Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Three Iron Mans, two Thors and one Captain America, not to mention Joss Whedon's The Avengers and television series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You might think the wheels would be coming off the Marvel Comics juggernaut by now. But Captain America: The Winter Soldier, an action-adventure film that far outstrips its 2011 predecessor, proves otherwise.
In a story that is labyrinthine by comic book standards, Chris Evans reprises his role as Captain America (aka Steve Rogers), the second world war super-soldier transported to modern times.
When covert law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is ambushed by his own people, led by a near-mythical assassin called The Winter Soldier, Captain America, the high-kicking Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), are forced to go on the run.
They flee S.H.I.E.L.D. and set out to uncover some of the secrets from the organisation's past.
While there are role reprisals for Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) veterans Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell and Toby Jones, the twisting storyline also cleverly lays the groundwork for further Marvel films.
Captain America has always been one of the less interesting Marvel heroes - he's a bit strait-laced compared to Iron Man - but all that changes here. Never mind an early sequence in which he takes out a lift full of heavily armed guards; the Captain later downs a jet fighter using his trusty shield.
Only a Hollywood superhero movie could get away with something so ridiculous, and the scene is destined to have audiences whooping in the aisles.
Captain America is the most violent Marvel film yet, and there is much shooting. But this is tempered by the humour in the script.
It's probably no coincidence that the film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the two brothers famed for their work on the comedy show Arrested Development. References to Iron Man and the Hulk abound, and there's even a blatant nod to Samuel L. Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction.
Robert Redford, in a key role as an old comrade of Nick Fury's, looks a little out of place (reportedly, his casting was a nod to his work on Three Days of the Condor), but that doesn't detract from an otherwise fun film.
Evans is still a little square-of-jaw, but he's growing into his role, and discovering the man behind the mask.
"I thought you were more than just a shield," one opponent grunts. This shows he really is.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens on April 3