The thing about superhero movies nowadays is that even the good ones can falter due to the influx of the sub-genre tiring out an audience. Point is, they need to do something different, brave, ballsy or unique to thrive and while the Marvel Studios machine has a reputation for setting the standard for both quality and quantity, there is no doubt that the formula is getting familiar. Third act syndrome, world building sub-plots, smirky cool heroes, etc. We know the drill and after the overstuffed and uninvolving Age of Ultron, there were a few fears that Marvel’s approach may start to get stale and too much. Well, suffice to say, they were listening because Civil War, much like The Winter Soldier, is Marvel going darker and more thematic but not at the expense of fun.
Civil War centres on a rift in the Avengers team, as Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve “Captain America” Rodgers (Chris Evans) are at loggerheads when the government wants the Avengers to be reigned in, due to their reckless ways. Stark believes they need keeping in check but Cap believes that the only way to guarantee the safety of the world is to rely on themselves. These opposing views are soon worsened by the increasingly hostile tensions surrounding these heroes and soon it becomes a sheer battle of attrition among the world’s mightiest protagonists. Obviously there is more to it than this but for the sake of those few who have yet to see this film, we are being as general as possible regarding plot – character we can be a bit more detailed with (the trailers certainly have).
Despite fears that the MCU may become too tangled, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s startling screenplay gives literally everyone a part to play in a film that is less about heroes clobbering each other, than it is about the consequences of war. The whole film delivers engaging action sequences (the Lagos battle, central airport scene, closing fight) of course but never needs to pad out the film with them, instead the action is all underpinned by a very prevalent message of how one man with vengeance in his heart can bring down the world’s greatest powers and about how the collateral damages of warfare can often be the most important and tragic losses of all. For the first time in Marvel’s history, the stakes feel high, the consequences are revealed and the emotive climax has us all guessing as to what might happen.
Some may feel the film cops out on going as far as it can but by the end of the film, for any lightness, we feel as though the MCU has been irreparably altered and that things may never be the same again. Evans and Downer Jr. have become these heroes and their performances anchor the script’s emotive punches, while Sebastian Stan gets chance to develop his character of Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes even further and becomes crucial to the twisty and compelling narrative. Add to this the copious amounts of well placed characters, with Johansson’s Black Widow being the conflicted soldier unsure of whether to by her duty or her heart and Daniel Brühl’s convention avoiding villain, being the brilliant master manipulator, who brings down gods driven by determination and a thirst for revenge.
We could go on for days about the cast list here but the condensed version is all play a part in this puzzle from Elizabeth Olsen’s (far better handled than last time) Scarlett Witch and Paul Bettany’s more relevant Vision to Chadwick Boseman’s cooler than ice debut as Black Panther, to even Frank Grillo’s brief turn as Crossbones (who is the fuse for the main narrative). And as for a certain web-slinger, well lets just say Tom Holland has already showed us why we should be excited for Spidey’s Homecoming next year.
Civil War is near to perfect comic book entertainment, because it not only picks up on arcs from the source material but also regularly walks its own cinematic path. Instilled with contemporary ideology and large scaled entertainment, the Russo’s have shown their caliber at balancing a huge amount of material and helming not only a coherent picture but also an exciting one. The hype has been huge and it is not hard to see why, for Civil War changes the formula of Marvel Studios, creating a movie that is at once exciting and alarming, as it has much to say about the fractured world we live in and how it can even bring down the mightiest and strongest among us. An awesome achievement that has terrific action, engrossing drama and too many good performances to list in a single review, this genre is booming and blooming.
Special Features: Extended Scenes, Featurettes, Gag Reel, Directors Commentary, Sneak Peek
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR / CERT: 12A / DIRECTORS: ANTHONY RUSSO, JOE RUSSO / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER MARKUS, STEPHEN MCFEELY / STARRING: CHRIS EVANS, ROBERT DOWNEY JR., SCARLETT JOHANSSON, CHADWICK BOSEMAN, SEBASTIAN STAN, ELIZABETH OLSEN, DANIEL BRÜHL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 9/10