My expectations going into this movie for the first time were high, to say the least. (Seriously, my brother and I went to a matinee showing, and I woke up several times the night before because I was too excited to sleep. I was like a little kid on Christmas Eve; it was ridiculous.) And then The Winter Soldier surpassed pretty much all of my expectations.

Things I Loved that I Wasn't Expecting to Love

* Batroc the Leaper. I'd been spoiled for his presence in the film and been mildly unhappy about it, but then he ended up being kind No ridiculous mustache, no goggle-eyed mask, no purple and gold pantsuit, a good reason for his being in the film in the first place, and an excellent fight scene. What's not to like? Plus, it's now movie canon that Steve speaks French. :-)

* When Zola started monologuing, I'll admit I rolled my eyes a bit. Only then it turned out that he was actually stalling for time, and all was forgiven. Especially since he's totally the type of character who'd enjoy a good villainous monologue, if the opportunity presented itself. It was a very clever way to impart all of that backstory, too; I was impressed by how relatively few flashbacks the film relied upon, as well as how heartbreaking effective the ones they used were.

Things I Wanted to Love But Didn't Quite

* Sharon Carter. I liked her okay, but I thought she was a bit underutilized. (Of course, I'm saying this as someone who thought 136 minutes wasn't nearly too long for this film. I would've been so very fine with them tacking on another five minutes if it meant a little extra development of Sharon's character.) Though hopefully she'll have a larger and more awesome role in CA3, and in the meantime, that's what fanfic is for. (Am I the only person who came out of the film shipping Sharon/Natasha? Because I definitely think that this is something that should happen.)

* Natasha kicking ass is always awesome...but not quite as awesome as an older woman on the WSC having and using those same skills. The deception made sense plot-wise, but it was still a bit of a letdown.

Things I Didn't Love At All

* Natasha should have figured out that those badges were dangerous long before Pierce triggered them. That was just stupid.

* I was deeply unimpressed by that first glimpse of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Hopefully they'll be better in Age of Ultron than that scene suggests.

Things I Love Forever

* Everything else. :-)

* The way they adapted the Winter Soldier arc and made it something new and interesting, while still keeping the basic emotional tenor of the comics, was really brilliant.

* The Winter Soldier barely had any lines, and still I was this close "" to being a complete wreck whenever he was onscreen, he was so determined and desperately confused and lost.

* Steve! ♥ How perfectly did this film get his character? He's the person who always does--or at the very least tries his utmost to do--the right thing, no matter how hard he might find it personally. And he's also the guy who makes jokes about having a barbershop quartet and who's really happy that we've eradicated polio and who thinks the internet is great and etc. ad infinitum. So much love!

* Natasha was amazing, as per always, but especially in the way she leveraged her own uncertainty and vulnerability. Like, I do think she was basically sincere in everything she revealed to Steve about herself...but I also think she would've never said those things if she didn't believe that doing so was the best way to get Steve to trust her. And the way she deals with her identity issues is such a stunning contrast to Bucky: neither of them knows who they are, but Natasha's basically in control of the situation, while all Bucky has is a slowly dawning realization that something's wrong, hidden under layers of anger and confusion and defensiveness.

* I wasn't expecting Maria Hill to be in the film at all, let alone to have such a large role, and she was so, so great. Loved her competence and humor, loved how she was Fury's first call when things started going to shit, and really loved the ending where she applied to work at Stark Industries. (Femslash pairing #2 this film made me want very badly: Maria/Pepper.)

* I'm starting to feel a little repetitive here--"This character was great! And also this one! And this one!"--but, uh, Sam was fantastic. :-) The way he and Steve connected, and the work he was doing at the VA, and how principled and reliable yet fun he was. Also, those wings were awesome; I loved watching him fly.

* I've always liked Fury as a character even when I've sometimes disliked him as a person, and it was excellent seeing him in a bigger and more nuanced role.

* The HYDRA in SHIELD plot thread was executed very deftly, I thought. Pierce was the most obvious candidate for evil mastermind, but the film made me doubt that conclusion for quite a while: initially because of his easy acceptance when Fury asked him to delay Project Insight, and later in that brief moment when he saw the Winter Soldier at his kitchen table and calmly sent his oblivious maid home. That could've been a quietly heroic moment, if he were a different man.

* There's this thing that MCU films have been doing semi-regularly, where they'll have three categories of main characters: protagonists/heroes, antagonists/villains, and antagonists-but-not-villains. That final category includes Maya Hansen, Loki, and the Winter Soldier. And having characters like that in the film ramps up the intensity immeasurably for me, because it complicates what I want the outcome to be. I still want the antagonist to lose, but I want him or her to lose well. (IM3, needless to say, was a great disappointment for me in this regard.)

During the Cap vs. Winter Soldier fight scenes, I wanted the Winter Soldier to lose because he was trying to do terrible things to people who didn't deserve it, and because if Bucky weren't brainwashed, he'd be horrified himself at the idea of his winning. But I also wanted him to be strong and smart and skilled enough to almost win. Which is very much how it played out onscreen, and it was glorious.

* Plus, you know, all the Steve/Bucky feelings in general. I cried rather a lot while watching this film, which is at least a quarter of what I want from anything Marvel with "Winter Soldier" in the title.

Other Stuff:

* I totally forgot Crossbones's real name, so Rumlow's betrayal was a complete--and weirdly satisfying--shock to me. (Well done, Jain's imperfect memory.) Though, speaking of which, I appreciated how Steve was so carefully non-lethal in taking down those SHIELD agents in the elevator. He knew that they had orders to bring him in and that he wasn't going to let them, but he wasn't about to be mean about it.

* I've seen several reviews in which people have mentioned with varying degrees of surprise and/or disappointment that the MCU jettisoned Natasha's and Bucky's Red Room history. But I don't think it's at all certain that they did? Even towards the end of the film, when in theory everyone's secrets have been revealed, Natasha looks very cagey in some of the conversations about trust that she has with Steve and Fury; I'm pretty sure that she's hiding something big from them, and an intimate history with the Winter Soldier would definitely fit the bill. But I suppose we won't know for sure until CA3...or, dare we hope, an actualfax Black Widow film. *crosses fingers*

* Bizarre new headcanon based on Natasha's arrow necklace: Natasha wears it as a sort of personalized variant of those BFF heart necklaces, because after all these years Clint's still the only person she trusts completely and implicitly. But now that's changing, first with Steve and Fury and Maria, and in the near future with Sam and (unbrainwashed) Bucky, and then with maybe one or two of the other Avengers, and before too long Natasha has to wear an entire charm bracelet. :-)

* Less bizarre headcanon: When Steve told Natasha that she wasn't his first kiss since being defrosted, he was telling the truth. He kissed Peggy on the cheek on his first visit to her nursing home. Sometimes when she has an episode and forgets that she's met him in the present already, he thinks about kissing her on the cheek again; he'd kind of like to do so. But that feels too much like taking advantage, so he never does.
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