Captain America: The Winter Soldier ★★★★★

Still the best Marvel film, hands down. There have been SEVEN Marvel flicks since this one, and all of them are at least "good," with several of them being very good, and this one is still better than all of them.

It's better than the rest because unlike a lot of the Marvel films, it is utterly confident about what it is, and the thing you have to understand is that a lot of them simply aren't entirely comfortable admitting they're superhero films. WINTER SOLDIER is completely comfortable being a superhero flick, even though it's also a political action thriller at the same time.

It doesn't blink at revealing that a character from the previous film is now a personality encoded into a bank of computers, or that Bucky somehow survived getting his arm torn off and now has a cyborg arm, or that the evil Nazi cult has permeated every level of society, or that Bucky gets cryogenically frozen every other week, or that Falcon used to be a "para-rescue" soldier and by the way, he happened to have robot wings. This all just is accepted. They don't bother explaining most of it. At one point Falcon explains that his robot wings are in a secure facility and, instead of staging a heist sequence, the movie just has Black Widow nod to say "that's not a problem" and then POW Falcon has his robot wings, because the movie understands it doesn't need to justify everything to the audience. It's mature filmmaking in the superhero vein and it's still refreshing three years later when every other Marvel film that isn't GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (and possibly ANT-MAN) feels the need to justify everything about the comics in "this is the real world and this is how it would happen."

And the cast is the best one Marvel's ever assembled - I mean for crissake ROBERT REDFORD IS IN THIS - and the action is crisp and exciting, and the story is right at that magic spot of "complex enough to be interesting but not convoluted," and Chris Evans is still the beating, incredibly muscular heart of the MCU. Of course a Captain America film was always going to be the first one. Of COURSE.