The Bock’s Office: ‘Captain America’ sequel weaker but still packs a punch |

The Bock’s Office: ‘Captain America’ sequel weaker but still packs a punch

Dressed in civilian clothes, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff (Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson), aka Captain America and Black Widow, seek to protect people from impending mayhem in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The movie is a sequel in which the titular World War II superhero and member of the Avengers still is adjusting to the modern world.

When your job used to involve throwing a red, white and blue hunk of metal at a bunch of Nazis, it's understandable you might feel a little out of place in modern society. But as "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" shows, there are always enemies to be defeated.

Life is not what it once was for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

When he took up the identity of super soldier Captain America during World War II, he truly believed in the cause of protecting the world from evil. Now that he's found himself nearly 70 years in the future, being a superhero isn't quite as satisfactory, carrying out missions for spy agency SHIELD, an organization he doesn't fully trust.

Even Rogers' respect for SHIELD's top brass, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), is limited, and when Fury is mortally wounded, guess who's the first one to be questioned.

With his name besmirched, Rogers is on the run and only has a few people in whom he can confide, one of them being fellow agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Their search for the real menace to the safety of the world unearths some disturbing details, including the seemingly unstoppable assassin known only as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Evans struggles a bit but still succeeds as Cap in his third time as the patriotic icon, who — as the only member of the Greatest Generation still in the same shape he was in the 1940s — is trying to reconcile his past prestige with a world that sees the defense of the American way in a wholly different light than he ever did.

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Plus, try to find a date when your actual age is almost in triple digits.

There's a brief flirtation with the idea that Rogers and Romanoff could work as a couple, but Johansson shows you never know quite what to expect from the slinky spy code-named Black Widow beyond master computer-hacking skills, formidable fighting prowess and a look of mild boredom at practically everything.

Jackson gets more mileage out of Nick Fury than he has in any of his past five films, but even in a larger capacity in which we get to see more of the reasons for his decision-making, he's still more myth than man. When it comes to the boardroom tactics of SHIELD, look no further than Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, a mediator between the outfit and the high-ranking officials who think SHIELD, if anything, hasn't gone far enough in its efforts to prevent terrorism.

If you've flipped through the pages of Marvel Comics' "Civil War" storyline, you know Cap's stance on governmental entities overstepping their bounds in the name of security, but we get a look at the many stages of Steve Rogers in his second solo feature, clearly shaken after his origins in "The First Avenger" and the massive battle of "The Avengers."

Besides the one-time shrimp coming into his own as a physical specimen, now we're seeing him more at odds with what it means to embody the American spirit. His team-up with military man Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) — better known as the winged threat from above, The Falcon — recalls some of his greatest adventures during his revival period while still looking forward.

This has a hugely different tone from the slam-bang action and uncomplicated sentiment of the first "Captain America" film, a boon in some ways and just as big a barrier in other respects, navigating the waters of post-9/11 cynicism as seen through the eyes of a man who simply hasn't had the time to become as jaded as the rest of the country.

Marvel's choice of Anthony and Joe Russo to take the reins as directors is a peculiar one, given the brothers' almost exclusive association with sitcoms. Their attempts to inject a little humor here and there fall flat, but when they stick to the basics, everything works out well enough, especially in the fight scenes between Cap and the mystery marauder who makes up the movie's subtitle.

Still more to come on that.

With slightly more realism than most of its kind, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" functions as a respectable installment, but it would be nice if the Marvel movies could find some way to beef up all their individual chapters as we come closer to a second "Avengers."

With three more flicks waving the Marvel banner this summer alone, albeit from different studios, the only real danger is competition from within, and there's nothing super about that.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 136 minutes

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.