If you've seen "The Avengers," you know that Captain America -- Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) -- is pretty much the anti-Tony Stark. While Tony/Iron Man is all smarts and flash and arrogance, Steve/Captain America is about old-school values: honor, loyalty, defending the nation. In this impressive sequel, Steve has to come to terms with who he is when he's not wearing the uniform, and what he's actually fighting for: is it S.H.I.E.L.D., is it the country, is it anyone shooting at him? Co-starring Scarlett Johansson as Natasha/Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury, Anthony Mackie as Steve's new friend Sam Wilson, and a cast of returning (and brand new) characters and villains, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a compelling and thought-provoking superhero adventure that's ideal for families with comics-adaptation-loving kids age 10 and up.
Here are five issues to keep in mind before heading off to see the second installment in the "Captain America" series.
1. What is your kid's Marvel IQ? Has your kid seen the other Marvel universe movies, like the first "Captain America," "The Avengers," the two "Thor" films, and the three "Iron Man" installments? Do they know how Steve Rogers became "Captain America" and what he gave up in his personal life by being frozen for more than 60 years? Does your kid know what S.H.I.E.L.D. is and why the Black Widow works for Nick Fury? If the answer to most of those questions is "No," this movie isn't going to make as much sense until your family sees the origin films (or at least just "Captain America").
2. How does your kid handle violence in movies? All superhero movies contain scenes of peril and violence; otherwise there'd be nothing for the superheroes to do. But the violence in "Captain America" can get personal -– and disturbing. More than one major character is presumed dead, and the body count is high from gun violence (with everything from agent-owned hand guns to semi-automatic guns to military-grade RPGs), hand-to-hand combat, high-speed car chases, and bombing. There's collateral damage and destruction to property (in this case, the D.C. area), and both large-scale and up-close violence.
3. Do you worry about sex/language? Like most of the Marvel-based movies, there's just a little bit of language (a "s--t" here and a "s--t" there) and some mild references to dating and flirting. Unlike Thor and Iron Man, Captain America is actually chaste. Although Natasha and Steve kiss, it's a calculated way to divert attention from themselves and not anything out of passion. They're just fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives and superhero pals. In a small role, Garry Shandling plays a corrupt congressman who makes references to the kind of woman he'd like in exchange for his support, but it's not likely to be a comment tweens/young teens even get.
4. Who will enjoy the movie most? Viewers familiar with Marvel-based movies and who've seen "Captain America" and "The Avengers" (although the more you know, the more you'll understand some of the dialogue, catch references to villains, secret organizations, and needless to say understand the significance of the two end-credits teasers). Teens and mature tweens new to superhero movies will still enjoy it, but they will benefit from going back to the beginning afterward, since they won't know the origin stories behind any of the characters in the movie. Even though my six-year-old is into Captain America figurines and Marvel LEGO kits, he's still not ready to see these films. But at the recent press screening, I saw kids as young as four in attendance! "Captain America" is way too violent for kids under 9-10 at least!
5. What are critics saying about "Captain America 2"? Critical reaction to the latest Marvel adventure is positive, with a "generally favorable" score of 69 on Metacritic and an overwhelmingly "fresh" 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is the first superhero film since the terrorist-inflected 'The Dark Knight' that plugs you right into what's happening now," writes Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly. A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club says: "In this spectacularly entertaining sequel, Rogers is still running, jumping, and chucking his mighty shield like it's 1945. But now he's doing so with the weariness and distrust of historical hindsight."
EXCLUSIVE: Watch a scene from "The Winter Soldier" starring Robert Redford & Samuel L. Jackson (VIDEO)