A movie that is, in the best sense of the word, a Marvel.
Beneath the expensive, computer-generated busyness of this second Captain America installment is a bracing, old-style conspiracy thriller made extra-scary by new technology and the increasingly ugly trade-offs of a post-9/11 world.
If Captain America: The Winter Soldier is indeed an augur of things to come during this special-effects-laden summer, maybe it won't be such a painful season after all.
This is the first Marvel Studios movie since the original Iron Man that really stands on its own.
In "Winter Soldier," amidst the chaos, our hero learns to be wary of the modern world. Welcome to the 21st century, Cap.
There's too much going on: the Marvel Universe stuff, the WikiLeaks-ish paranoia stuff, the video game-ish CG visual effects stuff, the epic John Woo-ish everybody-pointing-a-weapon-at-everybody-else face-off stuff.
We not only get an edgier, more complex, more compelling storyline, we get the most badass 95-year-old the world has ever known.
Fans of this franchise should expect more than a boilerplate action flick that brings absolutely nothing new to the genre.
If we must endure yet another spring-summer cycle of comic book superheroes, this movie at least delivers the wham-bang goods (recycled though they may be).