Picture from Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Overall B-

After his long hibernation, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is finding it difficult to adapt to the modern world and Captain America's place in it. Perhaps that will improve as he takes on a new mission working with Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson).

Violence D+
Sexual Content A-
Profanity B-
Substance Use B+

MPAA Rating: PG-13 PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

It may be a new season in his life, but the Captain is still determined to defend his country.

Rumors that Chris Evans was retiring from acting sent chills through fans of Captain America. But he later clarified his statement on GMA, saying that he wasn’t planning on abandoning his superhero persona, only taking some time to focus on developing his directing skills. (He makes his directorial debut this year in 1:30 Train.)

Whew! Glad we dodged that bullet.

Of all the Marvel Comic book heroes, Captain America ranks as one of my favorite. Even in an age of political corruption, questionable ethics and digital surveillance, he maintains his belief in justice and freedom—two ideals he fought for against the Nazis. Sadly, now the very things he treasures appear to be unraveling. And instead of defending American values and his homeland, he becomes the target of a Soviet agent called the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Like so many superhero movies of late, Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes a more mature turn. Although the Steve Rogers character isn’t tortured with inner demons like so many of his counterparts in the superhero world (thank goodness for that), he still isn’t sure whom he can trust, even among his peers at S.H.E.I.L.D. On one elevator ride in headquarters he is kicked, punched and shocked with a high-voltage gun by guys he thought were on his side.

Not only are trust issues on the rise in this sequel, but the amount of violence is also upped. While they remain fairly bloodless, the intense depictions of hand-to-hand fighting, stabbing, gun and other weapon use, electrocutions and explosions are pervasive and often explicit. The director’s decision to use high-speed shutter camera work and split second edits makes certain scenes look like nothing more than a blur of flying arms and legs (and in some cases, this may cause nausea). Others are more graphic: One character has his hand pinned to the wall with a knife and another victim is thrown over the side of a building. Even the heroes aren’t opposed to using some seemingly unnecessary brute force to immobilize the bad guys.

These portrayals may be tolerable for many older teens and adults, however Captain America is also being marketed to a much younger audience in the form of action figures, lunch boxes, costumes and sleepwear. Helping a six or eight-year-old understand that the movie might not be appropriate for him or her can be difficult when the child is wearing full Captain America gear.

Some may argue the script merely reflects the broodier themes found in the comic book, yet this outing is just not as much fun as Captain America: The First Avenger. The plot takes itself too seriously and loses much of the humor that helped the pacing of the first film. Stan Lee, one of the comic book’s creators, appears as a museum guard in one of the movie’s lighter moments, which are just too few and far between.

Unfortunately these elements combine to make Captain America: The Winter Soldier a little disappointing. Captain America is tireless in his efforts to preserve the American ideals, even if they seem old fashioned in the 21st century. He is a hero who isn’t caught up in his own ego or attention seeking antics. He values old friendships and codes of behavior. He is, for many, the kind of superhero you might actually want your kid to see and emulate—if only moviemakers had kept the brutality in check.

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