The last film I reviewed was about some punching buddies that punched for a bit and then were buddies. Captain America Civil War is about some buddies that decide to punch for a bit too. Two films with a similar premise in a row. One big difference though… and spoilers for my opinion here… but one of these two films didn’t suck a great big one. Batman V Superman is the film that sucks a giant chode by the way. Captain America 3 is a good film… a REAL good film. So, I’m going to avoid spoilers as I want to write a more detailed thing later on, but do click below to carry on to my full review where I say why Civil War succeeds where Batman V Superman failed miserably.
In Captain America Civil War the world has started to have enough of all the destruction the various heroes of the world have been part of. Yes, The Avengers have saved countless lives, but they have also been at the centre of a lot of destruction that caused some civilians to be killed or injured. The UN has enlisted now Secretary of State General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) to convince the superhero team to sign the Sokovia Accord. A document that details when and where The Avengers may be deployed, the rules they must follow. Essentially a UN dictated oversight for their adventures. Some of the group, Led by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) understand the need due to feelings of responsibility and desire to avoid something much worse down the line. Others, led by Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) feel this could be used to stop them from going somewhere they should, or force them to go somewhere they shouldn’t. He believes their safest hands are their own.
This leads to escalating conflict when it appears that Rogers old war buddy and sometimes super powered assassin Bucky, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), appears to bomb the UN building where the Sokovia Accord is being signed killing the king of Wakanda in the process. Steve and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) have been looking for Bucky since the end of the last film and they plan to find him first and uncover the truth. Things start getting more complex now. Captain America is seen as a fugitive, the Wakandan king’s son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) wants Bucky’s head and is more than capable of getting it. To add to all of this it appears someone is attempting to manipulate even more conflict between the two sides of the argument.
Of all the Marvel films to date this has, easily, the most heroes so far. It’s almost silly just how huge this film feels by the end of the second act. I’d even argue that, with the much publicised inclusion of Spider-man (Tom Holland) that this is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe to feel wholly like the comics. Spidey was always this big missing piece of the puzzle. You could argue that The X-Men and Fantastic Four being missing is a big loss but are they really? X-Men works best when concentrated on their own adventures and Fantastic Four has always been… and I may rustle some jimmies here… a B-list team. Tom Holland does a damn fine job of playing Peter parker and Spider-man for the few scenes he’s in. This isn’t just some quick one scene cameo thing either. In the second act there’s an escalation in stakes and each side starts recruiting loyal members. Stark attempts to get the upper hand by bringing in this unknown hero and he’s given just enough scenes to let you get to know him. Also, the film manages to completely step past Spidey’s origin which, hopefully, means the forthcoming Spider-man Homecoming will also. I am so done with that origin story.
The Russos surprised the hell out of me with Winter Soldier. Two guys coming from directing Community and that awful You, Me & Dupree film suddenly came along with one of the best action thriller films in years. Civil War loses some of the spy movie feel of Winter Soldier but is more about a grand scheme of the whole Marvel Universe. There’s certainly going to be some repercussions felt from this film by the time the next Avengers comes about. The action has a number of standout scenes. A Bourne-esuqe stairwell fight, Black Panther going full panther on Bucky and Cap and the film’s centrepiece airport brawl between all the film’s primary characters stand out as well made sequences. That airport fight also delivers on its promises and then delivers some more as the scale of it literally escalates. And that’s not even the film’s finale. The final act leads to a much smaller encounter involving Iron man, Cap and Bucky as the villain Zemo (Daniel Brühl) nudges Iron Man into restarting his fight.
Man, this phrase gets thrown about a load but Civil War is this franchises Empire Strikes Back. I won’t spoil how things end but suffice to say they aren’t 100% well and there’s going to have to be some recovery. There’s a weight to the events and every action means something. No wasted time. No overly long car chases that go nowhere only to have their purpose resolved off camera. There’s jokes, sure, but there’s also a lot of things going badly for everyone. Essentially the film is about a group of egos that have been torn down the centre and us watching as they pick their sides in various ways. The knowledge we have now of these characters after the last few years of films adds weight to their conflict which you just wouldn’t get if you, say, took two poorly characterised heroes we don’t know in their particular universe of films and just forced them into a fight without and meaningful reason only to have them become buddies over the dumbest little thing. Can’t think of a film that did that…
So like I said earlier, I don’t want to spoil too much. There’s a number of other elements and actions that really help this film stand up. It has flaws, such as the few contrivances utilised to force a bigger roster together for the big second act finale, but no scene feels wasted. Nothing happens for no purpose. A few moments are there to serve the action but the payoff to those moments is we get Spider-man and Ant-man fighting each other and I’m OK with that. Zemo could have done with being involved more, maybe brought into the main Cap V Iron Man side of the plot a little earlier, but he’s actually a pretty well fleshed out character with the most human motivation so far. Reminds me a little of Brian Cox’s William Stryker in X-Men 2. He has a real reason, but it’s warped now. He’s a puppet master style villain who’s surprisingly effective at what he does. Overall, it’s a damn fine film that I’d comfortably put in my top 5 Marvel Universe films… though maybe not my top 5 superhero films. I mean, can’t exactly knock Steel out of the top 5 can I? Go see Civil War. Highly recommended.