Comic books and superheroes are all the rage at the box office, and Marvel has cornered the market on doing it right. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is the best installment yet of the Marvel franchise, surpassing even "The Avengers," which I loved. The formula for success has been great acting, a good story, and buckets of money. The formula holds for the new installment of Captain America, and the result was $303.3 million opening weekend.
What makes "Winter Soldier" a success is its willingness to take an important principle and build a story for our times around that big idea. In our post 9/11 world, the balance between national security and individual liberty is a delicate business. After the alien invasions of "The Avengers" and "Thor: Dark World," I imagine a world ready and willing to consign most of their liberties to history in exchange for the illusory promise of security today. What happens, though, when the apparatus meant to protect humanity is turned against humanity itself? And when those charged with protecting humanity decide that liberty and freedom are the greater threat? Nothing good, I can promise you.
Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Director Nick Fury (Sam Jackson), and Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) are formidable and fun to watch. The introduction of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) - the former soldier Sam Wilson who does everything Rogers does "only slower" - proves a major asset when no one knows who they can trust. It is this addition of a major conspiracy that runs the depth and breadth of S.H.I.E.L.D. that is the other element of the story that makes "Winter Soldier" so compelling.
Funny enough, the Winter Soldier himself is the least important part of this cinematic melange. No offense to Sebastian Stan whose portrayal of the Winter Soldier is both exciting and thrilling at times, it's just that the conspiracy and the exploration of the security/liberty theme is more compelling.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" just moved to the top of my list of movies to watch again and again. I also can't wait to see "Guardians of the Galaxy," a deep cut from the Marvel oeuvre which releases in August 2014.