UK Release Date: 29th April 2016
Runtime: 147 minutes
Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Emily VanCamp, Daniel Brühl, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd
Synopsis: Superheroes squabble over a document that would see them fall under state control.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has, by now, racked up its fair share of death and destruction. Cities have been levelled, bones have been broken and people have been killed. All of that carnage has a cost and it’s one that Marvel has now found itself forced to address in a big way. DC had a go at dissecting the aftermath of superhero mayhem with the dismal Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That battle of the behemoths, though, is destined to fall into obscurity given the outright success of Captain America: Civil War, which is one of Marvel’s most accomplished movies to date.
After an operation gone wrong, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself on the wrong side of a dispute with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). The latter is backing the controversial ‘Sokovia Accords’, which would see superheroes fall under the control of the UN. Largely due to his fugitive friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Steve is not on the side of the accords and would like to see superheroes pick their own battles. The Avengers promptly choose sides, but where will newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) pledge their loyalties?
The first thing that has to be said about Civil War is that it does a terrific job of utilising its enormous ensemble cast. The rather unwieldy Avengers: Age of Ultron had major problems with giving everyone something meaningful to do, bloating the movie to a remarkable degree. However, the Russo brothers – returning after their tremendous work on The Winter Soldier – pull this job off with consummate elegance, with help from a great script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. It showcases just how strongly Marvel has built its roster that this is possible, particularly whilst providing strong introductions for new heroes as well.
This is a film, though, about Captain America’s relationship with two close friends – Tony and Bucky. Tony represents the present to which Steve is still trying to adjust, whilst Bucky is the last vestige of his past. This struggle at the centre of Steve’s personality is played very well by Evans, but it’s Downey Jr who gets the more interesting character arc. He has always had something of a combative, machismo-fuelled relationship with Steve, but this becomes a deep ideological divide during Civil War. Tony has always been unsure of his role as a superhero and, after Age of Ultron, he no longer trusts himself to wield his great power with the great responsibility it requires. Add to the equation the cerebral work of Daniel Brühl‘s icy, manipulative puppet master and this is a superhero movie with real character depth.
That’s not say that Civil War shortchanges its audience in terms of action. The Russos produce some of the franchise’s best fights, particularly in the case of the “splash page” sequence at a German airport that has been the centrepiece of the marketing material. It’s an extended smackdown that provides bruising mayhem, but is also a barrage of the quotable quips and wisecracking wit that has become the hallmark of Marvel. This proves a capable introduction for Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who is the perfect epitome of a youngster desperate to impress his superhuman idols. The best newcomer award, though, must go to Chadwick Boseman, who imbues his Panther with real emotional motivation and genuine likeability.
By the time the credits roll on Civil War, there’s no doubt that the MCU is in a completely different place to where it was at the end of Age of Ultron. This is a movie with titanic consequences for all of the heroes that make up the Avengers, as well as a solid introduction for some newbies and a thoroughly satisfying comic book spectacle on top of all that. And not an Infinity Stone in sight.* Take that, Thanos!
For more thoughts on Captain America: Civil War, check out our spoiler-filled podcast special.
Pop or Poop?
It might be a two and a half hour superhero blockbuster, but Captain America: Civil War has the energy and technical mastery to emerge as one of the better films in the Marvel ouevre. The Russos have the courage to take characters in interesting and new directions, whilst deftly reshuffling the deck for the upcoming Infinity War movies.
The old cast are on top form and new additions get the chance to make a big impression. It’s bad news for comic book detractors because the Marvel juggernaut is showing no signs of fatigue.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
* I am thoroughly aware that the Mind Stone is in Vision’s head. But this is definitely a deviation from the “collecting the stones” plotline.