Solider stage a set of impressive hand-to-hand combat scenes that are both realistic and high emotionally charged, with Rogers appearing to hold back in risk of not hurting the man he once considered his best friend, now trying to kill him.

Again, not to run the risk of spoiling the ending, all I will say is that Winter Soldier is pound-for-pound Captain America’s greatest rival.

One last star of the movie was the city of Cleveland itself, that doubled as Washington D.C. is various scenes, as the popular shopping center, Tower City, the Euclid Ave corridor with the Health Line transit and the West Shoreway are also prominently featured.

While its sports teams are know for their tough luck, Cleveland-area born director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, wrote their beleaguered hometown a 136-minute long tour de force of a love letter complete with explosions and gunfire.

Make no mistake, Captain America : The Winter Soldier is not better than The Avengers, nor is this writer claiming that, but thanks to deft casting, a solid story that interweaves pieces from throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe(MCU), it stands alone as one of the very best comic-book sequels ever.

Rating : 9.5/10

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