Warning: This review will contain SPOILERS!
Two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is living and working in Washington DC with SHIELD. During a rescue mission saving SHILED agents taken hostage by Algerian pirates, Rogers discovers Natasha Romanoff/The Black Window (Scarlett Johansson) extracting data from the ship's computers onto a USB thumb drive. Rogers finds out that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) had ordered Romanoff to get that data without Rogers' knowledge even though it could have compromised the mission. That USB drive ends up being the key to unlocking a growing threat to not only SHIELD but the safety of the entire planet.
I'll be honest, this wasn't my favorite MARVEL movie (The Avengers is still #1 in my book) but it was still a hit. It contained some funny one-liners, nods to some of the previous films, name drops of some of the other Avengers, and of course a cameo by Stan Lee, all of the things that to me make up a great Marvel movie. Plus the action sequences were top-notch, I was especially impressed with the Falcon. As far as the story, I honestly thought I knew where this movie was going to go: Captain America would be forced to confront his old childhood friend, Bucky Barnes who has been turned into the assassin known at the Winter Soldier. And I figured that Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) was probably going to be on the bad side of things. And I got the feeling that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) would "die" (but in the comics no one who dies ever stays dead) and I was right. However, I didn't not expect to find out that HYDRA has been secretly working its way into the ranks within SHIELD since the end of WWII. Or that Red Skull's scientist right-hand man, Arnim Zola, was living via a computer that housed his consciousness. Although it didn't surprise me to see that Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) from Iron Man 2 was a member of HYDRA, what a creep!
While Cap, The Falcon, and the Black Widow manage to foil HYDRA's plans (as the good-guys always do!), SHIELD ends up in shambles, essentially disbanded as most of the world thinks that Fury is dead. Fury heads off to Europe to try and take down the remaining HYDRA cells. Cap and The Falcon go off to find Bucky with Cap hoping he can fix him and bring his friend back, and Romanoff has to cover her tracks as all of her secrets have now been made public. Meanwhile, in the mid-credits scene we find out that a HYDRA lab lead by Baron (Wolfgang) von Strucker, is trying to capture the power from Loki's scepter and that they are holding the twins: The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, captive.
It'll be interesting to see where the storylines go from here as SHIELD has been a constant presence since the beginning. If you watch Agents of SHIELD (I do!) it'll also be interesting how the dismantling of SHIELD affects Coulson and his team as they've done a good job of tying the movies to the TV show and vice versa. I think we'll get some respite in "Guardians of the Galaxy" as it seems to take place off Earth, which I think will be a fun change of pace, but then it will all culminate into next year's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (which is now in production).
The action is there, plus there is some swearing and I'm pretty sure I saw the side of one of Natasha's boobs due to her outfit's zipper pulled a bit too far down, so this might not be one you take the younger crowd to (although there were several kids in the theatre when we went). Like I said, this wasn't my favorite, but it was still the quality I've come to expect from these movies. I probably won't see it again in the theatre, but it'll definitely be added to our collection when it comes out on DVD.
All images and video provided by Walt Disney/Marvel Studios