‘Captain America’ among Marvel’s best

America has changed a lot since the 1940s, when Marvel’s first Avenger was cryogenically frozen. He was woken up to help save the world from alien invaders in last year’s “Avengers” film, and now has to face a domestic threat in his solo sequel.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his super alter ego return in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” released April 4, and his adventures are exhilarating, visually stunning and a little bit disconcerting.

The hero, asleep for about 70 years, has to reconcile his “greatest generation” way of thinking in today’s post-9/11, post-Snowden world.

The premise is that fictional government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. has developed a defense system that can identify and neutralize potential threats to national security with the push of a button. It’s almost a combination of “Minority Report” and 1970s-era political thrillers. Though Rogers may not understand the modern technology behind the scheme, he recognizes the moral implications right away.

The villains in this movie are bent on world domination, as per usual, but tap into modern anxieties about the proper balance between freedom and protection.

We know which side of the spectrum the Captain falls on, and luckily he has a few allies to help him foil a sinister government plot. He teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), along with Marvel mainstays Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

Jackson gets one of the most thrilling sequences in the film, fleeing from pursuers in an armored van and barking commands at a navigation system. It perfectly encapsulates what everyone loves about these Marvel movies: a strong balance between humor and action-adventure. The fighting scenes are well-done, with an interesting mix of hand-to-hand combat and sometimes excessive gunplay.

Robert Redford expertly plays bad guy Alexander Pierce, relishing his villainous role as a corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. figurehead. The captain and his crew also face off against Algerian pirates, mercenary soldiers and the Winter Soldier, a seemingly undying assassin.

Through it all, Rogers remains idealistic, humble and a little bit out of place. He keeps a handwritten list of pop culture phenomena to catch up on, with notes reading: “Thai food,” “Star Wars/Trek,” “Steve Jobs” and “Nirvana (band?).”

Though it seems that at least five superhero movies come out every year, the new “Captain America” is one of the stronger ones in the Marvel canon, and worth seeing in theaters.

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