Captain America proves he’s the mightiest cinematic attraction of the Marvel universe with a film that exudes all that is great about this brilliant superhero franchise…
The Avengers are being forced into UN regulation after an opening explosive mishap on top of all their collateral damage from previous films. This creates an ideological and practical divide in the team as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) resists the regulation, whilst Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) welcomes it. When the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Rogers’ childhood friend, Bucky resurfaces, the tension in the super team is amplified and battle lines are drawn.
Marvel’s initial gamble that has now generated a hugely successful cinematic universe has produced maybe it’s best film yet. The showdown of Captain America vs Iron Man scared the more well-known characters of Batman v Superman into moving its release date. Comparisons are inevitable especially as everything Dawn of Justice got wrong Civil War gets oh so right. This is a film to enjoy not endure.
Marvel have earned this showdown on an emotional level. These characters have developed over a number of films allowing the audience to understand their motivation. You appreciate Tony Stark’s turmoil as he is tortured by guilt and his own failings. His motivation for regulation and control is as believable as Rogers’ resistance of it. Robert Downey Jnr is on a career high finding a new and fresh depth to a character he has been playing for over eight years.
The marketing campaign emphasised the divide with #teamcap or #teamironman. However the brilliance of the narrative is sympathising with both positions. But this is a Captain America film not an Avengers film, as it continues the Winter Soldier storyline. The story is brave enough to have Rogers appear unreasonable to a fault in the protection of his friend. Both Cap and Iron Man are equally right and wrong.
The initial serious tone is well balanced with a lightness of touch and humour associated with the Marvel studio brand. The DC world tried to rush itself to a level playing field shoehorning in a number of characters. Here Marvel shows them how it is done by expertly introducing Black Panther and Spider-man in a seemingly already crowded film.
In the safe hands of Marvel, in about 20 minutes of screen time, they have created the ultimate realisation of the teenage superhero Spider-man (Tom Holland). A character I was tired of before this film and now cannot wait to see more of. His interaction especially with Stark is witty and refreshing. Along with Ant Man (Paul Rudd), the teenager has some of the best character moments of the film. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is essential to the plot which burdens him with a solemn outlook. However, his brawling action is intense and exciting, with his character left in an interesting position for his future stand-alone film.
The film is a continuation from the events of Age Of Ultron with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and the Vision still discovering the meaning and responsibility of their powers. Meanwhile, Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky have some lovely moments like bickering siblings vying for the attention of their idolised big brother Steve. The Winter Soldier does become slightly more than a machine with glimpses of his lost humanity.
Whist Civil War fits comfortably into the Marvel formula it avoids some previously derided tropes. There is no super villain with the middle name ‘the’. Refreshingly instead we have Zemo played with a pathos and gravitas by Daniel Bruhl. It is a satisfying isolated story that put pieces into place emotionally and geographically, but never guilty of heavy-handed future world building like Iron Man 2 or Dawn of Justice. Happily it also avoids the third act “city falling / being destroyed” and takes the plot into some unexpected corners.
It is not a perfect movie, after a strong opening action sequence there is perhaps too much globetrotting exposition and introduction. This leads to a stairwell fight not as good as the recent one in Marvel’s Netflix Daredevil series. Also, the opening third relies too heavily on the Bourne-esque shaky cam intrusive perspective.
But after that the Russo brothers hit you with the best action scene marvel has ever produced. The airport showdown with confident choreography and humour is a superhero cinematic triumph. For the rest of the film my heart was thumping with tension and excitement from the emotional and physical impact of the film. It has an extensive running time but this never bothered me once it hits its stride.
This is the marvel dream team doing what it does best. With all the high critical praise and personal hopes my expectation was sky high. My expectation was exceeded. What is a five star film? Does five stars mean a perfect film? I gave my previous favourite Marvel films Guardians of the Galaxy and The Winter Soldier four stars. Civil War is not without flaws, but it is an unmissable event that deserves a cinematic viewing that will leave you grinning and emotionally drained.