Year Released; 2016
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie
(PG-13, 146 minutes)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“Sometimes I just want to punch you in your perfect teeth.” Iron Man to Captain America
Step back, Iron Man. There’s a new man in town. Well, actually a very old one, but he’s the best looking 96-year-old we’ve ever seen.
Strange the reversals in this latest Avengers/Captain America installment. Tony Stark took our breath away in 2008:
Iron Man, a brilliantly cast Robert Downey Jr., is missing Superman’s extra terrestrial powers, milk drinking Spiderman’s nerdy innocence, and Batman’s earnest angst. He’s more like America’s version of 007, insouciant, bold, and brash. Like James Bond he has a way with the ladies, but our Tony Stark doesn’t have to answer to any prim M, seeing he is no British bureaucrat but the head of his very own capitalistic venture, one dedicated to inventing the most lethally efficient weapons in the world.
But just as in James Bond and sadly, even Sherlock Holmes, the inevitable deconstruction began, as we noticed way back in 2013’s Iron Man 3:
Is Tony Stark morphing into a metrosexual? Has he been paling around with Pepper Potts (or Gwyeneth Paltrow) too much lately? Yeah, the bad boy is certainly more sensitive, caring and committed in this third installment, a better man, so to speak. That doesn't mean we have to like it, though.
Our manly superhero is vulnerable now, just like the similarly neutered James Bond, “pinch-faced and anemic looking,” or the deconstructed Sherlock Homes, “dependent and pathetic” who now confronts us weekly on CBS.
Yes, in today's film Captain America is the real star. And yet only 5 years ago, when he debuted in Captain America: The First Avenger, even his name itself was a shock:
It is also nothing short of amazing that this film is so unabashedly patriotic. Even the title is something we might have predicted would be laughed out of Hollywood just a few years ago, when it was so firmly fixed on rendering blame, doubt and despair upon our military in such critically acclaimed films such as In the Valley of Elah, which ends with Tommy Lee Jones hanging the American flag upside down from his front porch.
Yes, he came off as a little too brittle and self-righteous in 2012’s The Avengers , but started to evolve in Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014. There the guns were aimed at our own, with the punishment going to be pre-emptive, aimed at anyone deemed a threat.
Captain American in 2014, was not amused: “I thought the punishment usually came after the crime. You hold a gun on everyone on Earth and call it protection. This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”
He is the first to see the same problem in this latest film, when the government seeks to rein in the Avengers. However, Tony Stark, seeking to please Pepper Potts, seems to have put his manly parts in a lock box and now bows down to the wise judgment of the United Nations, that esteemed body of fairness and integrity:
Steve Rogers: No, but it's run by people with agendas and agendas change.
Tony Stark: That's good! That's why I'm here. When I realized what my weapons were capable of in the wrong hands, I shut it down. Stopped manufacturing.
Steve Rogers: Tony, you *chose* to do that. If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don't think we should go? What if there's somewhere we need to go and they don't let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.
That last line is worth repeating: "We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own."
Of course, the film isn’t a Socratic dialogue on the merits of Tony’s acquiescence to administrative restraint vs. Captain America’s resistance to it.
You are not going to fill those expensive theater seats with that. Instead, we have plenty of rock ‘m sock ‘m action to hash it out. Captain America’s titanium shield is up against Iron Man’s suit.
Black Widow uses her lethal and lovely legs to stop the bad guys and even spars with her bud, the good Captain, after siding with Tony.
The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) dons his metallic wings and even has a pet drone, being once again the Captain’s wingman, while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) bored with retirement and repeated perfect golf scores, is ready to use his lethal archery skills again.
Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is the wild card here, trying to cope with her special powers and how to control them, all the while finding house arrest not quite as bad with the company of a sympathetic Vision (Paul Bettany), who even tries his hand at cooking Paprikash to please the Eastern European.
We have some interesting newcomers, too. Ant Man (Paul Rudd), actually morphs into Giant Man for a critical battle sequence, his loyalty to Captain American so great that he risks tearing himself in two to deliver the goods.
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is African royalty with his own agenda and a lust for revenge that propels him forward.
And finally, a very adolescent Spider Man (Tom Holland) recruited by Tony, provides more comic relief that firepower, as his skills are almost as untested and raw as his superhero teen personality.
Taste this first summer blockbuster in the 13th outing of the Marvel franchise. It still is as delicious as a chocolate fudge sundae.
Pretty soon all the Avengers are tamped down by the government. Either they sign the U.N. accords limiting their powers, or they are restrained.
Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen, is under a sort of house arrest, even if it is a beautiful apartment on a large estate. A gilded cage, however golden, is still a cage. To raise her spirits, Vision cooks her some paprikash, from her native country of Sokovia.
See if our recipe for Chicken Paprikash meets your approval. With dumplings, sour cream, and a fine dusting of paprika, how can we miss?
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, with skin
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 cup of water. Gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups of flour to make a stiff batter. Using two spoons, scoop out some batter with one spoon and use the second to scrap off the spoonful of batter into the boiling water. Repeat until several dumplings are cooking. Cook dumplings for 10 minutes or until they float to the top; then lift from the water and drain in a colander or sieve. Rinse with warm water.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and add chicken; cook until lightly browned, turning once. Add onion to skillet and cook 5 to 8 minutes more. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of water, and season with paprika, salt, and pepper; cook 10 minutes more, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.
Stir 2 tablespoons of flour into sour cream; then slowly stir into the onion mixture remaining in the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
To serve, add dumplings to the sour cream/onion mixture, then spoon onto dinner plates adding a piece of chicken.