And Starring Jeff Goldblum as Jeff Goldblum (Thor: Ragnarok, 2017)

Thor_Ragnarok_PosterThor has been a fun character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is cheerful, boisterous and powerful.  He is also boastful and over confident. This drove his first film, while the second film seemed a bit aimless.

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor had a vision of the end of Asgard.  He left to get answers and was missing for Civil War.  After Thor and Loki locate Odin, they are warned of the coming of Hela…their sister and the goddess of death Almost immediately Hela arrives and destroys Thor’s hammer. In their fight, Thor and Loki are separated and tossed into space.  While Hela conquers Asgard, Thor finds himself on the planet Sakaar. Captured by the Grandmaster Thor must fight in the Contest of Champions..and the champion he must defeat? His pal Hulk.

Marvel has done pretty well in tapping directors with limited experience in big budget films and having it work out in their favor.  Here they brought on New Zealander Taika Waititi, who is known for his unique comedies.  Check out the films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in Shadows and while laughing, you will likely not think “a Super Hero movie is next!”. But it pays off.

Thor is full of great action and humor.  Unlike the previous two films, which were very earth centric, Earth has a brief cameo in the beginning.  Otherwise the film is heavily focused on Asgard.  To be frank, the previous films really failed to let Jane Foster shine and the relationship never had the strength of either Tony and Pepper or Steve and Peggy.  So, the film quickly addresses that “they broke up”.

The film works to give most of the leads “something to come back from”. Thor must figure out who he is without his hammer, Hulk must get back to Banner, Valkyrie must reclaim her glorious standing as an Asgardian Warrior.  There is not a lot to these arcs, of course, but the performances and interplay of the characters make it almost easy to miss.

The cast really makes the film.  Hemsworth and Hiddleston have a solid chemistry together, where you buy right into their weird sibling relationship in which Loki will betray Thor over and over and Thor is still going to give him a chance.  Tessa Thompson gives a real spark to Valkyrie, who could have been a pretty one note character.  Cate Blanchett’s Hela is actually not any deeper than previous Marvel Cinematic villains, but Blanchett seems to have had a lot of fun in the role and the result is that I enjoyed her as a villain. It was great to see Mark Ruffalo back as Bruce Banner.  The character is a bit shell shocked, which makes sense, as he has been “hulked out” for about two years, ever since the rampage in Age of Ultron.

And of course, there is Jeff Goldblum.  The actor you hire when you want a Jeff Goldblum-esque performance. But seriously, Goldblum always delivers, and his Grandmaster is the Jeff Goldblumiest thing you will see all year.  Unless Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum in another film before December 31st, 2017.

Thor: Ragnarok is a real blast of a film.  It is light hearted, exciting and quite funny.

Swing High (Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2017)

Spider-Man-Homecoming-PosterSpider-Man has the distinction of having been rebooted three times in the last fifteen years.  Both the Raimi Films and the Marc Webb films have good points.  Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is a high point for super-hero themed films.  But they also never quite fully got Spider-Man as a character.  Maguire’s Peter Parker could be to goofy, while Garfield’s Peter was to moody and mopey.

Sony hit some hard times, made all the worse by a major hack that exposed all sorts of internal issues.  One thing it revealed?  Sony had talked with Marvel about a deal that would allow Spider-Man to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The talks fell apart before the hack.  But this brought them back to life.

Sony decided to let Marvel bring a heavy creative hand in.  In exchange, Sony got to include MCU characters in their Spider-Films.  The MCU introduced Spider-Man into their world via Captain America: Civil War.  Spider-Man was a highlight of that film.  And rather than try to retrofit Peter Parker in, as if Spider-Man had been there all along… they stepped into his career early, so he is new on the scene.

Homecoming picks up roughly eight months after Civil War, with Peter enjoying using his Stark supplied super-suit and anxiously awaiting his next big Avengers mission.  Which seems to never come along.  Instead, Peter races around trying to get better by fighting street crime and helping lost old ladies.  His day to day life has, of course, been tougher since Tony Stark has come into his life, and he starts to withdraw to make more time.  He dreams of beautiful classmate Liz and hangs out with his closest friend Gan-uh-Ned.  Of course, he makes a major discovery, the adults don’t listen and Peter over-confidently decides to take on guys who may be out of his league.

