Said to be the best Marvel movie ever released (pre Guardians of the Galaxy), I finally managed to see the 2nd movie of this iconic Marvel character staring Chris Evans again.
Now this of course means high expectations, helped with the fact that the movie follows directly on season 1 of Agents of SHIELD, a series I`m still not sure what to think about. The final episode of the series and the movie fell within days of each other, to make the story coherent, while season 2 follows on the events told in this movie as a run up to Avengers 2.
We see Steve running rounds in Washington and meeting up with Sam Wilson, the Falcon, who these days in the comics has become the new Captain America btw. Cap is soon picked up by the Black Widow for a special mission, as a cargo ship, the Lemurian Star carrying agent Sidwell, is hijacked by Batroc and his team of french mercenaries (see the tie in to Agents here...). They manage to overcome them and free the agents and the secrets, as Cap is furious about Widow having a mission he didn`t know about and confronts Nick about it.
About Batroc, in the comics, he was perhaps one of Caps silliest opponents in the rogue gallery, but on the other hand perhaps also his most worthy one in hand to hand combat skills.
Nick informs Cap on Project: Insight. The building of three state of the art Helicarriers with special tracking software that can eliminate anyone anywhere on Earth. Cap doesn`t like this one bit, as he states it will trade in freedom for fear as SHIELD would be watching everyone everywhere.
In order to seek peace of mind, Cap goes visit his old aquintance Peggy Carter. She is suffering from Alzheimer but recognises Steve, and helps him a bit in his inner search. He also goes to visit the Smithsonian where a whole exhibition is dedicated to him and his former WW2 comrades of the Howling Commando`s.
Back to the Triskelion, the SHIELD HQ, where we meet Alexander Pierce. He is in a discussion with the World Security Council about the operational limits of SHIELD and about Project: Insight. Nick wants to delay the launch a bit as he thinks there are security issues within the organisation. He gets ambushed on the road, and though he manages to barely escape heavily wounded, he flees to Cap`s appartment. He manages to tell him to trust no-one, but before he can explain everything he is gunned down by a man with a metal arm, who had also already tried to kill him in the ambush.
Together with Maria Hill and Black Widow, Cap is witness to how Nick dies on the operating table. He is send to meet up with Pierce, and in the conversation that follows the fall of SHIELD seems to be coming about, with neither one buying the story that it was all Nick`s doing. Never the less, Cap and Pierce leave on a tense foot of each other, and Steve is attacked in the elevator by Rumwel (who later in the comics would become Crossbones) and his Strike team.
Escaping, Steve and Natasja are now on the run. Natasja tells him about the guy with the metal arm, an ultimate war machine called the Winter Soldier. As the council re-activates the work on Project: Insight, the heroes arrive at Wheaton, a base where Cap received his training prior to the super serum injection. Here they discover a hidden bunker containing the computerised braon of Arnim Zola, a former Nazi scientist brought to the States for Operation Paperclip (this really happened btw, let to NASA`s creation among other things). He reveals Hydra wasn`t defeated at all, but is lingering under the hide of SHIELD like a leeching parasite, with Pierce at it`s head!
Hydra plans on completely corrupting Project: Insight, using it to eliminate all heroes of the world... or even children that have the ability to become heroes one day. That way, htey want to establish their new world order. Pierce gets a visit from the Winter Soldier, who is revealed to be an asset for him to use as he pleases, and send him after the heroes. Now having recruited Sam into their small team, they capture Sidwell who reveals all the missing details, but then is killed by the Winter Soldier on a highway ambush. During the battle that follows, Cap learns the identity of his metal armed foe... none other then his youthtime friend Bucky Barnes! The heroes are caught by SHIELD`s strike team, but freed by Hill who was undercover in that team. They hide in an old basement... and are greeted there by Nick Fury. Seems the sneaky bastard used a fake toxin designed by Bruce Banner to just appear dead and lead the Hydra infestation around the block.
Bucky in the meantime starts remembering things like his loss and replacement of his arm, who Steve was... and is then duly mind-wiped again by Pierce. Cap and his team are forming a plan in the meantime to replace the Hydra targetting software, but Cap decides that not only will he try and defeat Hydra, he will take the whole of current day SHIELD with him.
Now only if he had a costume... enter the Stan Lee cameo, and Cap steals his original stars and stripes uniform from the Smithsonian (until know, he was wearing the dark blue `Steve Rogers` uniform from the comics, when Bucky was actually Captain America). Just a shame Falcon didn`t have his comic like red and white costume, going for camo colours instead...
Pierce has assembled the full World Security Council over at the Triskelion, and unveils his plans to eliminate all the super heroes. But he meets resistance on this and arrests them as he launches the Helicarriers into the skyline. The british council member turns out to be Romanov in disguise as she holds Pierce at gunpoint while Falcon and Cap go on the mission to exchange the targetting software on the carriers. Nick arrives at the Triskelion, and as he disables the security protocols, we get to see a very intense face off between Nick and Pierce, between ideologies of SHIELD and Hydra.
When Cap and Falcon arrive at the final carrier, they are met by Bucky who quickly takes out Falcon out of the fights and the two youthtime friends face off against each other again in an intense battle. While Pierce disables Romanov and the World Council, Cap makes it right on time to exchange the targetting chips to prevent the carriers from targeting the White House, Stark Tower etc, and instead the three ships start to blast each other to pieces, but he and Bucky are still caught on the carrier. The carrier goes down, just as Fury shoots Pierce while Falcon beats up Rumwel moments before the carrier hits the Triskelion. Bucky has some internal restraints to kill Cap as he remembers flashes of long ago, and saves him from drowning before walking off.
In the aftermath of the fall of SHIELD, we see some of them getting new jobs, some Hydra agents getting arrested, and Widow defending the ideologies on Capital Hill. Fury goes undercover to covertly hunt Hydra`s remaining operatives and Widow presents Cap with all the data the russians have on Bucky, as they are the ones that created the Winter Soldier in the first place during WW2, when they found him heavily wounded and in cryo stasis.
Cap decides to find his old friend... and the scene is put in motion for the third instalment (which is also rumoured to put Cap and Stark opposing each other... and we all know to which epic storyline that builds up to!).
And the stingers during the end credits? Well, first and foremost, there are TWO this time. The first sees the introduction of Baron Stucker who is in possession of Loki`s staff, and has contained the `twins`, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.
The second at the very end of the credits has Bucky visit the Smithsonian and (re)learning more about himself.
The movie is indeed one of the better Marvel movies released so far, adding a layer of intrigue and `James Bond-iness` to the franchise.
Of course, there are some small inconsistencies, but they do have to cram years and decades of comic source material in a movie of slightly over 2 hours.
Perhaps the biggest grievance is that you really should have watched the Agents of SHIELD television series to get the tie-ins and loose knots set up there to connect the Avengers movie with this one, so you better start watching series 2 as well in order to connect this one with the new and upcoming Avengers 2: Age of Ultron... just in case.
But this of course all compensated by:
Painting 54mm plastics - a duffer's guide part 1
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