What TWS tells us about S.H.I.E.L.D. makes Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World feel like casual strolls through the park. What we learn both deepens TFA and the whole Marvel Universe. In fact, this film is often more about the Marvel Universe than it is Captain America. But they couldn’t have done this film without Captain America. He represents optimism and old fashioned heroism in its purest form. He comes from a time when one could distinguish between good and evil. To put him in the middle of a dark spy thriller where the line between good and evil becomes blurry is thematically interesting. The situation become even more personal for Rogers as the Winter Soldier has ties to Rogers’ past. The Winter Soldier is a strong presence and is a formidable foe for Rogers. I also like that the film’s true villain isn’t a super villain at all, which keeps things relatively grounded.
Captain America is hard part for an actor to pull off. Like Superman, I feel many people view Captain America as “boring” or out of date. But Evans makes Rogers a likable and believable hero for the modern age while still representing a man from a different era. He’s so good in the role that he’s arguably to Captain America what Christopher Reeve was to Superman.
Johansson has the most fun in the role of Romanoff yet and I like she’s gotten more personality over the course of the three films in which she’s appeared. Romanoff was largely a cipher in Iron Man 2 but in The Avengers and now this film she’s become one of the more complex and interesting characters in this universe. Mackie is charismatic as hell as deserves to be a bigger star. Fury has his most significant role to date and Jackson nails the dramatic beats of Fury’s story. Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce, one of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s top brass. You would think Redford’s role would just be a glorified cameo but Pierce plays a crucial part in this film’s story and Redford balances the different side of this character. What I love about Redford being in this film is that he’s always been the all-American male movie star and could’ve played Captain America in the 70s.
I do have some minor issues with the film. One is that I wish Emily VanCamp had a larger role as Agent 13, who comic readers will know to be Sharon Carter, niece of Peggy. Though to be fair, she’s mostly here to set up the character for a third film. I also would’ve liked a little more of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). She’s an important part of Rogers’ team in the climax but I don’t feel I know the character well enough. The film also takes too long to make clear what its plot and themes exactly are.