ImageMarvel Studios continue to pump out several new superhero blockbusters every year and the first one of 2014 is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The original Captain America film managed to successfully mix elements from both WWII and superhero films. It’s follow up, taking place in present day, attempts to mix the superhero element with the plot of an espionage/spy thriller, but with less success. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, The Winter Soldier is a mixed bag; its sequences of action are incredibly thrilling, but its plot is so convoluted that it will prevent audiences from truly investing in what is appearing on screen.

Taking place two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is living in DC and working for SHIELD with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). One morning, SHIELD is called in to rescue a cargo vessel that has been taken over by Algerian pirates. Watching Captain America land on the ship and take out mercenaries is thrilling to watch, even if the Russos’ use of shaky cam and quick edits is distracting. While on the ship, Black Widow extracts some information regarding SHIELD for Fury, an aspect of the mission that Captain America was uninformed about.

Returning to SHIELD headquarters, Rogers meets with Fury and expresses his disdain for secrets in regards to their missions. Fury decides to open up to Rogers and inform him about Project Insight: three state of the art Helicarriers that can eliminate enemy threats before they even occur. Rogers expresses his disdain for these devices, claiming that over policing the world will lead to a lack of freedom. Fury initially waves off these concerns, but after his vehicle is ambushed by a group of assailants led by The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) Fury and Rogers realize that something is amiss and that no one in SHIELD can be trusted.

This is just the beginning of the overly complicated plot, a major hindrance to a film that should have traded in this complex story for one that was a bit simpler, but made a lot more sense. In some ways the convoluted plot feels fitting for a film that is attempting to be a modern spy thriller, but a more streamlined story would have still been beneficial. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely also attempt to include some political commentary in the film and, while far from subtle, it gives the film an added layer that it would have otherwise been lacking. Perhaps nothing in the film is subtle, because several twists that are revealed near the end of the film are painfully obvious. Most viewers who have a basic knowledge of screenwriting 101 will be able to pick out the identity and ulterior motives of several characters, long before they are revealed.

But once the action kicks in, viewers will forget about how disappointing the script is. There are several astounding action set pieces that will make action fans giddy with excitement. The previously mentioned cargo ship raid is poorly edited, but it’s still thrilling to see Captain America fighting baddies one on one. One of the most exciting moments in the film is the assault on Nick Fury’s vehicle. What begins as an attempt to break into his vehicle eventually leads into a high speed pursuit that feels incredibly real with its use of civilian vehicles on the road. An assault from The Winter Soldier on a busy highway is also impressive, as is an elevator scene involving Captain America and a dozen or so henchmen. Unfortunately, the film’s climactic moments are also some of the least exciting, feeling far too similar to scenes that we had already seen in The Avengers.

Even with a poor story, a dull finale and some strange Apple product placement, Captain America: The Winter Soldier warrants a recommendation because of its fantastic action sequences and a sense of fun that generally permeates the majority of the film. With plenty of films planned for the future, Marvel Studios will need to take some risks instead of replicating the same style and story for every one of their films if they intend to keep viewers interested. This may be a weak entry in the Marvel cannon, but even the weaker Marvel entries manage to thrill.

Captain America: The winter Soldier receives 2.5/4