4 stars

Marvel Studios continues to school the movie business on how to do comic book movies right. The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies series that led to the Team-Up movie Avengers and its sequel have all been great, and this outing for the Boyscout with Biceps is no exception. Steve Rogers, played by the effortlessly virile Chris Evans, picks up where he left off in his last solo outing Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Having broken the programming of his brainwashed WWII buddy Bucky Barnes, Rogers opens the movie continuing his search for his friend while also leading missions for the Avengers.

When yet another such mission leads to heavy collateral damage, the US Secretary of Defense (William Hurt) comes down on the team like a ton of bricks, insisting the members either agree to government oversight or retire permanently from the superhero business. Rogers declines, having seen the abuses of government-run superhero programs first hand, and wishing to trust his own rock solid moral code over national interest. Unfortunately, his teammate Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) views the choice facing them as analogous to gun control, with dangerous superheroes needing regulation; here the subtext being the profligate Stark’s fear of being able to appropriately regulate himself.

What? Subtext in a superhero movie? Yes indeed. This central triadic story of the relationship between Steve Rogers, Buckey Barnes (the excellent Sebastian Stan) and Tony Stark anchors the movie. This is a good thing because otherwise it might float away inflated as it is by its role as the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe™. Call it the Team-Up Movie 2.0 – The Crossover. Crossovers are an invention from the comic books, usually yearly events where most if not all of the characters published by Marvel would appear in a coordinated storyline that would spread over a dozen titles.

In this case, the screenwriters pull in all the characters from recent movies including our insectizoid friends Ant-Man and Spider-Man, the latter character finally released from Sony Picture’s clutches. It’s not that the second act free-for-all between twelve superheroes isn’t fun, it absolutely is, and the directors handle the action expertly. But I found the third act three hero brawl with Cap and Bucky taking on Iron Man so much more compelling. As such I can’t say I am looking forward to the future of the Marvel Crossover movie — the next in the pipeline, Avengers: Infinity War will reportedly feature a battlefield three or four times more crowded.


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