Captain America: Civil War has a lot of expectation to live up to. Not only is it the sequel to arguably the best movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, Captain America: Winter Soldier, it’s also trying to adapt Marvel’s 2006 Civil War story arc with very limited character allowance.
• Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 12A
• Run Time: 147 mins
Thanks to various contractual complications (and studio execs acting like spoilt children), movie directors, the Russo Brothers, have been unable to use key characters from the X-Men, and The Fantastic Four, or any of their expansive catalogue of villains while trying to adapt an incredibly complicated 90+ issue comic book story. On top of this they’re trying to introduce a tonne of new characters, AND please a rather rabid fanbase – all while trying to stay as faithful as creatively (and legally) possible to the source material. The fact they haven’t cracked under the pressure already is commendable.
For these reasons, and the fact that the trailer has made Captain America: Civil War look like Marvel Car Park Fight 2016, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive going in. I understand and love the fact that the movies create their own universe, only looking to the comics for inspiration and not adaptation, but the train wreck that is Batman v Superman has made me extremely cautious about movies trying to fit too much into a restricted time frame.
My main worries going in to Civil War were if the Russo’s could fit so many characters and a massively complicated plot into a 2 hour 27 minute runtime, while doing justice to the inspiration source without it becoming a convoluted mess of a movie.
I’m happy to say, then, that my worry was short lived. Captain America: Civil War is an absolute masterpiece in modern superhero cinema. After several world saving battles, and billions upon billions of dollars worth of damage, the governments of the world are questioning the accountability of The Avengers. The destruction of Sokovia (as seen in Age of Ultron) is the final straw, and leads to the creation of the Sokovia Accords, a set of documents providing regulation of enhanced individuals, that threatens to change The Avengers forever. Signing them will essentially make The Avengers property of the UN, with whoever doesn’t sign them becoming labelled as a rogue enhanced individual, and a possible danger to world security.
This forms the base for the conflict, with Tony Stark aka Iron Man believing someone should be accountable for the collateral damage caused by Avenger activity, and Steve Rogers aka Captain America believing they should remain independent, with they themselves being accountable for their actions. While the accords are being signed, a face from Steve’s past is blamed for an act of terrorism, killing and injuring high profile politicians, including the king of a little known African country. Steve sets out on a mission to prove his friends innocence and find the person responsible, while being hunted by Stark, who is working in line with the Accords and is sworn to bring the accused to justice.
The political intrigue and twists that made Winter Soldier so good are back and turned up to eleven, with new villain Zemo (Daniel Brühl) further grounding the conflict by adding a personal reasoning to his actions which ultimately make him one of the most dangerous villains to grace the MCU. The conflict spans the globe as the two former allies become formidable foes, each bringing in help from other enhanced individuals in support of their ideals. For a conflict that will have repercussions for the rest of Phase 3, and no doubt Phase 4, it is a very personal and contained story.
It highlights the danger of an idea, and the steps someone will take to enforce that idea if they believe themselves to be right. The brilliance of the story is it doesn’t rely on the heroes powers to work. It retains the Tom Clancy-esque feel of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and would be just as engaging, and the consequences just as powerful if you replaced the The Avengers with an all human spec ops team. That might seem like an odd thing to say about a superhero movie, but I mean it in the highest sense of praise.
Despite the size of the roster here, this is very much a Captain America story. The Russo Brothers manage to keep the main focus on Cap and his struggle, while keeping an objective perspective of events, allowing Team Iron Man their say, and giving the audience a chance to chose a side without trying to sway them either way. It’s testament to not only the brilliance of their writing and direction, but also their understanding of the source material and their audience.
And it is very difficult to pick a side. I’ve been Team Cap since Winter Soldier, so of course I went in with full support for the Star Spangled Avenger, but that didn’t stop me questioning his actions. I found myself getting frustrated at both sides, and by the end of the third act I actually felt bad for Tony.
Tony’s journey from alcoholic warmonger to traumatised saviour of the people is something that really comes to a head here, and it’s great to see how much he’s changed over the last eight years, which of course adds further weight to events. Another worry of mine was the inclusion of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and if they’d feel shoehorned in to an already full roster. That worry too was short lived, however, as there introductions are pretty amazing, and surprisingly organic.
The first time Black Panther appeared on screen I got chills. I’m not too familiar with the character in the comics, but Boseman’s portrayal of Wakanda’s protector was so sincere, heartfelt, and ultimately bad ass that I immediately wanted to read more about this character. Here he’s an unstoppable being of vengeance, with a huge part to play in what’s happening. He’s always lurking and watching, but never consumed by his emotions, and it truly was an incredible performance, and I applaud Boseman for being able to balance all those characteristics so well.
Equally as impressive, and far more surprising, was Tom Holland’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man. From his introduction and beyond, he was absolutely Amazing, Spectacular, and in all regards Superior to every Spider-Man we’ve seen on screen before, and it will be interesting to see if he is able to carry his own movie, and make Spider-Man great again with Homecoming.
Holland’s comic timing and delivery is on par with Robert Downey Jr and Paul Rudd, which is impressive for someone his age, and the inclusion of all three of these guys injected a huge dose of much needed humour into a heavy story that could have quite easily fallen into the trap being too dark. Thankfully, Spider-Man is more than just a throw away cameo, playing a rather large part in the aforementioned Car Park Fight, which is actually an Airport and one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie. But that’s not to say the rest are sub par.
All the action sequences in Civil War are phenomenal, which is of little surprise when you realise Chad Stahelski and Dave Leitch John Wick fame were brought on as second unit directors to help out with several action scenes.
What the Russo Brothers have done here should not have been possible. Not only have they outdone themselves in regards to their movie making ability, they have been able to create a version of a much loved story to sit within the already narrative rich MCU, while retaining the heart of the source material, and creating a new mythology and direction for the rest of the movies that follow.
Captain America: Civil War is, in my humble opinion, the best movie in the MCU, outdoing Winter Soldier and Iron Man in way I didn’t think were possible. I can’t wait to see what the Russo’s do with Avengers: Infinity War now, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle a roster bigger than all the movies so far combined.
But for now, I’m going to read some Black Panther comics and wait for date night so I can go and see Civil War again.
If you haven’t seen it yourself already, I highly recommend you do before the weekend is over and the world is covered in spoilers, because there is so much more to the story than myself or the trailers have shared, and you’ll feel like a kid on Christmas morning when you seen them.
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