One of the refreshing story points is that this is not about Peter learning about “with Great Power comes Great Responsibility”…at this point, he has learned that lesson.  We only get vague reference to Uncle Ben’s death.  In fact, the origin of Spider-Man is tossed out in a two second exchange.

Holland’s Peter Parker is sweet and awkward…his Spider-Man is quippy, but still learning.  He is not yet the confident Peter Parker, he practices lines, tries to get into a good pose before alerting bad guys to his presence.  But of the previous film versions, this is easily the strongest portrayal of Peter.  He may be in-experienced, but there are just so many things that make this version…well Spider-Man.

The rest of the cast of characters are updated in some interesting ways.  Ned Leeds is really Ganke from the Miles Morales Spider-Man comics, and he is a very fun character.  This is largely due to the comic timing and enthusiasm of actor Jacob Batalon.  I was most hesitant about Marisa Tomei as Aunt May…not because of her acting ability…but because she is only a few years older than me…and she feels more youthful and vibrant than traditional portrayals of Aunt May.  But I ended up really liking her in the role.

Michael Keaton’s Vulture is a terrific improvement on the character.  I never really cared for the comic version…he never seemed like he was all that much of a threat.  And the green suit did not help.  Keaton’s performance is solid and menacing…yet his motives are understandable.  He is a guy who wants to provide for his family, and saw secret government agencies undercutting his business.  He turns to crime to make up for that.  The Vulture look is a nice combination of modern with hints of his original look.  It works very well.

The action scenes are all nice and effective.  Sometimes these films can get confusing during busy action scenes.  Homecoming makes the action easy to follow.  And the film is infused with humor.  While theses were not absent from the previous versions, it is much more present here.  And yet, the humor is not at the expense of Peter’s character.  He feels the heavy weight of responsibility, regardless of his experience.

Admittedly, the film does not break new ground for Spider-Man…but I think it may be the best of the Spider-Man films so far.  Or, at worst, a close second to Raimi’s second Spider-Man film.  This is a fun film, and fun should be part of (a lot more) super-hero films.  Being overseen by Marvel, there are plenty of easter eggs…but what Marvel is usually really good about is that the easter eggs are a bonus for fans who love the comics…and if you have not read the comics, you won’t feel like you are missing something.

Honestly, I recommend seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming in the theater.  It benefits from being seen with an audience.

Love is the Weapon (Wonder Woman, 2017)

wonder_woman_posterThere has been a lot of hype declaring that Wonder Woman is the best of the DC movies so far.  But that is not fair to the film.  Wonder Woman only had to be mediocre to rise to the top.  Wonder Woman is a much stronger film than that.  While Batman and Superman have had multiple appearances on movie screens, this is Wonder Woman’s first film in her 25 year history.  This in spite of the fact that she is an iconic character, she is part of DC’s “Holy Trinity” along with Batman and Superman.

It is no secret that despite financial success, the DC Cinematic Universe has hit a lot of speed bumps.  There have been things to like in previous outings, but overall, the films had a dark oppressive tone and frankly, Snyder and Company really did not get Superman at all.  One of the big pluses of Batman V Superman was, in fact Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.  Enough so that I felt encouraged by the film.  It help that it was in the hands of a director other than Snyder.

And what do you know?  It worked.  Wonder Woman is an origin tale, which is no surprise.  But the film opens with a beautiful sense of awe on the island of Themyscira (or as Steve Trevor calls it “Paradise Island”).  We see warriors training, being watched by young Diana.  She want to learn to fight, but her mother Hippolyta is adamant she will not be trained.  As time passes, Diana learns combat in secret, much to the disappointment of her mother.  Hippolyta eventually relents, but demands Diana be trained harder than any Amazon before her.

When a pilot on the run from the Germans crashes into the ocean near Themyscira it is clear that the war (World War 1) may come to them.  Diana makes impassioned pleas to her mother that the Amazon’s must step in and join the war.  In the end, she sneaks off the Island with Trevor to find and destroy the Greek god of war, Ares.

