When you’re as successful as Marvel has been since 2008’s Iron Man, it would become so easy to just phone it in for once.
After all, when you have guaranteed box-office behemoths churning out quicker than a Donald Trump racist, sexist, and any other ‘ist’ comment, you’re allowed to have an off day.
But in a film bursting to the brim with super powered beings, perhaps the real heroes of Captain America: Civil War are the ones behind the camera.
It’s getting to the point where some sort of mercy rule should be imposed on Disney. Owning Star Wars and Marvel, they pretty much own our childhood.
Seriously with the track record they have I’d watch a biographical film of a brussels sprout if they brought one out.
Captain America: Civil War follows on from arguably Marvel’s best film to date in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which blew everyone away for being a 70’s-style-political-thriller-and-superhero-movie-and-award-winner-for-most-hyphons-in-a-genre-title, masterfully helmed by the Russo brothers, who return for Civil War.
There will be comparison upon comparison (fairly or not) with Batman v Superman, mainly because for some reason a select few people think it’s DC vs Marvel, refusing to consider the possibility both are rooting for each other to succeed so the superhero genre continues to flourish, and continues to make both studios what Dr. Evil once termed: ‘One billion gagillion fafillion shabadabalo shabadamillion shabaling shabalomillion yen‘.
People who actually liked Batman v Superman are about as common as a perfect marriage (damn you Will and Kate, damn you), so take it from me (who is one of said fans): Civil War succeeds in a way BvS never did (or set out to for that matter): it’s fun.
So damn fun.
The film manages to be consistenly hilarious in the face of heartbreaking conflict, something commendable when you consider said conflict has been building for so long now, and shouldn’t be a laughing matter when push eventually comes to shove. The conflict between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) has been bubbling away ever since the first Avengers when Captain America dared Iron Man to ‘put on the suit’.
The grand spectacle of the clash is matched only by the emotion behind it. There’s a clear moral divide between the two when the United Nations demands The Avengers agree to act under government authority, a demand made in light of the immense collateral damage caused by their efforts to save the world.
The film’s moral conundrum comes in the form of the United Nations, who demand The Avengers agree to act under government supervision and authority, as a potential defence against the mass loss that has occurred as collateral damage throughout The Avengers’ missions to save the world. Tony Stark is all for it, while Steve Rogers not so much.
Both sides put forward their case and act in such a way that there’s no clear high ground, and that’s the whole beauty of it. You watch these sides fight knowing there’s no clear solution, no ‘Martha’ moment in BvS terms. What could easily be mindless CGI and choreographed fight scenes become so much richer and immersive because of the ground work leading up to it.
Said ground work includes introducing two new characters (you’ve seen them from the trailers so no spoilers): Black Panther and (finally) Spider-Man, played by Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland respectively.
Both are arguably the best parts of the film. With Spider-Man in particular, the Russo brothers play it well in not going into full origin territory. In the last decade there’ve been about as many Spider-Man films as there have been iPhones (the ‘iPhone SE’, are you f*****g kidding me Apple!?), so to see his introduction take roughly five minutes shows a welcome trust in moviegoers to know one of the most recognisable superheroes of all time.
Boseman seems the perfect Black Panther, an air of regality permeating every graceful leap or claw slash.
These two, along with Paul Rudd’s welcome return as Ant-Man, are so wonderfully handled you forget Marvel are trying to shove as much characters into this film than a school kid does toiletries in their bag on the night before camp.
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jnr, Paul Bettany (etc etc) are all fantastic as usual, with Downey Jnr in particular giving the most grounded and emotionally charged performance he has since donning the suit nearly ten years ago now.
Many are talking about that fight scene. You see glimpses of it in the trailers when both sides are running at each other at an airport. Basically, yeah: it’s that good. It’s a throw-down that builds in physical intensity as much as it does emotional. Even better, it pauses at opportune moments to provide quick lines of dialogue reminding you just how much you’ve fallen in love with these characters over the years, making it all the more gut-wrenching (but still kinda awesome) to see them beat the living crap out of each other.
When all is said and done, though, the film remains Captain America’s. His relationship with The Winter Soldier drives a lot of the action and allows for some of the best character moments.
The gripes? Marvel’s achilles heel continues to be their villains. Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) is effectively a walking, talking plot device. He exists solely to get the characters to certain climactic moments, and his motivations are revealed far too late for there to be any emotional resonance or dread towards his character. Perhaps the only other gripe is in relation to Vision in that, for a character who in Age of Ultron was established as having immense power, his abilities seem wasted (and non-existent) for a large part of the main fight.
Aside from that, everything just… works. The film goes for 147 minutes, but not one of them (apart from the Zemo scenes) will leave you underwhelmed. Instead, many of them will leave your eyes beaming, your jaw dropping, your sides aching and your heart pounding.
There are a couple of minor gripes holding it back from perfection, but at the end of the day, Captain America: Civil War marks the high point of a Captain America trilogy that now genuinely challenges (though falls just a hair short in my opinion) Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, which taught us how to love superhero films all those years ago.
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joseph Russo
Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jnr, Scarlett Johannson, Paul Bettany, Daniel Bruhl (and a lot, lot more)
Captain America: Civil War is out now in Australia.