This is probably the first Marvel film that deserves to be talked about in the same breathe as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy – because this is simply breathtaking stuff.
The main reason behind this is the Russo Brothers’ managing to control so many superheroes across multiple acts without ‘losing control’ – and giving most of them notable screen time. And two characters are no more noteworthy than the spectacular debuts of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther – who really add weight to an already established superhero list. Even Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo, for once, provides a villain with multiple facets, that is a marked deviation from the usual bad guy stereotype. But this ‘Avengers 2.5’ actioner is a ultimately a Captain America (Chris Evans) v Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) story – that is kind of centred on Cap’s ‘bromance’ with long-time friend Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). When things go ‘south’ as the Avengers track down Cap’s nemesis Brock ‘Crossbones’ Rumlow (Frank Grillo) in Nigeria – leading to some civilians casualties – worldwide political powers now want the team to be governed after previous mass destruction in New York and Sokovia, and made accountable for their actions.
This causes a major rift between former allies, messrs Steve Rogers, who is against the idea, and Tony Stark, who is for it, leading to a separation of loyalties between the collective – as William Hurt’s (The Incredible Hulk) Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross looks to enforce the ruling.
And when Wakanda’s African King T’Chaka (John Kani) is assassinated by a seemingly ‘rogue’ Winter Soldier, it unleashes Prince T’Challa – aka new ‘bad ass’ Black Panther – into the mix, which further spices things up. This basically sets up the start of the final act with Cap, Winter Soldier, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) versus Iron Man, Black Panther, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany) and – unless you’ve been living under a rock this ain’t a ‘spoiler’ no more – Spidey.
And it’s freakin’ awesome. Yep, there’s one or two of them holding back their punches, but for the most part, it’s worth the admission price alone.
In the meantime Zemo, who has connections – and a dark ‘twist’ final act secret – to the program that created the Winter Soldier, is orchestrating his own plan to literally tear the Avengers apart. It’s not completely flawless; after an explosive opening the next hour is a slow-burner as the plot is established, the interlude between the explosive superhero battle and the final act drags a touch, Martin Freeman’s character seems a little pointless – and a couple of the superheroes like Cheadle’s War Machine don’t quite cut it with the rest. But when there’s an understandable lull or two, it’s not just Downey Jr (see his great scene with Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May) who comes to the rescue in the humour stakes, with Bettany’s Vision, and particularly Holland’s Webslinger, stealing the limelight to provide the important comic relief. When all said and done the slight pacing issues and minor gripes probably just prevent it from ‘classic’ status, but with so much going on – and the sum of its part are all added up – the Russo Brothers provide cinema-goers with a controlled explosion that deserves immense credit. More so than any other film in the Marvel canon. For one, Cap v Iron Man is a damn sight better than Batman v Superman – and shows Disney’s sister studio is right at the top of its game. With the Russo’s the Infinity War two-parter is as safe as Cap’s shield – and let’s hope there’s plenty of room for the show-stealing Spidey too. War... it’s fantastic.
Review by Gavin Miller