Captain America: Civil War is a culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began in 2008 with the fantastic Iron-Man. The tensions and differences in ideology, that have been brewing since The Avengers, between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will finally come to fruition, as the two gather their teams and prepare to face off against each other in response to legislation that would see The Avengers fall under the control of the United Nations. Directed by the seemingly infallible Russo Brothers, Captain America: Civil War is equal parts a sequel to Winter Solider and Age of Ultron, as the consequences wrought in those films come to boiling point and pit friends against each other. Whose side will you be on?
This is a question that Civil War plays with throughout the film. There aren’t any established good guys or bad guys (within the heroes that is); everyone is just fighting for what they believe in. Steve has seen too many corrupt governments to ‘believe’ that the Avengers working for the United Nations will see the right people protected from harm, and Tony thinks that The Avengers need to be held accountable for their actions, holding on to guilt of his own for his part in the creation of Ultron, that saw the whole world put in danger. Civil War does such a great job of fleshing out these motivations that, when our two heroes finally come to blows, you believe it and your heart pounds as your mind races, thinking of the shockwaves created by this conflict that will echo throughout the rest of the universe. Credit to The Russo Brothers, as they make you wait before you see all the Avengers go toe to toe with each other, showing restraint and allowing tension to build naturally before unleashing the mother load of all action scenes.
And I’m not exaggerating about this action scene. When Iron-Man’s team (War-Machine, Black Widow, Vision, Black Panther and Spider-Man), go mono e mono with Captain America’s rebels, (Falcon, Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch and Ant-Man), it is truly a thing of beauty. This is possibly the greatest action sequence ever conjured up in a comic book movie, and the standard that future superhero action sequences will be held to. You will be awestruck. You will laugh. You will gasp. You will experience pretty much everything on the emotional spectrum. There are so many moving parts and different characters to balance that it is a testament to The Russo Brothers for managing to pull off such an ambitious sequence. And it is due to the great work done in establishing the opposite sides’ motivations, that the stakes have never been higher which prevent this sequence from feeling like a hollow stunt show.
It is within these moments that Marvel show the true advantage of having an established shared universe. This is very much a conflict between Captain America, Iron Man and The Winter Soldier yet, because of the 8 years worth of movies including other characters, Civil War can call upon them to raise the stakes, make the film feel more spectacular or even just to hammer home the impact of having a divided Avengers. This is a group of people that have grown together over several films; it’s brutal for the audience to see them at each other throats and the added characters only accentuate those feelings. It’s not only the dramatic effect of seeing our heroes fighting, but it’s also an absolute joy to see them bounce off each other. There’s a certainty of tone in Civil War that allows for lighter moments between our heroes, that don’t distract or feel out of place within the dramatic framework of the narrative. The balance of humour and drama is great, with neither getting in the way of each other, making for a more proportioned affair than last summer’s Age of Ultron.
And to talk of those new characters, Spider-Man and Black Panther are fantastic additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Seeing Spider-Man rubbing shoulders with the Avengers was nothing but a pipe-dream 18 months ago, yet here we are and Tom Holland absolutely nails it as our new Peter Parker/Spider-Man, with his moments within the film definitely being of the strongest. It’s kind of hard to tell from his limited screen time but Holland seems to have captured the essence of Peter Parker and Spider-Man in equal amounts to make for the best on-screen combination we have seen thus far. Black Panther holds a larger role within the film, and is absolutely ferocious and something of a wild card in his quest for vengeance. Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with the comic book version of Black Panther but Chadwick Boseman is charismatic and stoic in equal parts, and makes me very excited to see more of his character in his solo film due out next year.
Despite all these new characters and plot lines, Civil War is very much a Captain America film and Chris Evans continues to own this character with charm and dramatic integrity. You really feel Cap struggling with his decisions, and that is only further complicated by the re-emergence of Bucky Barnes, with a lot of themes and plotlines being continued from The Winter Solider (also directed by The Russo Brothers). The relationship between Steve and Bucky is the emotional tent pole of the movie, with Cap’s decision to defend Bucky putting him at odds with the rest of his friends. Throw in Daniel Bruhl’s fascinating Zemo for good measure and Captain America has quite a lot to deal with, not including the Stark in the weaponised, armoured, mechanical suit trying to hunt him down.
There are small discrepancies with the film, such as certain, seemingly important characters having very limited screen time, and in some cases just completely wasted potential. Not too mention a few plot conveniences that are brushed over all too simply, but you will be having too much of a good time with Civil War that you will hardly notice. The film isn’t laboured by setting up future films but makes me very excited all the same to see more of Spider-Man, Black Panther and the rest of the Avengers. This is not only one of Marvel’s strongest outings, but a pinnacle of the genre that few films will come close to competing with this year. All I can do is tip my hat to The Russo brothers. Bravo.