Best. Marvel. Film. Ever. Or yet, at least. Which is saying a lot.
In the aftermath of the destruction in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as a mission gone awry early in this film, the United Nations prepares to ratify accords that would place the Avengers under the control of an international governing body and its agenda. Seeing how that could go very wrong after what happened to SHIELD, Captain America (Chris Evans) refuses to sign on to the new status quo, while the guilty conscience of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) forces him to accept it. When Captain America’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces and is framed for a deadly terrorist bombing, the Avengers are ordered to bring Bucky in. Captain America goes rogue to save his friend, bringing them and their allies into direct conflict with Iron Man and the officially sanctioned Avengers.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) take what they learned making the previous Captain America film, and pump it up to the max. They’re as confident with the big action scenes as they are with the character scenes, and their background in television comedy (Arrested Development, Community) pays off, too. While a Captain America film in name, it might as well be an Avengers film, and with any team film, there are a lot of elements to balance properly if the film is to succeed. Joss Whedon handled it magnificently in The Avengers, while stumbling a bit with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but the Russos take it to another level. Of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films yet, this one feels the most like a comic book in all the best ways, specifically the Marvel comics of the 1970s and ’80s. It’s great news that they’ll return to direct the next two Avengers films.
The screenplay by the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) advances the themes of the previous Captain America and Avengers films, and there’s some thought behind the story here. Responsibility, friendship, revenge, guilt, and consequences are what underlie every action in this film. It’s also laugh out loud funny at times, without taking away from the serious themes. It also expands the MCU by introducing major players Black Panther and Spider-Man, and both of those characters are simply awesome. Even the villain, Helmut Zemo, is a nice change of pace. He’s not another megalomaniac out to rule/destroy the world, he’s just a man whose family were casualties of the battle between the Avengers and Ultron, and he wants the Avengers to share his pain. There are so many characters involved, but they all get their moments to shine and all feel integral to the story. The Vision/Scarlet Witch budding romance in particular is adorable. As for diversity, hot damn, there are three black superheroes on the screen…at the same time even. Major kudos to the screenwriters.
Cinematographer Trent Opaloch (District 9, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) gives the film a sleek, modern look. The colors are a little undersaturated, but pop when they need to. The film was lensed in Germany, Puerto Rico, Iceland, and Atlanta, Georgia (which stands in for Lagos, Nigeria), with studio work at Pinewood Atlanta Studios (where Ant-Man was shot, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is currently filming, and several future MCU films are expected to shoot). The visual effects, led by Industrial Light & Magic’s work, are top notch.
The main returning cast members all put in good work. They’ve played their characters in multiple films now and know them well. Included in that are Evans as Captain America, Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Stan as the Winter Solider, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Paul Bettany as Vision (who adds new nuances to his performance, by turns humorous and touching), Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man (a big part of the major action sequence).
Let me talk about the new cast members. Chadwick Boseman is perfect from the moment he first appears on screen as Prince T’Challa of the African nation of Wakanda, even before he dons the Black Panther costume. There’s a nobility and a sense of honor that really brings the character to life. Driven by revenge at first, by the end he may see things more clearly than any of the others. Meanwhile, Tom Holland is a scene-stealer in his debut as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. Like Boseman, he’s perfectly cast. The humor. The attitude. The sheer nerdiness. It’s all there. I can’t wait to see Black Panther and Spider-Man in their upcoming solo films.
The good across the board cast includes Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Frank Grillo as Crossbones, William Hurt as US Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross (reprising his role from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk), Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo, John Slattery in his third turn as Iron Man’s father Howard Stark, Hope Davis as Iron Man’s mother Maria Stark, Kerry Condon as the voice of Iron Man’s artificial intelligence FRIDAY, Martin Freeman as counter-terrorism specialist Everett K. Ross (now that his Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch has a role in the MCU in the upcoming Doctor Strange, will they meet in a film?), Alfre Woodard as a mother who lost her son in the mayhem of Avengers: Age of Ultron, John Kani as King T’Chaka of Wakanda, and Marisa Tomei as Peter Parker’s Aunt May (for the first time, a lot of people will have the hots for Aunt May). Avengers co-creator Stan Lee has his usual cameo, and it’s a funny one.
In every respect, this film is a huge success, and it immediately goes to the head of the Marvel Cinematic Universe class. It’s truly that good and that entertaining. It’s the first film of the MCU’s Phase Three, and what a way to kick it off. The screenwriters and directors will reunite for Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1, scheduled to be released in 2018, and I can’t wait to see where they take the Avengers after this. Excelsior!