During my stay in Los Angeles for the Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel at Paleyfest this Sunday (tickets still available here) I was lucky enough to snag tickets to the fan preview screening of Captain America: The Winter Solider last night.
I wanted to try and write a review but there is just SO MUCH AWESOME in this movie that I want to keep this "review" completely spoiler free. This will be a challenge. One of our other members is writing a review for marveltv.org that will contain some minor spoilers for those of you looking for that.
In general terms, Captain America: The Winter Solider was a fast-paced, action filled adventure that lives up to what we have come to expect from Marvel Studios. I tried to stay spoiler free before watching and it was only in the past month or so I ended up watching two of the released trailers, I was concerned they might have given a little too much away but I was delighted by the fact there are more than a few times that it felt like being hit by a truck coming out of nowhere, sometimes literally! There were even some moments that I simply had a hard time believing actually happened. But yes, Marvel really did go there and one of them in particular I did not like at all. But I did not like it in exactly the right way. The overall story was full and well rounded and jam packed full of fantastic moments for each of the characters. If I have one criticizm of the movie it is that some of the hand-held style camera work, particularly during some of the fight/action scenes made my head hurt, but it is only a tiny thing in an otherwise near perfect movie.
For quite some time now the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast and crew have been promoting the tag "It's all connected". While this refers internally to the show with many pieces of the bigger puzzle slotted into earlier episodes falling into place later in the season, it also fits into to the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe picture. We saw this with a recent episode guest staring Lady Sif from Thor: The Dark World. but this pales in comparison to the way everything that has been building up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. so far ties into Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
After seeing the movie the first thing I did was encourage fans who are behind to catch up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. before Captain America is released on April 4th (in the US). I saw the movie with 3 friends, all of whom were various stages behind, one had seen 3 episodes, one 8 and the other 12 of the 15 episodes aired so far. Firstly it is important to recognize that all four of us enjoyed the movie immensely, so if you can't catch up before the movie is released don't be discouraged. That said, I did find myself sitting there "knowing things" that my friends didn't know and it made me think that that made the experience for me just that much more exciting. On the other flip of the coin, my friends will now have a similar experience as they catch up on the episodes (which they are now all excited to do) as they think back to things they saw in the movie and go "Ooooh!, Yeah! That!"
After watched Captain America I spent the next couple of hours mulling over all the events of the movie and realizing what some of them meant when I thought back to one thing or another that had happened in an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode but also thinking forward to what all this would mean for episodes yet to come. I will say that it will have to have a significant impact on what happens with Agent Coulson and his team heading into the future. As today has gone on I find I am still having the odd moment where I think to myself, "Wait a minute!" because of something that has happened in an episode of the show that holds more significance now that I know what happens in the movie.
I believe the intended timeline for watching should be watch the earlier MCU movies (particularly Captain America: The First Avenger & The Avengers), then watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. up to episode 16 which is due to air on April 1st (or possibly March 23rd for those of us lucky enough to be attending the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel at Paleyfest) and then Captain America: The Winter Soldier before continuing S.H.I.E.L.D. which will air the remaining 6 episodes with no further breaks in the schedule.
After tweeting and encouraging fans to catch up on S.H.I.E.L.D. before watching the movie I have had a number of people asking what that will mean for them because the latest episodes are not available in all countries. I want to make it clear that I think you will enjoy Captain America: The Winter Soldier even if you have not watched a single episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. but there are definitely things I believe I enjoyed more having experienced some of the build up through watching all the S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes in advance. If you have watched up to The Magical Place you will already have a sense that there is a certain amount of distrust building within certain members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this is a strong thread that carries through to the movie. Everything in the movie makes sense as a stand-alone but there will definitely be a number of "ah-ha!" moments if you have seen the latest episodes.
If you are in the US the best way to catch up on all the episodes is via iTunes or Amazon, he latest 5 episodes to air should be available on Hulu.