Joe Johnston did a decent job telling Captain America’s origin story in The First Avenger. It’s not the easiest story to present to a mass audience in the 2000s. Cap is a hokey and idealistic character. He’s not an anti-hero, he’s not dark. He’s as straightforward as it gets.
Even with these issues, he’s had some great stories since he was brought into the Marvel universe in 1964. The character’s latest movie, The Winter Soldier, takes the best elements from these post-World War II stories and turns them into a great Cap movie. The Winter Soldier has the distrust of those in charge from Steve Englehart’s Secret Empire arc. It has one of the pillars of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s great run on the book in one of the title characters of the movie in the Winter Soldier himself. It even has some of the Nick Fury elements introduced by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman in books like Secret War and Secret Warriors (lots and lots of secrets at hand here guys).
The credit for getting the feel of modern Cap stories just right has to go to the Russo Brothers. The pair were a big question mark when they were announced as the directors of the movie. They were primarily known for their work in comedy, on shows like Arrested Development and Community (there’s even a Community cameo in the movie). It was clear from early interviews that they had the geeky chops and knowledge of the character to get it right. Could they direct a big budget action movie? It turns out, they absolutely could.
That’s the other element that works so well for The Winter Soldier. The action just feels right for Captain America. The way he uses his shield and moves around rooms is perfect. They know what works for Steve Rogers. There’s a reason that they’re already attached to direct the next big screen adventure for Cap.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is Marvel’s most complete film to date. All three acts work. The action is tight and fast. Chris Evans really feels like Steve Rogers now. Most importantly, it takes all of the right notes from Captain America’s greatest modern stories and makes them into one great movie.