For the first hour of its running time, the somewhat inevitable Captain America sequel is not what you expect. For one, for a film based on the most square jawed of square jawed heroes appears to have the beginnings of a subversive streak. Secondly, the usual mismatched buddy aspect that has driven the other Marvel films of late is missing, replaced by something far sparkier (and a welcome relief from a more serious, down to ear,h plot). If it unfortunately slides into a more conventional Marvel pattern during the last half hour, it is at least more interesting in the manner in which it gets there. This isn’t top flight summer blockbuster territory (it doesn’t really explore any deeper issues then “big government is bad”), but it is solid entertainment.
Key to this is the interplay between Evans’ Cap and Johannson’s Black Widow, not exactly flirting but riffing off each other in that best-friends-who-happen-to-be-the-opposite-sex way. Their relationship lightens the mood between the unusually bruising action scenes (skirting the 12/15 divide in a similar fashion to The Dark Knight – if somewhat clearer on the moral spectrum), all filmed with a sense of urgency and directness that we haven’t seen from the studio before. If it chooses to move away from superhero franchises then it would do well to look at this as a model. A car chase sequence near the beginning feels far more dangerous than anything we’ve seen in this universe before, there is the possibility that things may not go well. If it sometimes lacks the will to got through with the threat there’s a sense that it’s possibly studio interference rather than directorial intent.
After the strong start (and this really is the best first half of a film that the studio has done, there’s no sense of filler to bring in new potential characters to the franchise) it all becomes a little formulaic. The end battle is a little to large and unwieldy (the prior one on a freeway would make afar better ending given the low tech thrills of the rest of the film) and the supposed villain of the title is little more than a sideline – one that probably has more of a role in forthcoming films. It recovers its experimentation come the end, things moving forward for the universe are not as clear cut as before, but it feels a little bit disappointing after the excellent first hour.
Is it worth seeing on the big screen? Well, technically it shares the same high values as other films in the franchise and it is better acted than the others, but it would possibly work better on a small screen where the immediacy of the action and the low key aspect of the heroics makes it feel smaller.