Review: Captain America: Civil War
Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
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…a bright, vivid, compelling cocktail…
In what must surely be the largest and most seemingly inexhaustible mega-franchise ever created for the screen, Marvel Studios continues its golden run with Captain America: Civil War. And once again, Marvel benefits enormously from the loyalty of its audience, whose seemingly insatiable appetite for superheroes has allowed the burgeoning powerhouse to hold continuity over a number of separate mini-franchises. The interconnected nature of Marvel’s movies means that unless you hang tight for every single one of their releases, you’ll likely be lost in the epic sweep of their multi-level brand of storytelling. To properly enjoy Captain America: Civil War, you not only need to see the previous two Captain America films, but all of the studio’s other films too. It’s a big ask, but if you’re a fan, it’s literally a treasure trove of narrative riches, a slimmed down version of decades of interlocking comic books, where superheroes brush shoulders and bang heads with entertaining regularity. And more than any of their other films – including the Avengers team-up flicks – Captain America: Civil War is a Marvel film for the fans: a bright, vivid, compelling cocktail that ramps up a number of storylines that have been boiling away in the studio’s other films.
Representing nothing short of a fan-gasm, Captain America: Civil War features more Marvel superheroes than ever before in the one film. Directed with alarming clarity and cohesion by Joe and Anthony Russo (whose previous effort, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, ranks amongst Marvel’s most acclaimed), the film revolves around Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) wildly divergent philosophies on how accountable they need to be to both the US government, and the world’s population, in light of the mass destruction caused at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Do they knuckle under and essentially become government agents, or maintain their autonomy as international crime-fighters? There are differing opinions on both sides of the argument, and that divergence ultimately leads to an all-out superhero war, in which loyalties are tested and friendships are ripped asunder.
Though on the surface, Captain America: Civil War might look like another Avengers movie, it actually locks in perfectly with the previous two flicks toplined by the eponymous hero. The tone is terse, gritty, and (for a Marvel movie) relatively grounded. The celebrated 1970s-style espionage vibe of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is winningly held over, and the bulk of the film’s dilemmas weigh the heaviest on Captain America’s shoulders. This sensibly keeps the film in check, applying the brakes on what could have been a shuddering, over-populated mess, with superheroes flipping and flopping all over the place. With Chris Evans’ wonderfully earnest and anguished Captain America as the narrative anchor (and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark aka Iron Man a sassy but surprisingly sad-eyed antagonist), the film can effectively draw from the deep well that Marvel has created, with all of the other Avengers getting their own strongly scripted supporting arcs. The new characters, meanwhile, are just as effectively used. While Ant-Man (Paul Rudd is a hoot) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland proves an absolutely spot-on pick as the web slinger, imbuing the role with humour, sweetness, uncertainty, and warmth over a number of great scenes) are essentially story stitch-ins (literally, of the “Hey, I know a guy who could help us” variety), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, like Tom Holland, is another perfect casting choice, cutting a fine figure as one of Marvel’s most noble and enigmatic heroes) is utterly essential to the narrative, and has the most satisfying through-line of all the new recruits.
Though floating on plentiful laughs and a series of epic throw-downs (an airport-set, all-systems-go superhero battle will have Marvel fans in an absolute lather), Captain America: Civil War is primarily rooted in its characters. It’s the flashpoint for the long simmering rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, and a further build on the complicated relationship of Captain America and The Winter Solder (Sebastian Stan), his one-time best pal turned brainwashed super-assassin. It’s also about accountability and responsibility, as the amassed body count of the previous films finally comes lumbering down with striking force on Captain America and his friends. This rich, finely elucidated theme gives the film an admirable weight and seriousness that makes its action set pieces even more enjoyable, and its sense of emotional pay-off even greater. In some ways, Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of everything that Marvel Studios has done so far (and a glorious pointer of what’s to come), and it truly is a joy to behold. Marvel fans rejoice…again!