Review: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America Civil War poster

This is the second film this year where the good guys are punching each other in the face because of disagreements over how to deal with collateral damage caused during previous films in the franchise. Though instead of two heroes we have about six on each side in this film. Is it too much?

Before I answer this question there’s another, more pressing question at hand: How long can Hollywood keep pumping out superhero films before they reach a critical mass and people get bored? How long can they keep making enough money to continue their franchises into the 2020s and beyond like they’re planned for?

The last few films about costumed crimefighters have left me feeling a bit nonplussed leading me to question whether they’re working any more. Avengers: Age of Ultron was underwhelming with some great bits, Ant Man was fun but not great and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had some great moments but was a complete mess.

Fortunately, for me, Captain America: Civil War raises the bar back up again for this tired genre. It is unfair to compare CA: CW and BvS: DoJ, but it’s inevitable. Where the DC/Warner Brothers film felt like something to endure, despite rattling along, Marvel know how to invite the audience in and have fun. Even when everything is going wrong, it’s still colourful and interesting to look at, except for a certain scene near the end which is heart-wrenching to watch. This can only be achieved after experiencing these characters’ stories over the last eight years and got to know them as (almost) fully rounded characters through multiple movies, something the darker DC/WB films failed at as we don’t know much about any of their current clutch of characters.

It would be fairer to compare CA: CW to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron was potentially a great villain, but the film was mishandled and felt like a film made by committee rather than by an auteur. Once again though, Marvel killed off a great villain, which is what is so refreshing about CA: CW. It is cleverly written by the Russo brother, just like CA: Winter Soldier was and, although Crossbones was killed off in the first scene (bad Marvel!), they have introduced the most calculating villain since Loki in Zemo. And he didn’t even wear a costume or even a uniform.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel oeuvre, you’ll really enjoy this, it has all the colour, panache and witty dialogue you’ve come to expect. But there is also real heartbreak in the fallout from Zemo’s plan and the conclusion of the film has an ellipsis that really makes you wonder where the characters are going to go from here.

CA: CW is the Avengers film we deserved from A: AoU and expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe further, amazingly giving each of the myriad characters enough time to shine in their own right. The film  is stolen by stand out performances from Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther. Ant Man does something you may not expect and there’s a really great bit of misdirection involving Zemo’s plan the Winter Soldier(s).

There’s a heck of a lot going on in this movie, but even so there were two or three moments where the film sags, unlike BvS: DoJ you are acutely aware of how long you’ve been in the cinema during these scenes. But even so you always know what’s going on and each character’s motivation is crystal clear and that’s a testament to the writing and the storytelling that has come before this.

Put simply, I’m really looking forward to the Spider-Man and Black Panther movies, but CA: CW has rejuvenated my interest in the superhero genre, for the time being.

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