Captain America: Civil War
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Daniel Bruhl, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Emilie VanCamp, Paul Rudd and Tom Holland. Run Time: 147 Minutes
From time-to-time, there are moments in life, when a question will suddenly pop into your head (more often than not, these moments seem to occur just as you’re drifting off to sleep). A question so immense, so colossal that it cannot possibly be answered at 2.30am on a Wednesday morning. Yet these quandaries are utterly unshakable. For some this question may be ‘What is the meaning of life? Why are we here?’ for others ‘Did I turn off the oven? Can I be bothered to leave my bed to make sure?’ For comic book fans the world over, these questions are more along the lines of ‘I wonder who would win a fight between Captain American and Iron Man? Well I guess that depends on what armour Iron Man is using… Or between Spider-Man and Ant-Man!?’ Marvel Studio’s latest instalment attempts to put a few of these age-old debates to rest.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, sharing only the basic plot of an almost decade-old comic book crossover event of the same name, Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of the events and destructive climaxes of the movies’ predecessors. As it was with the comic book series, collateral damage is the catalyst for change here. When an opening sequence involving the Avengers, Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and his mercenaries results in the deaths of several innocent bystanders, the governments of the world decide that the Avengers have become too dangerous to remain unchecked.
The Sokovia Accords, hand delivered to the Avengers by the Secretary of State, Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (William Hurt), outlines that the Avengers will no longer be able govern themselves. They will instead be at the mercy of a UN panel with the authority to call on the Avengers only when they deem it necessary. A markedly weary Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) seems rather agreeable to the proposal. Weighed down by his own personal guilt, Tony sees the proposal as a middle-ground and in the interest of the greater good, the next logical step in the team’s evolution. Opposing the idea is, of course, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Our star-spangled hero has witnessed enough government scheming first-hand to last his considerable lifetime, and is fearful of such agendas interfering with the Avengers. The explosive return of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) pits our heroes against one another for the first time and all of a sudden half of our heroes are now fugitives. Time to pick a side.
Juggling multiple storylines and so many larger-than-life characters, the film never feels disjointed. The Russo brothers successfully strike a balance between the serious, politically driven elements of the narrative and the lighter qualities inherent to Marvel movies that have been essential to the success of the MCU franchise. For every heavy helping of car chases, expertly choreographed fight scenes or action packed set pieces, there’s equal servings of humour and emotion. Whether that’s through Vision (Paul Bettany) cooking for the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) or when Falcon (Anthony Mackie) informs an over-eager Spider-Man (Tom Holland) that there isn’t usually so much talking during a fight, the film never lets it’s sombre notes detract from the fun and spectacle of the experience.
It’s also the quiet, personal moments between our heroes that keeps us so heavily invested in the outcome of each battle. They’re a dysfunctional, super-powered family, with differing ideologies, as opposed to the usual bad guys versus good guys, set up. We know they’re pulling their punches, we know that War Machine (Don Cheadle) probably isn’t going to blast Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) into a hundred tiny pieces, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be on the edge of your seat when our heroes eventually square-off. Long term Marvel fans already know these characters but there’s enough here to allow newcomers to emotionally invest in these people.
If any criticism could be consistently attributed to Marvel movies in the past, it would be in a lack of memorable villains. With a few obvious exceptions, most villains in the franchise have been rather forgettable. This film bypasses the issue, in that it doesn’t really require a lead villain at all. Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is the man pulling the strings on this occasion, building towards an emotionally charged final battle between our main protagonists. His subtle scheming compliments the intensity of the battles taking place between our feuding heroes throughout. A shrewdly motivated villain, Zemo ties the story arcs together nicely. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of him.
The new additions, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, are given adequate screen time to plant the seeds of anticipation for their own solo outings. Boseman’s stoic King T’Challa adds an interesting new dimension to the team and Holland’s performance as an adolescent, fast-talking Peter Parker could be the best incarnation of the character to date. Despite the embarrassingly large roster each character gets their moment in the spotlight, showcased particularly effectively in the films climactic airport battle, with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) reminding us that you should never underestimate the little guy.
Marvel won’t be breaking their multi-billion dollar mould any time soon and Civil War certainly doesn’t tread any new ground. That may seem like a criticism, it’s not. They’ve developed a winning formula and after almost a decade of story-telling, they’ve almost tweaked it to perfection. The Russo brothers, together with screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have created another booming, emotionally charged epic, and a worthy sequel to their previous effort, 2011’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With these guys calling the shots, The Avengers are in safe hands.