'Captain America: The Winter Soldier': What the Critics Are Saying

The superhero sequel stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Frank Grillo and Cobie Smulders.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier soars into theaters Friday, and the $170 million sequel co-directed by Anthony and Joe Russo became the top-selling April title in Fandango's 14-year-history and is poised to score the top April opening of all time. Set to cross $90 million in its North American debut this weekend, the latest Marvel feature is already a hit overseas, racing past the $100 million mark on Wednesday after scoring $75.2 million last weekend from 32 markets.

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Reprising their Marvel roles are Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders, while Robert Redford, Anthony MackieSebastian Stan and Frank Grillo are introduced to the superhero universe -- plus a new suit for Evans' Steve Rogers and not one, but two teasers embedded in the end credits.

Read what top critics are saying about Captain America: The Winter Soldier below:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy noted in his review that the sequel "takes the bold (for Marvel) step of reducing CGI spectacle to a relative minimum in favor of reviving the pleasures of hard-driving old-school action, surprising character development and intriguing suspense. If The First Avenger was a solid World War II action film with a Hydrated twist, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has one foot in superhero territory but the other in Washington, D.C., Cold War spyland." While the one-on-one action sequences unravel with so many cuts that "winds up looking not only confusing but like a cheat, as you can't believe anything real is happening," McCarthy wrote that, especially with scenes featuring Redford and Jackson, "the story develops some genuine intrigue; as in the best such yarns, it's hard to know who's really pulling the strings and who, other than the characters who wear costumes, is sincere and who might be up to no good. For sheer plotting and audience involvement, this is a notch above any of the other Avengers-feeding Marvel entries, the one that feels most like a real movie rather than a production line of ooh-and-ahh moments for fanboys."

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The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday called it "a baggy, at times brutal conglomeration of surprisingly deep character development and aggressively percussive action...in its relentless violence and dark political subtext, this might be the most grown-up Avengers episode yet." While it is unnecessarily too long, the film shines a bright spotlight on Johansson's Black Widow -- as she "continually threatens to steal the entire movie with her slinky martial arts moves and sultry, smoky-voiced one-liners" -- and is overall "superbly made and well-acted, neatly setting up the next few installments with just the right enticing sense of ongoing mystery."

Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan said, on the other hand, that the film is painfully formulaic. "For what is frustrating about this Captain America is that it's saddled with the defects of its virtues," he observed, despite its political overlay. "It's a product of the highest quality, but at the end of the day that's what it is: a machine-made, assembly-line product whose strengths tend to feel like items checked off a master list rather than being the result of any kind of individual creative touch. Captain America is everything a big budget superhero film should be -- except inspired.

San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle also mentioned that the Winter Soldier is frustrating to watch, in a bad way. "Every time we see this muscle-bound fellow, with long dark hair and a mask, we know we're in for an extended fight, culminating in a stalemate -- in other words, with nothing happening." While other critics hail the sequel as the best Marvel movie yet, LaSalle declared that "Captain America is simply what one might imagine it to be going in -- watchable and reasonably entertaining, the product of two non-action directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, who set out to make an action movie, and now they've made one, no worse and no better than anybody else's."

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Time's Richard Corliss said the film is "a sharp and pertinent political fable masquerading as a pre-summer blockbuster," but in a positive way, as in "a moodier, more thoughtful Marvel movie and a big step up in ambition and achievement from The First Avenger." Even more so, "Mackie makes a strong debut as the Falcon, who, like Black Widow, deserves his own Marvel movie. Johansson and Redford, together on screen for the first time since 1998, when she was 15 and he was the Horse Whisperer, enjoy a pointed, prickly reunion."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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