(Note: There are a couple of spoilers for The Avengers below, but as that movie is two years old I figured that was OK. There are no spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.)
1. Will I like it?
Yes! Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CA:TWS) is either the best or second-best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies so far, and the only reason I can’t say it’s the best is that it’s such a different film from The Avengers (the other contender for top honors) that it’s difficult to compare the two. I can say that, unlike any of the previous Marvel films, this one succeeds on multiple levels: it’s a seriously terrific political thriller; it has real, believable character development throughout; and it’s one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. It has a real plot to it, one that doesn’t exist just to string the action sequences together.
Essentially, if you like movies in general, and you like action movies even a little bit, you should go see this. Even if you’re not a fan of superhero movies, and don’t know Steve Rogers from Roy Rogers, there’s enough in CA:TWS that you’ll enjoy that that won’t matter.
2. Will my kids like it?
If they’re mature enough to handle some of the more intense scenes, then they absolutely will. Younger kids may not fully grasp all of the intrigue, and may not be terribly interested in the character development, but there’s enough humor and enough whiz-bang action sequences to keep virtually any kid glued to his/her seat. Don’t be surprised if your son wants to be Cap or Falcon, or your daughter wants to be Black Widow, for Halloween, because all three characters kick serious ass.
3. Do I need to have seen all the previous Marvel movies to understand what’s going on?
It would definitely be good to have seen at least Captain America: The First Avenger, so you know Cap’s backstory. But even if you haven’t, most of what you really need to know is filled in via flashbacks or other exposition. As far as the other Marvel movies, only The Avengers would really be super-relevant to CA:TWS, but it’s not essential.
4. When’s the best time for a restroom break?
CA:TWS is a fairly long two hours and sixteen minutes – though I must say it doesn’t feel that long. There are no great times for a break, but probably the best time is when Cap and Black Widow are searching for the source of something (any more specific and I risk entering spoiler territory). You also might consider taking your kid(s) for a break shortly after the scene where The Winter Soldier’s identity is revealed, because a pretty intense scene follows.
5.Is it worth paying more for 3-D? How about IMAX?
(REVISED) Having now seen the movie in both 2-D and IMAX 3-D, I recommend saving your money and seeing it in 2-D. The 3-D added virtually nothing, and seeing it in IMAX actually took away from the experience: my wife and kids, who were seeing the movie for the first time, said afterwards that viewing it on such a huge screen made it difficult to follow some of the action sequences. Since I had no trouble following the same scenes on a regular screen, I can’t see any reason it would be worth spending more money – if they had shot the film in IMAX that might change things, but they didn’t, and larger screens aren’t always better.
6. Do I need to sit through the end credits for a bonus scene at the end?
If you’ve seen a Marvel film before, you know the answer is “Yes!” Just as with The Avengers, CA:TWS has a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene, though – as with The Avengers – the post-credits scene is short, lacks dialogue, and doesn’t really add that much to the experience. So, if you or your kids need the restroom, try to wait until after the mid-credits scene, but don’t wait longer than that; if you can wait till the very end, though, it is worth it. The mid-credits scene sets up next year’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and was directed by Joss Whedon, so I highly recommend seeing it if at all possible.
7. Are there a lot of references only Marvel comics fans will get?
I caught quite a few – and I’m sure there were more that went by too fast for me to catch. In particular, pay attention to some names that are read aloud as the film approaches its climax (again, saying more would venture into spoiler territory). Fans of Marvel comics will notice that Robert Redford’s character, Alexander Pierce, is very different in the movie from in the comics, but that won’t matter to you because Redford does such a terrific job (as you’d expect) playing him. Comics fans should definitely pay attention to the mid-credits scene, as it will mean much more to them than to non-fans.
8. You mentioned some intense scenes. How worried should I be about my kids?
If your kids could handle The Avengers – and particularly the scenes where Loki verbally attempts to break Black Widow and where he kills Agent Coulson – they should be able to handle CA:TWS. There are a lot of explosions and bad guys getting killed, but nothing worse than your average James Bond-type action film. So you’ll have to base your judgment on whether your kids in particular can handle the movie based on that.
9. How weird is it having Robert Redford in a superhero movie?
It certainly wasn’t a role I’d have expected him to take. As Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said, it was actually Redford’s agent who approached them about a role, not the other way around – and then they rejiggered the role of Alexander Pierce to fit Redford. Redford is, of course, wonderful in the role – he has the ability that I think only really excellent actors who’ve been in the business for a long time have: to not steal the scenes he’s in, but rather to elevate everyone else’s performances in the scenes towards his own level to the point where they all shine brightly.
10. Will I want to see it again?
If you’re at all like me, you sure will. When I saw a prescreening of the film nearly four weeks ago, I wanted to see it again as soon as it ended. I was literally on the edge of my seat for some of the film – that’s how exciting it was. It’s an experience you’ll want to have again, because not many movies can entertain to that level.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is rated PG-13 “for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout,” which seems just about right to me – I’m taking my 11-year-old daughter to see it, because I know she can handle it, but that won’t be true of every 11-year-old.
Viewing a prescreening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was part of a press junket I attended that was paid for by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.
All images copyright by, and courtesy of, Disney.