Diana is cast in the role of wide eyed innocent in a world she does not quite understand.  And the film follows largely in suit.  She has moments of child like wonder.  For example, sshe sees a baby-something she never saw on her island home-home and instantly wants to run over to it.  She tastes ice cream and tells the vendor that they should be very proud.  Even the sexual humor is polite in this film.  Yet, the innocence is not at the expense of Wonder Woman’s character.  No, it is integral to her nobility.  She believes the best.  She believes mankind was created to be good and noble, only corrupted by Ares’ cruel nature.  And then she must come to terms with the fact that this may not be the case.  Mankind may be capable of both greatness and the worst.

It is the little moments of goodness that start to drive Diana, as she sees the small treasures in the band of mercenaries she and Steve are saddled with.  At one point, one of the men buckles in combat, unable to do the one thing he was brought there to do.  When he suggests they leave him behind, Diana looks to him with a gentle smile and asks who would sing for them?  This instantly changes his spirit.  And that is the thing with Wonder Woman.  She is a fierce warrior.  She is powerful and dangerous.  But she is driven by kindness.  She is drive by love.  She is driven by hope.  And that is something that was missing in the DC Cinematic Universe.  A *hopeful* tone.  This is what the first Wonder Woman movie brought us.  Light in a dark movie universe.

There was a lot of talk about how Warner Brothers took a real gamble on Patty Jenkins as director.  That is a whole other discussion.  But if it was a gamble?  It paid off.  And Gal Gadot is proving herself to be the right choice for the role.  She has grace and kindness, but is equally convincing as a warrior.

Wonder Woman is most certainly the best DC film, in large part due to the fact that it really understands it’s hero.

Lost to An Alternate Universe?

So, the day Sony and Disney drop the new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer (which was met with a pretty positive response) producer Amy Pascal drops the bomb.

One of the things that I think is so amazing about this experience is that you don’t have studios deciding to work together to make a film very often.

In fact, it may never happen again–after we do the sequel.

It appears Sony is hoping to pull Peter back into their fold-out of the Marvel  Cinematic Universe.  We probably should have seen this coming, after Sony announced plans for their own Spider-Verse, starting with an ‘R’ rated Venom movie.  Sony and Pascal seem to be misreading this situation.

Sony had some success in 2002 and 2004 with the Spider-Man franchise when it was headed by Sam Raimi.  But after the mess of Spider-Man 3 and then a somewhat lackluster reboot…Sony was floundering.  They made the deal with Disney after the big hack two years ago humiliated the studio.

Marvel Studios, on the other hand, won praise for Peter Parker’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War.  The previous incarnations of Spider-Man tended to get aspects right, but Marvel’s team pretty much got it all right.

And I suspect that everything that looks so good about Spider-Man: Homecoming is from the Marvel Studio’s side.  Backing out and taking him out after the next sequel and Avengers: Infinity War would be a mistake.  Sony will, no doubt, mess up their progress.  To remove him from the MCU just to start their own Marvel Universe?  Not a wise decision.

If Sony insists on starting their own Spider-Verse.  I propose the following…

Leave Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper.  Let Marvel continue to handle him.  Instead, create your Sony MCU around Miles Morales from Ultimate Spider-Man.  Sony can double their money and have their alternate Spider-Man themed MCU.  And fans get to see Spider-Man remain in the MCU.

Breaking Down (Logan, 2017)

logan-movie-posterFirst things first.  You might figure this is a super-hero movie and safe for kids.  Logan is a hard ‘R’ and earns it in the first five minutes.

It has been known for quite some time that this was Jackman’s swan song.  Seventeen years is a long time to play the same character.  Just a few days ago Stewart said this was his final time playing Professor X.  And Logan is, without a doubt, a way to go out on top.

Taking the approach of Unforgiven, Logan is set in the not to distant future of 2029.  We meet a Wolverine who is not quite the best at what he does anymore.  He is sickly, he claws don’t work quite as well and his healing abilities are significantly slower.  He drinks, stumbles and is quietly hiding an even more troubled Charles Xavier.  There are hints and references to a massive tragedy that Charles is guilty of causing.  Logan and another mutant  Caliban (who is able to sense and track other mutants) keep Charles drugged because he has seizures that could destroy a city.

Although it is believed mutant kind is essentially wiped out, a young girl named Laura falls into their lap, forcing them to run from a nefarious organization that wants to get her into their possession.

