The third film in Phase II of Marvel’s storming of the film world sees Steve Rogers working as an Agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. while he adjusts to life in the modern world. Rogers is beginning to question the methods of S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s clear that the events of The Avengers have had an adverse effect on how humans view the security of our planet.
Rogers’ suspicions start when, in an enthralling sequence, Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D agents, secure a trespassing S.H.I.E.L.D. ship packed with pirates, while Scarlett Johnasson‘s Black Widow sets off on a unique rogue mission. The scene throws you straight into the movie setting up the fast paced action, gripping combat and political themes. Community director’s Joe and Anthony Russo discussed the influence of The Raid before the film’s release and you can see that stimulus in the combat sequences. Throughout this film we see a much more finely tuned and sleeker Captain America, who harnesses his superpowers to great effect. The returning performances are improved, except when Jackson is channelling; himself from that Siri advert, in his solo scenes.
We then start to see the effects the fear caused by the Chitauri invasion has had on humanity’s freedom. After Fury reveals 3 brand new helicarriers that are designed to scrutinise and eliminate terrorist threats before they occur. Rogers professes that “…this isn’t freedom, this is fear.” Perhaps a less than subtle allegory here? During this very exchange Rogers fires off several one-liners such as “I thought the punishment usually came after the crime” and “You’re holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection.” Although the subversion isn’t subtle it gives us an answer to those who dismiss Captain America as just a cheesy, patriotic novelty. The plot is huge which does produce a lot of exposition, but to no detriment of the film. The action and movement of the story is so intense you barely notice the constant explanation of what is happening.
The film’s great achievement is the many surprises; it plays out like a 70s thriller. The inclusion of Robert Redford suggests influence from Three Days Of Condor, but Coppolla‘s The Conversation is a better touchstone. There is also influence from the Bourne franchise, as the 95 year old hero has his own institution turning against him, as he heads out on his own to save the world. The perfect weapon in the fight for national security and civil liberty, becomes the target. The real success of this Marvel instalment is the thematic bravery. Phase I of Marvel’s cinematic universe set S.H.I.E.L.D up as a high-tech, advanced and intelligent security council that has no “independent adjudicator” so to speak. In this post-NSA world; aren’t they the bad guys? The ninth film in this universe pushes and pushes it’s allegorical nature to the point of suggesting US foreign policy is tinged with Nazi tyranny. Hey and the Stan Lee cameo is funny.
Oozing with relevance, well made combat scenes and fast paced action set pieces, this sequel has very little time to relax. And if you can put up with Basil Exposition you will be rewarded with a thrilling superhero movie that is a real game changer. (And a Pulp Fiction reference near the end.)