Marvel bridges gaps into new, occasionally too familiar territory

Anthony Mackie’s Sam (Falcon) and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky (Winter Soldier) work through some bro issues in one of the laugh-out-loud scenes from Disney+’s The Falcon and Winter Soldier. (Photo courtesy Disney+)

Out of all my many hobbies, the most taxing on my wallet has always been comic book collecting. Issues that feature the first appearance of famous characters are particularly coveted by collectors, with some rare issues going for millions of dollars at auction. Another type of comic that I personally like to collect are ones that are historically significant in the real world. With this in mind, it is no surprise that Captain America #117, which features the first appearance of the first African American superhero in a mainstream comic book, the Falcon, is one of the most cherished issues in my collection. I was therefore thrilled when the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the character, brought to life by Anthony Mackie, had the chance to make history once again (alongside Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes) in the new limited series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, although I ultimately found that the journey to get there could have been a little more polished.  

Despite the very different tones and genres, it is hard not to compare The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with Disney+’s last premium Marvel series WandaVision. While the latter defied genre expectations and challenged what it meant to be a comic book adaptation, the former feels a lot more familiar. While WandaVision felt like a weird experiment, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is much more akin to a typical Marvel blockbuster split into six episodes, with fast-paced and exciting action scenes, a lot of banter, and a lot of dependence on knowledge of what’s come before (I can’t imagine this story being easy to follow for someone who has not seen any of the other MCU outings). The acting is great all around, the fight choreography and special effects are appropriately grand, and the story is not afraid to explore some highly relevant issues such as race and immigration.  

That being said, there are some minor flaws that keep The Falcon and the Winter Soldier from soaring to the heights that a couple of MCU entries have reached in the past. I did not find the banter between the two main characters to be quite as sharp and entertaining as I would have liked it to be, which was a bit of a disappointment after witnessing their brief yet brilliant interactions in previous movies such as Captain America: Civil War. The story is also a bit murky at certain points as it tries to juggle a handful of different antagonistic forces, each with its own agenda. And on the action side of things, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier occasionally falls prey to one of my least favorite tropes in cinema: the dreaded shaky cam. Why directors can’t just film normally without having the camera operators flailing their arms everywhere, I have no idea, but this technique sometimes made it difficult to track every punch, kick, and wing stab in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  

But despite its flaws, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is still a whole lot of fun. I’m glad the two characters finally got room to breathe and be in the spotlight for a bit, and I’m sure Steve Rogers can rest easy knowing that his shield is in good hands.  

All six episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are now available on Disney+.