Logan is a dark film, one that feels from the start that it has only one end for our leads.  It is a bloody struggle to get Laura to freedom.  However, it has it’s light moments.  These are primarily between Jackman and Stewart, as well as with Laura.  She is a feral child in some respects and has powers very much like Wolverine’s.

This is most certainly one of the best films in the X-Men franchise.  The story is compelling and the performances engaging.  The quality of the Wolverine films is a rare example of going from bad to great.  Logan is worth a watch.

Something Strange Going On That Wasn’t Here Before (Doctor Strange, 2016)

doctor_strange_posterEvery now and then, Marvel Studios opts for a riskier venture for their tent-pole pictures.  In some cases, such as Thor, the risk is levied by the Avenger’s Connection.  But sometimes, that connection is much thinner.  Guardians of the Galaxy and now Doctor Strange.

And what we have here is another Guardians of the Galaxy result.  Doctor Strange is an exciting, emotional, funny trip of a film.  Benedict Cumberbatch carries an arrogance early on in the film.  Stephen Strange is a truly prideful man, but he has very carefully crafted an image.  When that is all taken away, at the end of his rope, he finds a man that had, similarly faced bodily destruction and appeared to have fully recovered.  He is pointed towards Katmandu and a place called Kamar-Taj.  There he encounters the Ancient One who, with her followers Mordo and Wong, begin to train Strange.

Meanwhile, the rebel Kaecilius and his disciples are trying to for ever alter reality.  Doctor Strange finds himself in the “New York Branch” which leads to battles with Kaecilius and his minions.  With Strange Mordo and Wong coming to a final fight with Kaecilius.

The movie manages to skirt the line of seriousness, but an undercurrent of humor.  The humor is dryer than other Marvel films, but it works, as often Strange finds his attempts at humor falling flat with Wong.  There is a fun payoff with that one.

It is hard to ignore the impressive visuals.  Early trailers made things look like it was ripping off Inception.  But Derrickson and his team actually gave us much more.  The film brings to life those trippy multidimensional visuals that Steve Ditko drew in the 60’s with a beautiful and lush feel.

There has been a lot of controversy over the issue of Tilda Swinton playing the Asian One.  In the comics the character was Asian.  And yeah, it was a pretty blatant “Mystical Asian” stereotype.  Which is what resulted in the choice to cast Swinton.  The film does overcome this.  But as written?  They easily could have cast and Asian actor in the role.  There are not a ton of major roles for Asian actors.  Avoiding stereotypes is done in the script and performance.  And I believe this film would have successfully avoided the stereotype, without making one less role for Asian actors.  I do not believe racism was at Derrickson and his casting teams heart.  I suspect it was an attempt to avoid the very issue of racism.  I think they made a choice I would not.  But Swinton is entertaining in the film.

Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s strongest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It is certainly yet another origin story, but it is handled so very well.  It also has no requirement that you be familiar with the character.  You can enter the film with zero knowledge of the character and fully enjoy this film.

Rebellious Teens (Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-PosterAs with every sequel, things must get bigger and louder.  Unlike the first film, the danger really comes from within.  Tony is obsessed with changing the way things are done by building a peace keeping for that will put an end to the need for the Avengers.  He has been working on an A.I. to watch over the world and prevent tragedy.  Even as the Avengers are in action, he has Iron Man like robots trying to do crowd control.  But the people are not as confident.

When Tony gets access to some Asgardian technology, he recklessly uses it to try and jump a hurdle with his A.I.’s processing power.  Of course it goes wrong, resulting in a mad child called Ultron.  Ultron constantly works to better himself.  And one goal is to put an end to the Avengers.  Not quite in the way Tony anticipated…he was thinking retirement.  Ultron is thinking annihilation.  To better reach those ends, he brings brother and sister Pietro and Wanda Maximoff.  The orphans consented to Hydra experiments that have given them super-powers.  Pietro is the super-fast Quicksilver and Wanda has reality warping powers.

In a confrontation with Ultron, the Scarlet Witch manipulates several Avengers, including the Hulk who goes on a rampage.  Eventually the reveal of Ultron’s plans (including wiping out the human race) horrifies his cohorts.  His continuing evolution actually leads to the introduction of a new character for the MCU.  The Vision is introduced when the Mind Stone and lightening (along with the Jarvis AI) are combined to create the Vision.

