Director: Joe and Anthony Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.*, Scarlett Johannson, Sebastian Stan
Have I Seen it Before: Even after the somewhat lackluster impact of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and the incredibly frustrating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) only months before, my appetite for superhero mega mashups had not abated.
Did I Like It: Yes…
It’s worth trying to decide what the movie really is. Is it the trilogy capper of the tale of Steve Rogers (Evans) started in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Or is it Avengers 2.5?
I may be in the minority, but I still tend to think of it in the prior aspect. And in that respect, it largely succeeds. Cap’s idealism that was thoroughly quashed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) makes a comeback here, stronger but changed. The friendship between Cap and Bucky Barnes (Stan) comes full circle, and by the end Cap feels as if he has fully joined the world around him, even if that world has changed significantly since he first set out to find his place in it.
And yet, it’s hard to ignore the trappings of this kind of story. It’s a big, sprawling international stories. It brings characters from other franchises into the festivities. It introduces new heroes—and iconic ones, at that—into the Marvel universe. It is also a makeshift entry into the Avengers franchise.
Robert Downey Jr. brings his skills to full bear here, and it would have been iffy to not give him as much to do as this film does. Also really expensive. Tom Holland enters as a full-on delight, simultaneously channeling the essence of prime 80s-era Michael J. Fox and instantly erasing the memory of Andrew Garfield. Given the maddeningly little amount of time that we spend with Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), it’s nice to see a little more of their awkward courtship.
So, it actually works as an Avengers film as well. I think I’ve decided that it can be both Cap film and Avengers movie, especially because it works as both. If one really needs a cohesive version of this film, it is most likely the greatest dramatization (certainly in the context of a big-budget fare) of somebody trying to introduce and assimilate their old friends to their new friends. It’s always awkward.
But ultimately, Captain America here solidifies his reputation as the secret weapon of the first three phases of the MCU. Iron Man was the face and the heart, but even he had to contend with the average quality of Iron Man 2 (2010) and the debatable quality of Iron Man 3** (2013). Thor never reached his potential until Thor Ragnarok (2017). Cap had three solid films, and each are in a particularized genre. World War II epic, mid-70s conspiracy thriller, and now 2010s Superhero event. There’s something to be said for that.
*It took me a solid minute to decide who to put in the top billing there. The film credits Evans first, and I opted to go that route, although an argument can be made in the other direction.
**For the record, I am solidly #teamironmanthree