Captain America: Civil War Film Review (No spoilers)

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Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Junior, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Daniel Brühl

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo

Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Please note: deemed spoiler free on the caveat that viewers have seen the trailers for this film.

What’s it about?

1 year after Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers are involved in another political incident and enough is enough for the powers that be – they introduce an international law to govern the Avengers and make them accountable for their actions. Whilst Iron Man, motivated by guilt over his actions that prompted Age of Ultron, is all for the act, Captain America is not. The Avengers are torn into two factions, and the schism widens as war erupts between them. All the while, some new players enter the game…

In review

The highly anticipated Captain America: Civil War has finally premiered, and it’s good, naturally. First off:

  • Yes, despite the cast size it is still very much a Captain America film, not another Avengers film. Despite that, everyone gets a chance to shine, not only in bombastic action porn sequences but also with quieter character moments. Markus and McFeely have crafted an amazing screenplay, although it drops off a little past the first act. As for our new major players…
  • Spider-Man is amazing, naturally, though I will add the caveat that Tom Holland didn’t have to carry the whole film like he will next year in Spider-Man: Homecoming. From the amount of Spidey that is seen in the film though, it looks like they’ve got Spider-Man right. His chemistry with RDJ’s Iron Man is very good and I can’t wait to see how they’ll be bouncing off each other in Homecoming next year. I can also confirm that not only is he good with the thwip-thwip, he’s also good with the quip-quip.
  • Black Panther – the other major player being introduced in Civil War, Chadwick Boseman knocks it straight out of the park, giving the Black Panther the aura of not only regality but also a deep, human element to him. The accent that he invented for his character is also quite charming and a musical delight. When the film ends, there’s no doubt in anyone’s minds that the Black Panther film is going to be a real game changer in the MCU, just in time for the events of Avengers: Infinity War – Part One.
  • There are 2 scenes after the film – one mid-credits and one post-credits sequence. Not that it matters, because one should stay for the entire film, credits and all anyway as a sign of respect.
  • In case anyone is wondering – I didn’t particularly lean towards any one side when I entered the building; I wanted to let the film persuade me. It still hasn’t done that.

Captain America: Civil War has a lot to appreciate, with a deeply personal narrative for so many characters – Captain America himself naturally, but also Iron Man, the Winter Soldier, Black Panther and even Spider-Man. Following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the governments of the world are rather understandably concerned about the Avengers and their lack of regard for sovereign borders, along with the collateral that follows them wherever they go.

One final international incident proves to be the tipping point, and the United Nations drafts the Sokovia Accords, to ensure that the Avengers answer to a UN panel. Avengers both past and present are divided straight down the middle over this proposed governance. When the Winter Soldier is framed for an additional incident, Captain America is pushed into being an outright outlaw, bringing about half the Avengers over to his side. Faced with the possibility of Cap et al. being brought in with lethal force, Iron Man brings over some of his compatriots as well, including the one and only amazing Spider-Man. And he is amazing. Quite possibly the best live-action Spider-Man so far, although as I said before, let’s not count our eggs before they hatch. We’ll see how well he really stacks up in Spider-Man: Homecoming next year, but if this is any indication, he should absolutely kill it.

Action is top notch, with characters such as Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Captain America and Black Panther also giving us a visual feast of peak human to superhuman physical prowess. We’ve already seen the first three in action before, so I’ll skip straight to Black Panther. Quite simply, Chadwick Boseman and his stunt double are incredible, truly embodying the grace and power of a large wild cat. With the addition of superpowers into the mix…well let’s just say that the airport battle is straight out the best ever superhero fight scene to grace cinema.

The performances are as good, or better, than they have ever been. Despite being a supporting character in this film, Robert Downey Junior gives his best turn as the Armoured Avenger yet and, I would dare say, makes it as much Iron Man 4 as it is Captain America 3. And on the subject of RDJ – he’s also recently said that he thinks that he has it in him to do one more Iron Man standalone adventure! With him already confirmed to be appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War, it seems Marvel is willing to pay as much as they need to in order to get their most bankable and (arguably) best actor on board for as many films as possible. And with Infinity War set to change the entirety of the MCU as we know it, it’s important to still make sure that as we proceed into Phase 4 onwards that there’s still continuity and that this is still the same universe that began with Iron Man back in 2008.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow suffered somewhat from the bloated cast, but they still managed to work in a couple of quiet moments to showcase the strength of her friendship with Cap, which was nice to see. As for the titular hero – Chris Evans knocked it out of the park in the final instalment of the Captain America trilogy, and seeing his shenanigans with Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was a real treat. The villain, Daniel Brühl’s Helmut Zemo, was very human and his grievance is grounded, a comeuppance of all that has gone before. An arrow fired straight into the Avengers’ heart.

Suffice to say though, all the thespians were amazing, though some were under-utilised in my opinion. The film is filled with a lot of shoutouts to the original Civil War miniseries back in 2006, and whilst I couldn’t pick up that many Easter eggs, each one that I did are sure to have comic book fans geeking out.

The negatives? Well, this is a Marvel Studios production, so of course they have to have their stamp of humour. But when the film’s premise is as serious as this is, Marvel’s need to be fun and lighthearted is more than a little detrimental, pulling one outside of the film on several occasions. That said, when Spider-Man throws out quips in battle, it’s an absolute joy to see and feels exactly like a page ripped straight out of the comics. I cannot say enough good things about Holland’s Spider-Man.

Past the incredible, mind-blowing first act, the film seemed to taper off from its high start, not quite reaching that level of excellence again save for a few choice scenes. For example: whilst the airport battle between the two Avengers factions was bombastic and incredible, the sad truth is that it also is probably dramatically unnecessary and had a very good chance of being avoided. Exhilarating as it is to watch, one cannot help but facepalm when they realise that the characters we’ve come to know and love so much are fighting when they didn’t need to. Moreover, without giving things away, let me just say that the ideological conflict has been very oversold, which was frustrating to see because the film turns from a study in accountability to ultimately a petty squabble between children.

I also had definite character issues with actions taken by both Cap and Iron Man – whilst the former is stinging from a recent catastrophic failure, and yes, Bucky is the last link to his past, I’m not sure he quite realises the consequences that his actions have for those who follow him. Same goes for Iron Man, when he…oh, spoiler. Bummer. Admittedly, they are both under immense amounts of stress, and so that would have caused them to act out of character…but still. And, I suppose that there weren’t enough characters to make it work and it would have made the film a bit bloated but I was still a little peeved that there was no neutral third side, just focusing on doing their job and doing it right.

Bottom line: I did have issues with the film. But they’re not cripplingly so and perhaps that’s just me. Perhaps the spectacular first act, not to mention my own exceedingly high expectations, made me more down on the rest that I should be. It has strong emotional beats to accompany its action – the best of any Marvel film ever, in my opinion. It is a very good film, that is most certainly worth seeing, and I will be doing so again very soon myself (tomorrow, most likely). All in all though, it’s a very solid new instalment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a very strong start to Marvel Studios’ Phase 3. Moreover, it bodes very well for the even bigger two-part Avengers movie, Infinity War coming in 2018 and 2019, which has the Russo brothers, Markus and McFeely, and of course all the Avengers returning, along with some new faces. The game is on.

Once you guys have seen it, let me know your thoughts on the film –  I’d be interested to hear what you make of it.

 

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