Captain America: The Winter Soldier12A ¦ 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD
With the might of Marvel producing their comic heroes on celluloid at an alarming, seemingly exponential rate, it's no wonder they're throwing directors at projects left, right, and centre. It will only be a matter of time before each and every member of the public will get an opportunity to direct some sequel of a sequel of a sequel or some other. We're already looking forward to helming The Incredible Hulk 58: Hulk has a Hissy Fit.
They've already demonstrated - by showing comic fan Edgar Wright the door and passing it on to Peyton Reed (responsible for such 'action' hits as cheerleading comedy Bring it On and rom-com Down with Love) - that they're ultimately not that fussed who directs these titles any more, as long as they tow the Marvel line.
And with the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe) directing this sequel, it only appears to reinforce this theory.
Two years have passed since the ding dong that was the Battle of New York, and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still struggling with modern life; having a nap that lasted seventy years will do that to a fella.
He's also not too happy with the direction that S.H.I.E.L.D appears to be going in. A new directive seems to support Project Insight, three massive heli-carriers with the ability to pre-empt enemy strikes.
He doesn't have much time to dwell on misgivings however, as he learns that S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been attacked by an enemy only known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Fury survives – just – and manages to contact Steve to inform him of his worst fears: S.H.I.E.L.D has been compromised.
With the help of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new chum the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Steve, as Captain America, sets out to discover who exactly is attempting to bring down S.H.I.E.L.D from the inside.
With the first instalment out the way – the often rather dull origins story – this sequel had a bit more freedom to build on that with its storyline, and to a certain extent it does just that. The problem is, the road it chooses to go down is an oddly convoluted one.
You don't really expect a Marvel superhero tale to get bogged down in a boggy plot, but The Winter Soldier does just that. It often feels like it's attempting to be some kind of hybrid film – or in comic parlance, a cross-over if you will – with something like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Where most comic stories deal mostly in blacks and whites, this sequel is keen to wallow in the greys. Although it's refreshing to see something a little different with this superhero genre, the Russo brothers don't quite pull it off.
Ultimately, you don't want a cerebral challenge with a Marvel flick; just bring on the baddies and the special effects.
And there's also a small niggle that you might experience when you see it: if Captain America finds himself in such a serious pickle, why doesn't he call on the aid of his superhero chums? After all, you would expect that being the head of the Avengers would come with a few perks.
To their credit, visually is where the directors excel; the action sequences are some of the most dynamic yet seen in a Marvel film. It's just that there's just not enough of them, as they swim around in a lot of story padding. However, considering the poor flow of the film elsewhere, it has to be said that perhaps this directing duo, who have primarily made a name for themselves directing comedy films (You, Me & Dupree) and TV shows (Community, Happy Endings) weren't necessarily the best match for this particular film. But then you can't have Sir Ken Branagh direct them all, to be fair.
Although entertaining in parts, Captain America's failing in this sequel is his ability to pretty much take the 'super' out of the superhero genre. And being only a hero in the Marvel business just isn't the American way.