Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, A Snappy, Witty Beatdown
When it comes to the major comic book tentpoles that are being shuffled out with increasing regularity, some viewers have grown a little tired of the city-destroying carnage that has marked many of their climaxes. Marvel, one of the biggest perpetrators of this phenomenon, seems to have listened, as their latest summer romp, Captain America: Civil War, relies more on grounded action set-pieces and character moments than CGI overkill.
Civil War follows a popular run of Marvel comics that sees Captain America and Iron Man take different sides when the world's governments demand that the Avengers become accountable for the excessive collateral damage of their missions. Citizens of the world have become sick of the destruction and, as the US Secretary of State (William Hurt) forces the team to look back over their past mayhem in a board meeting, this may be a tacit acknowledgment on the part of the filmmakers that the world's theater-goers have also grown tired of it.
The finale of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which saw the city of Sokovia lifted from the ground before later being cast down and destroyed, has left a big impression on the MCU's Earth, and prompts the philosophical debate of whether 'enhanced' humans should be allowed to run amok without supervision. Iron Man, War Machine, The Vision and Black Widow agree to sign the Sokovia Treaty in Vienna, while Captain America, with Falcon, and eventually Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye in tow, refuse to. Trouble erupts when someone looking like Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) blows up the conference and puts our heroes at odds. Cap goes after his friend Bucky and the rift within the Avengers begins.
Civil War features a new villain, a mysterious operative played by Daniel Bruhl, but unlike the big baddies of prior MCU films, the real focus of the story remains within the group of crime-fighting superheroes. Following the split, the filmmakers add new characters (Black Panther, Spider-man) or add some from smaller Marvel films (Ant-Man) to effectively give us two groups of Avengers. Rather than fighting bad guys, most of their energy is spent going up against one another. And make no mistake, with a combination of clever choreography and infectious one-liners (especially for Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and new websinger Tom Holland), these are among the very best sequences Marvel has put forward to date. Among the new characters, Chadwick Boseman is fine, if very stoic, as the Black Panther, while Holland is a terrific new Spiderman. Hyperactive, chatty and impressionable, he's a particularly great foil for Iron Man.
This of course is exactly what makes the Marvel films as a whole so appealing. Beyond whatever story each new instalment brings, it's the characters we keep coming back for more and Civil War gives everyone a worthy storyline, avoiding the weaker plots seen last year in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Given the other major comic book blockbuster that has already sounded off this year, this film could easily be called 'Captain America Vs Iron Man', as the central moral conflict is more or less the same. While I didn't hate Batman Vs Superman, Marvel takes a significantly better stab at the quandaries opened up by the ideological schism.
With its colorful characters, snappy script and a reliance on (relatively) restrained and resourceful set pieces, Captain America: Civil War is a fine start to Marvel's Phase 3 and hopefully a hallmark of great things to come. It's also one of the very best Marvel films out there, and a worthy successor to Captain America: Winter Solider. That said, with its many moving parts and desire to please as wide a global audience as possible, the film at times takes on too much, which leads to a 147-minute running time that mostly zips by, but occasionally stalls. Also, given the internal emotional focus of much of the narrative, and its relative lack of a significant threat, when the Avengers: Infinity War films come along, with their space-trotting and significantly higher stakes, it remains to be seen whether this will usher in a new direction, or if it will be business as usual for the comic book studio.
Captain America: Civil War
- Anthony Russo
- Joe Russo
- Christopher Markus (screenplay)
- Stephen McFeely (screenplay)
- Joe Simon (based on the Marvel comics by)
- Jack Kirby (based on the Marvel comics by)
- Chris Evans
- Robert Downey Jr.
- Scarlett Johansson
- Sebastian Stan