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SYFY WIRE reviews

Critics say 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' is ambitious, cerebral and action-packed

By Josh Weiss
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

After a year of no fresh MCU content, 2021 is shaping up to be a great time for Disney's shared comic book mythos — just not so much on the big screen as we originally expected.

Just two weeks after the conclusion of WandaVision, and we're already on to the next entry in Phase 4: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the new series (created by Malcolm Spellman and directed by Kari Skogland) is all about Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) teaming up with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) to save the world.

With Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) taking a much-needed retirement, Sam is next in line to wield Captain America's iconic shield. While Sam doesn't know if he's worthy to follow in Steve's footsteps (a sentiment that absolutely makes him worthy), the U.S. government hopes to fill Rogers' absence with a Cap of its own: John Walker/U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell). Meanwhile, Civil War's Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is out of prison and looking to exterminate superheroes.

While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier doesn't makes its streaming debut until tomorrow, the official review embargo for the show's first episode has lifted.

Let's dig into the highlights, shall we?

"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier begins with an action scene that, in this context, plays as a 'The excitement is back!' note of reassurance to fans who worried WandaVision got too touchy-feely. Then, for those who loved the introspection of WandaVision, the 47-minute pilot continues with 30-plus touchy-feely minutes. It's a balance that will probably play well." -Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter

"While probing the mind of the reluctant superhero is hardly new for the medium, Mackie brings to the role an intriguing refusal to treat his own refusal as the stuff of great drama. He’s a hero for whom stepping away from what’s expected of him is not a grand renunciation; to treat it as anything other than a choice is to do exactly the sort of self-aggrandizement that’s not in the character’s nature." -Daniel D’Addario, Variety

"The start, at least, is breath-taking — a fight scene set high above an epic North African desert. Eye-popping and presumably hideously expensive, the sequence could have come from any of the Avengers movies. It’s as if Disney is trying to reassure fans fretful whether Marvel can successful transition to television (after the psychedelic charms of WandaVision, it’s a bit late)." -Ed Power, The Telegraph

"If you’re a fan of Marvel’s comics, this set-up may well remind you of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s run on Captain America, specifically when the focus of the series transitioned to Cap’s supporting characters in the wake of his death. That’s a great starting point, and If The Falcon and The Winter Soldier continues on this promising track, then Disney+ will easily be two for two on its MCU track record." -Matt Purslow, IGN

"This first episode is for sure in setup mode. And, no, it’s not weird like WandaVision. But my gosh there’s a lot going on in this series that will unfold over the coming few weeks. And then there’s the final scene of this first episode when a character shows up who puts a lot of things in laser focus ... It truly feels like this is a series trying to tackle the multiple things that are actually going on right now in our real world. It may not automatically feel ambitious in that, no, there’s no laugh track and live studio audience. But what this series is trying to do certainly feels like a lot. And my gosh I hope they pull it off." -Mike Ryan, Uproxx

"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier won’t win over people who already don’t enjoy other Marvel movies — it doubles down on what has worked in the past. That’s enough for now. And that’ll be enough for many. But I hope the seeds planted here, the ones that suggest a show about the responsibilities of being a hero in a world that grinds you to pieces on a daily basis, are allowed to fully blossom in the weeks ahead." -Jacob Hall, /FILM

"Once again, Marvel is proving that it can leverage the Disney+ platform to recreate secondary characters as lead protagonists with backstories every bit as rich and compelling as Captain America and Iron Man. At the same time, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier appears to tackle new, weighty issues while feeling nothing like its streaming predecessor WandaVision." -Brandon Katz, Observer

"The first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier sets the stage for a global adventure across the MCU with new threats introduced, returning characters and the overarching question of who will wield the shield. That story arc will be intriguing to follow, though there is still enjoyment to be found from Falcon and Winter Soldier in their civilian identities. All that is left to see is if The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can match the same amount of fan speculation and theorizing that WandaVision thrived in." -Tim Adams, Comic Book Resources

"It’s fine. There’s a frustrating lack of clarity regarding some socio-political aspects regarding the vague motivations of its villains that feels pretty varporwarish. Watching another character try to describe how the government is struggling to provide support programs for people returning from 'The Blip' doesn’t really resonate the same way now that we’re really in a world that relies on support programs thanks to a world-changing event." -Kyle Pinion, ComicsBeat

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier zooms onto Disney+ tomorrow — Friday, March 19.