Age of Ultron tries to be the Empire Strikes back, and is certainly loaded with darker themes than the previous films.  The performances are strong, and when the Scarlet Witch exposes Iron, Cap, Black Widow, Thor and the Hulk to their greatest fears of their past or potential futures, it threatens to break their bond apart.

The action is top notch.  There are several excellent and memorable fight sequences.  The jokes mostly land (but who thought it was a good idea for Tony to suggest if he can lift Thor’s hammer that he would reinstate the practice of kings sleeping with new brides on their wedding night).  There are a couple running jokes that can be particularly entertain.  The running gag about lifting Thor’s Hammer (which has a very good payoff) is especially fun.

The movie gives more attention to Hawkeye.  There was talk that Renner was very frustrated with the path the character took in the first Avengers.  This may be Whedon’s way of saying “sorry” to Renner.  It also establishes firmly the friendship with Natasha.

The effects are very good.  Vision looks very close to his comic book counterpart, without looking to fake.  Yet he is slightly unnatural.  Which is kind of the point.  Bettany gives life to the role.  It only took his seven years to be more than a voice-over (now he is a motion capture voice-over).

The film faced some criticism over Natasha calling herself a monster to Bruce Banner.  Some viewers felt the takeaway was that Natasha saw herself as a monster due to being sterilized.  I don’t know that I accept it was that clear cut.  Because the film is quite direct that it is the idea that she was a cold and efficient killer, and the folks who sterilized her believed this would make her that cold and efficient killer.  But I will agree it was somewhat clumsy in the writing, and Whedon deserves the credit for that.

In the end, I enjoyed this second outing with the Avengers.  It has some weak points, but nothing that ruined the overall enjoyment.

I Will Avenge Thee (the Avengers, 2012)

Avengers-Movie_PosterThe Avengers was the culmination of four years of effort on the part of Marvel Studios.  They worked to establish their interconnected Universe building up to this.  People were excited and the Marvel Machine had primarily seen success with their films leading up to this.  The first hiccup was losing Edward Norton.  Ed and Marvel could not come to an agreement for the Avengers.  So Marvel brought in the likable Mark Ruffalo.  The other big announcement was that Joss Whedon would direct.  He did not have that many movies under his belt, but he did have a few beloved television series, so as an overseer for the Cinematic Universe, he seemed well suited.

Loki is the central villain of the film, working with an alien race called the Chitari.  The film moves quickly to introduce the core members to each other, with a brief but exciting “Heroes meet, misunderstand the situation and fight” sequence.  This is an old comic book trope, and Whedon makes it work, and does not drag it out.

Once the heroes are brought together, they capture Loki who has a devious plan.  His escape leaves the team in shambles and a supporting character dead (but don’t worry, he got better for the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series).  This, of course, encourages the heroes to band together and defeat Loki and stop the alien invasion.

Whedon proves himself to be quite skilled with both small moments and spectacle.  The final battle is exciting and full of grand heroics as Captain America takes charge.  We see him as a wise strategist.  When a police officer questions why they should listen to his instruction, he takes out an alien assault, no questions as the officer starts telling his men to implement Cap’s plan.

The introduction of Black Widow is pretty classic.  It is one of those “damsel in Distress” sequences where you realize the bad guys never had a chance.  The cast has an amazing amount of chemistry.  Even their bickering is engaging.  The film has the rapid quippy dialog Whedon is known for in shows like Buffy and Firefly.  Ruffalo fits in to the crew seamlessly.  As much as I like Norton and his Bruce Banner, Ruffalo manages to make the character all his own.  It is all quite engaging.

I feel the biggest lapse in judgement is having Hawkeye spend the first half of the film as a possessed lackey of Loki.  It just feels like the character deserves better than that.

While there is weight of imminent destruction, the film never gets too dark.  You have lighter moments to even it all out.  The Avengers was overall a great success that is a lot of fun to watch.

