Number two out of the Marvel traps this year sits somewhere between the fun of Iron Man and a glorified advertisement for the films to come – whilst it isn’t essential to have seen the other films there is a glaring sense that they’re trying to bring the universe together as a coherent whole with this one, and as such the shout outs to the other elements of the franchise can be seen everywhere.
For my money it isn’t quite as fun as Thor was, but it’s better (and has more imagination) than the second Iron Man. Setting everything in WWII certainly gives the superhero franchise a breath on new life, although the director has form on that front (having previously directed the under-rated Rocketeer). It all zips along at a fair old pace with the cast just on the right side of patriotic ham to ensure it never drags too much. Once again it succeeds not through spectacle (it’s the most grounded of all of the Marvel films, and a huge leap from the Wagnerian splendour of Thor) but by having characters you care about.
Once again it’s also nice to see practical effects and stunt work at the fore, and the sets have a pleasing non CGI weight to them (only one shot towards the end betrays the CGI, but by that case you’re swept up in the spectacle of it all.
The ending is a little weak and falls for the same problem that Raiders of the Lost Ark had in having the villain tackle cosmic powers beyond his control – but this is a minor niggle for a film that wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. The question know will be how does Joss Whedon take the distinctive tone of the first three films and weave them together for The Avengers next year?