If superhero spy agency SHIELD, as portrayed in Marvel Comics’ films, is really all-knowing and top-secret, surely it would creep out a rugged individualist superhero? That’s the drama that kicks off Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when SHIELD head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, thankfully given more to do than in previous Marvel movies) argues with Captain America (Chris Evans, still surprisingly good) that it’s worth sacrificing a little freedom for the sake of security. The Captain isn’t so sure. But after The Dark Knight and countless other blockbuster meditations on war-on-terror overreach, this avenue feels too well-worn.

There’s a lot to like about Winter Soldier. Best of all, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow plays the world-weary old hand at the spy game, leaving Evans to play the aw-shucks innocent. The pacing of the film is great, with a script that isn’t afraid to take a little time to develop a threat. Unfortunately, Winter Soldier’s action sequences are all hash. And the movie could be more fun; there’s too much grimacing for a superhero flick that doesn’t star Batman. It’s not that I had a bad time with Winter Soldier. It’s plenty entertaining. But a certain sameness is creeping into Marvel’s movies, and it’s becoming harder to ignore. recommended