PrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount

Somewhere in the middle of the molten mess which was Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, released to almost universal derision a couple of months ago, was the potentially-intriguing notion of superhero accountability; who’s to blame when the death toll rises and the buildings start to fall and who’s powerful enough to reign in this new breed of heroes and impose a form of governance upon people with extraordinary, terrifying abilities? BvS fudged the question horribly, of course, disintegrating into mindless fisticuffs between two rather boring men in capes who eventually (and metaphorically) decided to kiss and make up and become best friends forever when they discovered their mothers had the same name. Trust the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe to run with broadly the same idea in Captain America: Civil War, the first title in a brave and bold third phase of feature films and trust Marvel to, yet again, show their shabby rivals a clean pair of heels. By any standards, Civil War is an extraordinary film; richly-populated, densely-plotted and packed with nods and references to almost all those MCU films which have gone before, topped off with some barnstorming cameos, the odd surprise (we won’t spoil it for you) and, when you least expect it, some moments of genuine pathos and emotional heft. This is a film which is, in many ways, the pay-off to a run of films which began with Iron Man in 2008 and fans will be rewarded with a movie which revels in a fictional universe intricately and carefully nurtured ever since and it does it because it’s earned it; the film knows that its audience will appreciate its kisses to the past because, by and large, the audience has been with these movies each and every step of the way.

It’d be easy to dismiss Civil War as Avengers 2.5, but this is absolutely a Captain America movie through and through. Granted, it’s a film about The Avengers and most of the team’s familiar faces are present and correct, but Steve Rogers/Captain America drives the film’s narrative and powers its central conceit and his relationship with Tony Stark is absolutely central to the film’s beating heart. As the film begins we’re a year on from Age of Ultron and the Avengers – Cap, Falcon, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Natasha (Black Widow) – are in Nigeria knocking lumps out of a bunch of terrorists determined to get their hands on a deadly biological weapon. But during the battle, there’s more death and destruction and the world’s governments have finally had enough of superheroes wantonly hurtling around the world causing chaos and carnage wherever they go. In the wake of the events of Age of Ultron, they’ve come up with the Sokovia Accords, an impressively chunky document which seeks to impose massive restrictions on the Avengers’ activities, removing their independence and allowing them to be deployed strictly on the say-so of the Accord’s governing body. Not unnaturally this causes an immediate and massive schism within the ranks of the Avengers. Tony Stark, jaded and battle-weary, supports the new initiative but Steve is adamant that the group should be allowed to go about its business unfettered and unrestricted. As some of the Avengers prepare to sign the Accord in Vienna and Steve has to deal with another very personal loss, a new atrocity results in further loss of life and it appears that The Winter Soldier, Cap’s old wartime sparring partner Bucky Barnes, now a violent, reprogrammed killing machine, is responsible. Battle lines are inevitably drawn as Steve searches for Bucky before the others – including vengeful catsuit-clad newcomer Black Panther, the alter ego of T’Challa, leader of tiny South African nation Wakanda – can bring him to justice. Meanwhile, the mysterious and manipulative Zemo (Bruhl) is working to his own bitter agenda unbeknownst to the shattered Avengers. The World’s Greatest Heroes are torn in half and as they prepare for battle, new recruits are drafted in to swell their numbers; the Falcon calls upon his former one-off sparring partner Ant-Man and Tony Stark takes a trip to New York to have a quiet word with a certain web-spinning teenager who’s been making quite a name for himself in the crime-fighting stakes...

Make no mistake, this is a dense, tightly-packed film and yet, unlike BvS (which is of a similar length) the pace never drags, the story never sags and the action, when it comes, is so fantastically, wonderfully exhilarating. The airfield clash between the two Avenger factions and their temporary new recruits is perhaps the purest, most glorious and prolonged comic strip superhero sequence yet committed to film and it’s unremittingly wonderful. We know what to expect as Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow, The Vision and the rest fly into action but the lithe and imposing Black Panther, Rudd’s Ant-Man and, especially, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, bring a thrilling new dimension to the dynamic. Holland, a more boyish Peter Parker/Spider-Man than we’ve seen before, is virtually pitch-perfect, capturing the spirit and essence of the character in one short dialogue sequence with Tony Stark and, in battle, trading quips and revelling in the joy of being superhuman in ways that his cinematic predecessors never could. It’s the most astonishing and pulsating sequence in a movie which has the guts and the guile to deliver a more intimate and heart-stopping finale as Captain America and Iron Man, faced now with the truth about a tragedy from his own past, duke it out in one last slugfest in which, for a while, it looks as if there can really only be one victor.

Captain America: Civil War¸in the end, never puts a foot wrong. A smart, witty script gives everyone in the huge cast something to do – no-one feels shoehorned in, no-one feels short-changed – and the film works because of its tight, clever, intricate storyline and, more importantly, because Marvel has taken the time to build and develop these characters and make them seem, underneath their armour and their elaborate costumes, like real people with real fears and foibles and emotions. Hardcore comic fans may quibble at liberties taken with the original Civil War comic storyline but this is a story designed for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the fans who have flocked to these characters across the last decade. It’s a magnificent action film, it’s a wonderful character piece, it’s big, brash, bursting with confidence and brio; it’s Marvel firing on all cylinders just when, by rights, we might be expecting the law of diminishing returns to set in. Not a bit of it. Not only is this the best Marvel movie yet, it’s also quite possibly the best superhero movie ever made. With the rather brilliant Russo Brothers already on board to direct the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars two-parter, we’re already counting the days....


Expected Rating: 9 out of 10
Actual Rating: 

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-1 #3 Fro 2016-04-23 05:33
Great review and my feeling exactly! I saw it a week ago during its 20 city prescreening. The hype is real, this movie is incredible.

And before the crazy fanboys come BvS came out a little over a month ago, 2 superheros fighting, very similar themes, its completely fair to compare the two and its not the 1st time its been done. Even the great Roger Ebert did the same in 1998 with his armageddon review comparing it with deep impact. So, yea.
+2 #2 MikeyD 2016-04-22 03:55
Quoting NotKevinFeige:
You mentioned BvS in your review. Whether you realize it or not, you just unleashed the horde of insecure fanboys on yourself!

Doesn't matter what he said. Positive reviews for Civil War that don't mention Boredom v Suckdom are still being accused of being paid Disney shills.
0 #1 NotKevinFeige 2016-04-21 21:48
You mentioned BvS in your review. Whether you realize it or not, you just unleashed the horde of insecure fanboys on yourself!

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