Just recently, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit our screens with a setup premise of superhero against superhero, and while the hype surrounding that film was immense, the movie ended up being a joyless, disappointing mess of a movie. With Captain America: Civil War on the other hand, the Russo Brothers and Marvel have not only made a film that is vastly superior to Zack Snyder’s troubled production on every possible level, but they have made both the best Marvel movie to date and one of the greatest comic-book/superhero movies of all time. Ever since its release in 2007, the Civil War storyline shook up the Marvel universe in the comics, and with the film, that same impact has happened again, and after this film, everything changes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all the better for it.
Many people have referred to this as Avengers 2.5, but this feels like a Captain America movie, as it should be. It begins and ends with Cap, it’s basically his storyline that started in The First Avenger, progressed forward with The Winter Soldier and the two Avengers movies, and here with Civil War, you see his story close on a hugely satisfying note. Thanks to the writing-duo of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who also wrote Winter Soldier together), this is a superbly written movie, being a story that isn’t afraid of taking huge risks that a lot of other comic-book/superhero movies have been afraid to tackle (and for a good reason though) and show us something that felt brand new and exciting, making us more emotionally invested in the characters than we have been before.
The tension and conflict between the two superhero factions was built up as the story progressed, so when the actual war begins, it feels real and earned, and you know and understand what both sides are fighting for and why. Because of this, you constantly flip-flop between the two sides, not fully deciding as to whose side you’re really on, and that just shows how much rich and deep character development has gone into this film. While it is true that you don’t have to watch the previous MCU movies to understand what’s going on, it is highly recommended to have seen the previous twelve movies and spend all that time with these characters in order for that emotional investment to hit hard here. This seems like the first Marvel movie to have serious repercussions, and it cleverly deals with annoying plot holes and inconsistencies of the previous films in the MCU.
As far as the action sequences go, each and every action setpiece here is pulse-pounding with superb choreography and holds a few surprises, which the trailers actually left out for a change. The much-talked-about airport battle was simply sublime, being not just the best action sequence yet seen in a superhero flick, but one of the best action scenes in cinema history. And that finale? At long last, we have something that’s different; the final confrontation between Captain America and Iron Man is so small and personal, yet the events of it is what makes it tower over other entries in the franchise. It doesn’t take a floating city or an alien invasion to make it epic, but by God was it epic as a result of its emotional impact.
The entire cast brings their A-game with Chris Evans delivering his best performance as the titular hero to date, whilst Robert Downey Jr. shows a new and darker side to Iron Man that we have never seen before in the other movies. The rest of the supporting cast are also great with particular standouts being Elizabeth Olsen who is emotionally compelling as Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany adding a more human layer to the Vision, and Paul Rudd is simply hilarious as Ant-Man and has just ascended my superhero-ranking list (you’ll see why). This movie had to develop the already established heroes whilst also setting up and introducing two new heroes to the universe and as far as Black Panther is concerned, Chadwick Boseman is amazing. His origin story and the character-arc he’s given here doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in as he’s given the time and respect he deserves, his action style is immense and Boseman is fearsome in the role.
However, the big concern everyone had and the key aspect everyone was so intrigued by is, of course, Spider-Man, and there was no one that was more concerned than me. Out of all the countless superheroes in history, the one superhero that had always resonated with me and had always been my personal favourite was Spider-Man, and in cinema, the character and his world just lost his way thanks to Sam Raimi’s terrible Spider-Man 3 and Marc Webb average attempt at rebooting the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man movies. With Spidey now back home at Marvel and making his big introduction into the MCU here, did all the hard work pay off? One-hundred per cent yes! This is, hands down, the best on-screen version of the web-slinger to date, and every single aspect of the character and his world is nailed, being by far the best part about the movie. It felt new and fresh, reminding us why Spider-Man is such a beloved character, and the film does a superb job at showing us both sides of the character (Peter Parker and Spider-Man), plus his powers and abilities are handled fantastically. It’s all thanks to Tom Holland that we believe him as Spider-Man and he does a phenomenal job at being both vulnerable and hilariously charismatic at the same time, plus you do get the sense that he is just a young kid that’s starting out. Also, having Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is a stroke of genius. This is the Spider-Man we’ve all been waiting for, and that just makes it all the more exciting for the solo movie.
As far as the negatives go, the only problem is with the central villain in Helmut Zemo. Despite Daniel Bruhl giving a solid performance, his character felt contrived and his motivations makes little sense, but that is only a minor niggle and at least he’s easier to understand than Jesse Eisenberg’s terrible Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman. As for the post credit scenes, the first is solid if weirdly structured, but the second is a perfect, tantalising little teaser for a movie that is heading our way next year.
All in all, Captain America: Civil War is a damn near perfect Marvel movie, being the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and being a true testament to its genre. It’s the most grown-up Marvel film yet seen, addressing things on a human level, and ironically, this is what Batman v Superman tried and failed to be. Each and every character is given their moment to shine (particularly Spidey), and takes the MCU to new peaks and heights, and crucially, it’s one of those films that really benefits from repeat viewings.
Dir: Anthony and Joe Russo
Scr: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFreely
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, William Hurt, Daniel Bruhl
Prd: Kevin Feige
DOP: Trent Opaloch
Music: Henry Jackman
Run time: 147 mins
Captain America: Civil War is out now in cinemas.