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'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' review: Wild ride with lots of promise

Anthony Mackie (l) and Sebastian Stan star in

Anthony Mackie (l) and Sebastian Stan star in Marvel Studios' "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier."  Credit: Marvel Studios

SERIES "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Disney+

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In the waning moments of "Avengers: Endgame," Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) passed on the mantle, or at least Captain America's shield, to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), aka the Falcon (named for his colorful flying suit of armor). Seemed like the right thing to do: Sam, who long ago saved Captain America, esteems him, and vice versa. The Infinity Wars are over; it's up to Sam to fight his own battles now. Meanwhile, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) and Sam had united by the movie's end too. Bucky — aka the Winter Soldier — was Steve's oldest friend but has a particularly complicated history with him as well. He was once Captain America's archenemy too (and even killed JFK).

As this six-parter opens — the first episode was the only one made available for review — an old enemy does lurk: dastardly supervillain Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl).

MY SAY It's probably not the craziest of coincidences that "Falcon" launched on Disney+ the day after "Zack Snyder's Justice League" premiered on HBO Max. We are all now officially bystanders to the biggest entertainment battle on the planet (Disney vs. Warner). All we can do is sit back and enjoy the show.

And what a show indeed. At minimum, the "Justice League" recut ensures that anything Marvel-related on Disney+ must match it blow for blow, or SFX for SFX. "WandaVision" (the first of a dozen expected Marvel TV series for Disney+ which wrapped early March) was a mere warmup.

When "Falcon" showrunner Malcolm Spellman and director Kari Skogland began work on "Falcon" a couple of years ago, the mandate was simple — make this a cinematic event as opposed to a TV one. "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" is a continuation of the so-called Infinity Saga, which played out over 23 big-screen movies comprising most of what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bucky Barnes has deep ties to this cinematic universe (Sam Wilson a little bit less) so this story has to be visually consistent with all those stories that came before. Fans would expect nothing less.

Moreover, both Sam and Bucky also have deep ties to that first and most famous of all the Avengers. This then sets up the possibility — remote perhaps but at least alluring — that Steve Rogers might later appear in an extended cameo in "Falcon," perhaps to give an overwhelmed Falcon a bit of brotherly advice.

Whether this happens or not almost doesn't matter because fans will still be tuning in over the next six weeks anyway. By then, "Justice League" will be in Disney+'s rearview mirror.

Of course those fans don't need to be told to fasten their seat belts either: The first 10 minutes of "Falcon" are a mind-blowing extended action sequence that recalls both the Falcon's first entrance in the MCU (2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier") while adding a few new (umm) twists.

Lots and lots of twists.

Sam and Bucky were on friendly terms by the conclusion of "Endgame," but neither meet up in the season opener. Sam is Captain-America-in-Waiting, but Bucky is an emotional basket case. He's still fighting demons and nightmares, while struggling through his own psychic version of a twelve-step-program. (Rule One? Don't do anything illegal. Rule 2? Don't hurt anyone …) He may well be a recidivist-in-waiting.

Will fans like all this? Seriously. Do we even have to ask?

BOTTOM LINE A wild ride (as expected), better still a promising one.

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