Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland and Daniel Brühl
Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Cert: 12A Running Time: 147 minutes

In the most ambitious of the Marvel movies yet, directors Anthony and Joe Russo  (returning after the brilliant Captain America: Winter Soldier), have served up no less than twelve super heroes in what is perhaps the greatest collection of costumed crime fighters ever to share screen time. So well woven now is their universe, that they fit seamlessly into the film’s narrative framework – the heroes torn apart when forced to consider the destruction and unavoidable collateral damage that comes with taking down the bad guys.

As with the recent Batman V Superman, the question of whether these heroes are good for mankind or a danger to them is examined at depth and having caused massive destruction in Sokovia (in Age of Ultron) and on a recent mission in Lagos that went awry thanks to Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), they are being corralled to sign an accord that will see them sent only on UN sanctioned missions as opposed to deciding threats for themselves. Faced with the mother of a recent American fatality at their hands, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) is inclined to sign, whereas Captain America (Chris Evans), believes “the safest hands are still our own” and that having someone else choose compromises what they do. Having laid the foundations for conflict between the two men in Age of Ultron, it feels entirely plausible that their principles and perspective could differ so strongly as to make them enemies and all that remains is for the others (Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Falcon) to choose where their beliefs and loyalties lie.

So far so serious and before it threatens to succumb to the weight of its moral high ground, writers’ Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely inject the film with a huge dose of fun. Key to this is the arrival to the Marvel universe at last of Spiderman (Tom Holland). A giddy teenager who adores Tony Stark, Spiderman is a brilliant addition to team Iron Man bringing his unique skills and youthful exuberance to the fight.  Black Panther too (played by Chadwick Boseman) is a welcome sight, a mysterious fighter who not only has the coolest costume but the moves, agility and claws to match. And then there’s Ant Man. Just the sight of Paul Rudd brings a smile to your face and the much trailered airport showdown is a highlight, worth the price of admission alone.

While the running time is pretty exhaustive at 147 minutes, the film does rocket along and though much of the action focuses on the various bouts between Avengers, it does have a villain in the form of Daniel Brühl, who is terrific as the soft spoken Zemo, keen to get a one-to-one with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), suspected of a bombing in Europe. Strong support is on hand with the likes of William Hurt, Martin Freeman (convincing with a US accent) and Marisa Tomei as Spiderman’s ‘hot’ Aunt May, whose chemistry with charmer Downey Jr. is still fizzing since 1994’s Only You. We also get another heady dose of nostalgia in a supposed flashback to Tony’s childhood where we see a teenage Downey, perfectly rendered, similar to the age-defying magic worked on Michael Douglas in Ant Man, which is strangely peculiar but a wonder to behold.

This being a Captain America movie it would be remiss not to mention Chris Evan’s performance. As always, he nails the action – no amount of CGI can magic the sheer scale of those pecs but he has made Captain America a throwback icon, a soldier from another time constantly trying to adapt, yet hold on tightly to the good old fashioned principles he grew up with and Evans proves more than capable of making him believable and strangely vulnerable when it comes to his past. There are moments though where the script feels heavy-handed. At one point Falcon (Anthony Mackie) throws in a reference to Mark Fuhrman from the O.J. Simpson trial which jars in such escapist entertainment, while the dialogue in a key fight between Iron Man and Captain America doesn’t always hit the mark. However these are minor quibbles in what is a wholly entertaining film.

The Russo brothers’ deliver both on heart-stopping action and story, staying the right side of the narrative so that it doesn’t feel like a vehicle just to put two (or twelve) of our favourite heroes against each other for no other reason than to see who’d beat the crap out of who. If that’s the money shot for you, you won’t be disappointed but neither will those looking for a little more meat on their superhero bones.


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