Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review: Is It the Best Marvel Movie Yet?Disney/Marvel

Depending on who you ask, the latest entry in Marvel’s growing cinematic universe, “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” is either “one of the best Marvel movies ever” or “the best Marvel movie ever.” And even though superhero sequels haven’t always had the best track record with audiences and critics, when Chris Evans returns as the star-spangled super solider this week, the resulting buzz is going to be pretty hard for the average moviegoer to ignore.

So there’s probably not much point in asking whether you should see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” because judging from the gazillion dollars (estimated) “The Avengers” made, you will. As for whether or not you’ll like it, consult the following guide to find out.

1. Did you like the first “Captain America?”
Actually, this doesn’t really matter much, considering “The Winter Soldier” has a lot more in common with “The Avengers” than Cap’s WWII-set origin story. That’s mostly because it picks up right after the events in New York, with Evans partnering up again with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to run missions for S.H.I.E.L.D., but it also shares the same Whedon-esque tone — as the co-workers trade glib remarks about finding Cap a date in between punching out bad guys.

2. Do you like the trailers?
If so, chances are you’re going to like the full movie. That’s because, like most big-budget blockbusters these days, they’ve already showed you pretty much all of it (including several clips from the climactic action sequences). Spoiler alert.

3. How do you feel about sitcom directors doing superhero movies?
Marvel’s certainly proven themselves willing to think outside-the-box when it comes to directors. In fact, the least risky hire they’ve made so far was enlisting Joe Johnston for the first “Captain America” movie (with predictably average results). So this time they turned to Anthony and Joe Russo, a pair of brothers with more experience directing TV (“Community,” “Arrested Development”) than summer blockbusters (uh… “You, Me and Dupree?”). Once again, the gamble paid off, and despite a shaky camera during the hand-to-hand combat, the big action set pieces are every bit as satisfying as anything you’ll see this summer.

4. Do you mind if the plot’s predictable?
The central conspiracy is actually pretty fun, but for most of the third act, “The Winter Soldier” comes down to the usual formula: our heroes must save millions of lives by executing a specific set of totally arbitrary tasks destined to come down to the final second, and make approximately zero logical sense as soon as you walk out of the theatre. So as long as you’re willing to accept that most of the movie’s main mission is just a long-winded excuse to set up some seriously fun action scenes, you ought to be just fine.

5. How’s your techno-paranoia doing?
The NSA’s got nothing on S.H.I.E.L.D., who apparently refresh Twitter more often than you do. Supposedly, it’s all in the name of keeping us safe, at least until it’s revealed there’s a special algorithm that uses your online footprint to predict threats to national security. No wonder Cap has serious trust issues.

6. Will it bother you if Robert Redford is phoning it in?
To be fair, he’s probably doing “The Winter Soldier” for his grandkids and not the hefty paycheque, but otherwise, he doesn’t add much besides another big name to the bill. As the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., his Alexander Pierce is approximately 50 percent less compelling than any other Redford role, and 75 percent less than it needs to be to deliver the emotional punch the movie’s hoping for.

7. Do you like Anthony Mackie?
This one’s rhetorical, because of course you do. At least if you’ve seen him in “Pain & Gain,” or “Runner Runner,” or “Gangster Squad,” or any of his many scene-stealing appearances over the last few years. Otherwise, it looks like “The Winter Soldier” is finally going to be the breakout role Mackie deserves. With his combination of action-hero chops and easy comic touch, we’d watch an entire stand-alone adventure from Mackie’s Falcon. Instead, he’s relegated to Cap’s sidekick by the end, but either way, Marvel’s found another keeper.

8. Do you care where the other Avengers are?
The massive interconnected universe Marvel’s building may help sell truckloads of tickets, but the biggest issue for any post-”Avengers” movie is why the rest of the team is sitting this round out while our hero takes on a major threat alone. It’s less of an issue in “The Winter Soldier” than the last “Thor” movie, mostly because the central peril doesn’t threaten to obliterate the entire known universe, and also because they paired the Captain with Johansson’s Black Widow, a welcome sight both during the action scenes and the downtime in between.

9. Are you worried they might not have enough characters for “Avengers: Age of Ultron?”
Don’t be, because thanks to Mackie’s Falcon, they’ve got another potential hero to add to the roster before we even get to the obligatory post-credits sequel set-up. Then there’s Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, back with a bigger role, and the introduction of Emily VanCamp’s Agent 13. By the time they get to the Stephen Strange name-drop, future “Avengers” movies are going to have to be six hours long to ensure everybody gets enough screentime. “The Winter Soldier” is already pushing two-and-a-half as it is.

10. Should you expect it to be the best Marvel movie yet?
The hype machine shot into overdrive thanks to glowing reports out of early press screenings, and while that may be great for Marvel’s bottom-line, it could also result in unrealistic expectations from audiences. “The Winter Solider” is still a very good, very fun action movie, and fans should be more than satisfied that it both delivers the goods and helps set up the next blockbuster team-up. Just try to leave the superlatives at the door.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is now playing in theatres.

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