Directed by the Russo Brothers
Marvel, out now
After yet another mission goes wrong and innocent lives are lost, General Ross informs the Avengers that their actions are going to be put under the control of the UN – but Captain America isn’t convinced this is the right move. And that’s before Bucky Barnes – aka the Winter Soldier – attacks a UN meeting…
The last Avengers film didn’t quite hit the spot in the way that either its predecessor, or the previous year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier did; however, in the hands of the Russo Brothers, this new Avengers film most definitely does. What do you mean, it’s not an Avengers film? No matter what the labelling may be, this is quite definitely the next tale in the Avengers saga: with two notable exceptions (one because his film hadn’t happened yet, and the other because the web-slinging wonder in question wasn’t available up till now), the story of everyone who gets caught up in the conflict follows on directly from Age of Ultron.
Superheroes battling superheroes? Haven’t we had that already this year? Yes, we have, and this movie more than makes up for the perceived failings of the DC slugfest. There are superficial thematic connections between them – some of which are spoilery, so I’ll leave you to discover them towards the end of the Marvel film – but in this film, you genuinely don’t know which side to be on, since both Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have elements of right on their side. You understand completely why Steve wants to protect his boyhood chum; you equally understand completely why Tony feels that maybe the Avengers have gone too far and need restraining. You can see why Rhodey would join Tony, and why Hawkeye’s fighting for Cap…
And that’s what makes the epic fight between the two teams work so well – not just the extremely well choreographed three-dimensional airport battle, but the character moments within it, which was something you felt Joss Whedon desperately wanted in Age of Ultron, and didn’t quite come together. The two newbies – Spider-Man and Ant-Man – bring a completely different energy to the battle, and you know nobody’s fighting for the sake of fighting: they all believe right is on their side.
As far as new characters go, we get to spend some time with Paul Bettany’s Vision, seeing his relationship grow with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) – although their next appearance together will be interesting, to say the least. There’s a strong intro for Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, with a solid reason for his heavy involvement in the plotline; likewise for Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe – no huge origin story, thank goodness, just some references to not doing the right thing at the right time (which of course is one of the themes of the movie) and Tom Holland nailing the dichotomy between the quiet Peter Parker and the gobby Spider-Man. In both cases, I’m really looking forward to their solo movies.
The action sequences are shot and edited really well, with Henry Jackman’s music score one of his best, and the Russos use 3D effectively without pushing you out of the story. There’s a good blend of action and drama and, for once, we don’t have the destruction porn ending – the final act reveals the motivation for the villain, and brings everything about the movie down to its basics.
As far as the MCU goes, this isn’t quite on the “bringing SHIELD down” level of Winter Soldier; it does leave the Avengers in a very interesting position, one which I suspect could well be left untouched for a couple of years and the first part of Infinity War. Various portions of the Stark family story are explored (we see a young Tony with his parents); one key character is laid to rest – which allows another character to come out of the shadows, so to speak.
It may be the longest-running MCU movie, but it really doesn’t feel like it – and don’t forget to stay for the end scenes (one in the credits, one at the very end), both of which set some nice things up for the rest of Phase 3.
Verdict: The best MCU movie since The Avengers. 9/10