MCU Sequels: How do they stack up against their original films?

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Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures; from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier may be the most surprisingly brilliant movie in the entire MCU; the keyword is surprising because one typically does not presume a sequel would be ten times better than its well-made predecessor. And even with The Avengers residing as the untouchable gold standard at the time of Winter Soldier’s release; the difference is that Marvel fans were practically demanding that superhero team-up would meet expectations.

This was also the Russo Brother’s first MCU film, not to mention their first big budget excursion. After directing a few forgettable comedies along with episodes of Arrested Development and Community, who could have imagined such an intelligent action film from the siblings? They skillfully reformed the genre and tone from The First Avenger’s wartime adventure to a tense political thriller while intensifying the forward momentum of Steve Rogers.

One might state that particular scenes or moments in a movie are shocking, but how often can you claim that a film’s entire storyline is shocking? That is what The Winter Soldier delivered with the Hydra infiltration of SHIELD – an organization that has been present in the shared universe from the very beginning. The Russos fluently interlaced the SHIELD subversion with the progression of core characters and flawlessly constructed action sequences.

Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Bucky Barnes all developed as characters in distinct ways, while Falcon joined the team. The Captain America sequel contained some of the best work from Scarlet Johannson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Anthony Mackie in their Marvel superhero roles.

Chris Evans continued to grow as Rogers by having to face his oldest friend in the center of the conflict. Cap was reluctant to finish off Bucky in the final fight – heartbreaking endings would become a trademark for the Russo Brothers. With Winter Soldier and then Civil War, the directing duo helped solidify Captain America as the heart of the MCU.

The Winter Soldier currently is the only film in the MCU sequels that is clearly better than the first in the respective series, plus the only #2 that should be in the conversation as a top 5 movie in the MCU.