In From the Cold (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014)

TCaptain_America_Winter_Soldier_Posterhe success of both the first film and the Avengers, Captain America was bound to return.  While the First Avenger had a straight forward black and white approach (not to hard when your villains are Nazis) the Winter Soldier is about how far the world has fallen.  Steve’s values are clashing with even the good guys.  He is starting to doubt his missions and his teammates.

The one bright spot is his meeting Sam Wilson, who works with vets in dealing with their experiences and return to civilian life.  Steve is also trying to keep the trust with Natasha (Black Widow).  Meanwhile, Nick Fury seems to be hiding secrets from Cap and the government to boot.

When Alexander Peirce calls for Captain America to be arrested for Treason, the movie shifts into hero on the run trying expose a conspiracy.

This film shakes up the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe* with it’s deep dark conspiracy based plot line.  The primary heme is “Who can you trust?”  And overall it it is handled pretty well.  There are some spectacular action sequences, especially the close quarters of an elevator.  The film has a lot of humor, considering the plot.

The cast is full of charm.  Anthony Mackie’s Falcon is a blast (and off-screen comments indicate Mackie has had a blast playing the character).  Of course, Chris Evans makes a noble and heroic man out of time.  As Black Widow, Johansson is getting a change to build on the role from the Avengers.  Robert Redford brings a  certain gravitas of an elder statesman.

This is a strong and exciting entry in the franchise, and is a nice companion to the First Avenger.

*well, it did for ten minutes.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty much put S.H.I.E.L.D. back in play.

Marvel Begins (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011)

Captain-America-First-Avenger-PosterCaptain America was a hotly debated character for the Marvel Films.  Could a character so tied to American Nationalism be a hero the world loved?  Joe Johnston (who directed Disney’s fun comic book movie the Rocketeer 20 years earlier) was brought in and found a way to make that answer be yes.  Among the choices made were to set the film in World War 2, rather than begin in Present day.  Chris Evans was hired on to play Steve Rogers.  This was not his first foray into a Marvel Property, He was Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four Films.  He was also one of the Evil Exes in Edgar Wright’s adaption of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novels.

The film quickly establishes Steve Rogers as heroic, in spite of his physical weakness.  He will take a beating.  Standing up for him is his buddy ‘Bucky’ Barnes.  This is one of the film’s biggest deviations.  In the comics, Bucky was a teen sidekick to Captain America.  The filmmakers (rightly) realized that may not play so well.  And there is a twist to having Bucky go from Steve’s savior to needing saving by Steve.  Steve’s multiple rejections by the military catch the attention of a part of our military that is looking for someone to be a part of an experiment.  While many try, scrawny Steve Rogers keeps managing to stand out, not by his physical prowess, but by ingenuity.  This catches the eye of British officer Peggy Carter.

One of the things the movie does so well is that they avoid tropes.  Peggy and Steve are smitten before his transformation.  She is impressed by who he is, not what he is.  It would have been easy to make her yet another obstacle for her to notice only after he is physically altered.  And yet, due to a terror incident that destroys the remaining Super Soldier serum, Steve is still unable to see combat.  Instead, he is reduced to a promoter of War Bonds and propaganda.

Evans really sells Roger’s frustration and even feelings of humiliation.  But while on a USO tour, he ends up making a big save, convincing the military they need him.  This leads to crossing paths with the Red Skull, who is determined to rule the world through Hydra.  Hydra begins as an arm of the Nazis, but has it’s own goals.

The film ultimately hangs on Evans to sell the character of Captain America, and boy does he sell it.  He comes off as kind, dedicated to justice and most of all, simply heroic.  He is supported but a great cast of actors.  Tommy Lee Jones is perfectly cast as Colonel Phillips.  Hugo Weaving got one of the better villain roles, since he gets to simply be Nazi Evil Incarnate.  The movie makes the choice to introduce the Howling Commandos (Sans Nick Fury) as the team that works with Cap.  They are an entertaining bunch.

But the standout is Haley Atwell.  She is more than Cap’s love interest.  She is a tough and clever military officer.  But at the same time?  She and Evans have a real solid chemistry, and when the film reaches it’s inevitable conclusion, their exchange (certain Steve is heading to his death) is heartbreaking.

Johnston gives us a terrific film that stands on it’s own, even if part of it’s purpose is to set up the first Avengers film.

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