Daaaamn, Marvel. Back at it again with the letting UK audiences seeing your films like a fortnight before American audiences. I don’t know why you do this, but I do appreciate the fact that I can continue my streak of reviewing your movies ahead of the American release because, boy howdy, did you knock this one out of the park.
Fair warning: while there’s not going to be any spoilers for Captain America: Civil War in this review, there’s a good chance I’m going to mention Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice a fair bit because. in my eyes, I don’t really know how we’re going to talk about one of theses movies without mentioning the other. They both stem from very similar ideas, but are tonal foils of each other despite how similar the two end up being.
But enough about the Distinguished Competition, we’re here to talk about Marvel and the umpteenth entry into their Cinematic Universe. You should know how these reviews go by now: even though Captain America: Civil War isn’t a perfect film, the fact that it’s a superhero movie that embraces what’s silly about the characters and universe (even though this film does a lot less embracing than previous entries) while still having genuine character drama thanks to amazing performances will turn it into a critical darling regardless.
Let’s get one thing straight: despite the title, this film is barely about the Civil War conflict between two disparate Avengers. Captain America and Iron Man are on either side of a legislative bill that will see the United Nations given complete oversight of their operations. That’s just the framing narrative for a story that’s a much more personal conflict between Captain America, Winter Soldier, and Iron Man that draws on the entire, decades long history of the characters’ existence in the universe. the film utilizes all of the different characters’ unique powers in visually interesting and unlikely ways. While the big battle between the two sides — which you’ve likely seen in the trailer — is certainly one of the highest high points (in a movie with a lot of high points) the moment when Captain American, Winter Soldier, and Iron Man finally go to blows is not a fun time.
This is what I mean where it’s hard to talk about this film without mentioning Batman V. Superman. While that film took two hours to set up the titular fight as this bombastic and badass affair that made Batman look cool ’cause he was going to murder Superman in cold blood, when the gloves finally come off in Civil War it’s a more harrowing fight. Sure, Steve and Tony haven’t quite been the friends in the MCU that Markus, McFreely and the Russo brothers quite want you to believe, but the main thought you have when they finally start going to blows is that you don’t want this to happen. You see the road that has lead to this moment and it’s paved with hurt and trauma and all that you’re left with is the hollow feeling of watching a burgeoning brotherhood collapse in on itself.
That brings me to an important point: I don’t know if this movie is for kids. While this isn’t quite on the “had to be cut down from an R rating” level that Batman V. Superman was, the very nature of the complex emotions boiling over and a much more realistic level of violence has lead to this being one of Marvel’s more intense and brutal films. Sure, kids are probably gonna love the big slugfest with all their favourite characters — it’s bright and exciting and full of that patented Marvel Humour™ — but the film is built on the same political thriller bones as Winter Soldier, with a damn sight more cursing and more realistic violence. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t see this movie, but I would advise parents that if they think Winter Soldier is too intense for their kids to take that into consideration when going to see this.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the standouts of this movie. The real stars of the show. The character that everyone’s going to be talking about when the credits roll. That’s right, I’m talking about Iron Man. No, seriously, stop laughing I mean it. This is easily Robert Downey Jr’s best outing as the character thanks largely to the fact that Stark is openly carrying the weight of the events of the previous movies giving Downey a wider emotional range to bring to the character. He’s not just cocksure and snarky here, there’s a real fire burning inside the character and it’s a side to Tony Stark we’ve never seen before.Continued below
Okay, but for real: the real stars of the show are easily the newly introduced Spider-Man and Black Panther. While neither of them are in the film all that much, they both leave an excellent impression that should have anyone excited for their solo outings. Chadwick Boseman brings an excellent mix of reserved charisma and quiet rage to T’Challa and even though his face is masked for much of his screentime, his presence is felt throughout. Same goes for newcomer Tom Holland, who impresses as Peter Parker. Sure, there’s not much here to Peter Parker that we haven’t seen before in previous films, but Holland has the heart of the character down pat and both he and Boseman show a clear capability to lead their own upcoming movies.
Though Tom Holland will definitely need to work on his accent more before his solo outing, but that’s not something I can hold against him.
You may be wondering why, if this is a Captain America movie, I haven’t really talked about Captain America yet. Well, that’s because one of the slight problems with this movie is that, with the huge cast, Steve almost gets lost in the drift. It’s not quite Iron Man 2 levels of being overshadowing by the supporting cast as this is very much a film about Captain America and his relationship with Bucky Barnes, but the film has to juggle not only introducing two new characters, but furthering the story arcs of those introduced in the last two films as well.
That leads to a pretty packed two-and-a-half hours and the nature of the writing of Steve Rogers as the guy who’s always going to do the right thing because it’s right means that he continues to be the centre of a story that changes and shifts around him while he remains pretty much the same. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it does mean there are large swathes of the film’s second act that have pretty much nothing to do with Captain America.
Still, of the two tentpole superhero films about guys in goofy suits punching each other for two hours, Captain America: Civil War is the clear winner in my opinion. Not only does it benefit from the conflict being pretty much seven films in the making, but the film is paced much more evenly with intense and engaging action throughout which continues to refine the Russo brother’s handheld, on-the-ground shooting style. There’s definitely a lot of shaky cam here, but the shots are measured in a way that you’re never unclear of what’s going on in the action.
If nothing else, this is a movie that may have left permanent scars on the characters and leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe in somewhat of a state of disrepair, but it does end on a solely hopeful note and reminds viewers that the fun of watching superheroes isn’t in watching them beat one another up, but to work together to make the world a better place.