Captain America: Civil War

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Film reviews
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Directors by Joe and Anthony Russo. Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downy Jr. Scarlett Johansson and many, many other people…

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Team Cap rush to battle!

It’s been a year since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron took place, and the destruction wrought in Sokovia hangs heavily. After a presentation of some new technology Tony Stark (Downy Jr.) is confronted by a woman whose son was killed in Sokovia. Meanwhile the Avengers, led by Steve Rogers’ Captain America (Evans), attempt to stop terrorists stealing a biological weapon in Lagos. In the midst of the operation one of the Avengers inadvertently destroys part of a building, and a group of aid workers from nearby Wakanda are killed.

The events in Lagos prove to be the final straw and the UN propose “The Sovakia Accords” which will establish an organisation to oversee and control the Avengers. Stark, guilty over his involvement in the creation of Ultron, backs the Accords, whilst Rogers believes the Accords could cause more harm than good and trusts himself and his team above bureaucrats. Stark and others, including Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) travel to Austria to sign the accords, whilst Rogers and some of the other Avengers refuse.

During the signing ceremony a bomb goes off killing many of the delegates, including the Wakandan King, T’Chaka. Security footage suggests the bomber was none other than The Winter Soldier, the Hydra brainwashed assassin— and former best friend of Rogers— Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). King T’Chaka’s son T’Challa swears revenge. In his alter ego as The Black Panther he goes after Barnes.

Rogers steps in to defend his childhood friend and soon finds himself, Barnes, and his fellow Avenger Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie’s Falcon) incarcerated. When a mysterious man named Zemo (Daniel Brühl) triggers The Winter Soldier’s conditioning, Rogers, Wilson, and Barnes go on the run.

The scene is set for a confrontation between one group of heroes led by Captain America, and another led by Iron Man, but can anyone really win in this scenario, and are they just playing into someone else’s hands?

 

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And in the interests of fairness Team Iron Man

And so the third Captain America film arrives, albeit a film you could argue functions to an extent as Avengers 3 and Iron Man 4! When reviewing Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice at the end of March I went on record and said I’d be amazed if Civil War wasn’t a much better film. Suffice to say that I am not amazed, because whilst not quite everything I’d hoped for, Civil War is by far the superior film.

Now I’ve heard some people suggest that the films shouldn’t be compared, but I’m sorry that argument doesn’t fly with me. We’re talking about two superhero/comic book films here, both of which deal with the notion of heroes who should be on the same side finding themselves instead in conflict with one another. Throw in a very specific thematic conceit that has an impact in the final battles of both films (though in very different ways) and it really is difficult to suggest Batman vs Superman be somehow let off the hook, because Civil War is everything BvS should have been.

Civil War is just as long as BvS, but aside from the opening half an hour or so, the film rarely feels sluggish. The factors that bring our heroes to blows are no less contrived than those which place Batman and Superman at each other’s’ throats but those contrivances feel much more organic, they’re smoother which makes them easier to gloss over. Humour helps but it would be wrong to call this a comedic film, at its heart its every bit as dark as BvS was trying to be, and whilst during the initial engagements people might be pulling their punches, by the time the low key (and all the better for it) finale arrives the gloves are well and truly off, and at least one man is intent on nothing less than killing his opponent.

It helps that we have history with these characters. We’ve seen Steve Rogers and Tony Stark fight side by side, and whilst there’s always been a bit of an edge to their friendship they’ve been friends nonetheless, so to see Iron Man trying to punch Captain America through a wall is a shock. As with so much of the Marvel cinematic universe its long game pays off.

Returning to the fold after directing Captain America: The Winter Solider, the Russo brothers again prove that they have no problem directing an action packed film that’s about more than action, even a film that has a cast of thousands, all of whom pretty much get their time in the sun, even if only briefly, and though at heart this is Cap’s film (and Iron Man’s secondarily) it’s still a better Avengers film than Age of Ultron was. Considering how many characters they have to juggle they do an amazing job of pulling it off. There are a couple of ropey moments. Emily Vancamp’s Sharon Carter feels like she’s dispensed with too quickly, and whilst going off grid is the kind of thing you’d expect of the Black Widow when things go tits up, Johansson is noticeable by her absence in the final portion of the film.

As I’ve said there are plot contrivances aplenty but the Russo’s keep everything going at such a frenetic pace, and the script and the actors make you smile so much, that it’s hard to care except in hindsight (and even then not much).

Some people find Evans a trifle wooden but I’m not amongst them. The Captain America films have consistently been amongst the better Marvel product (and most of Marvel’s product is great) and that’s down in no small part to Evan’s portrayal of a very old school hero, whose square jawed notion of right and wrong could, in other hands, appear cheesy or patronising, yet never does because Evan’s utterly convinces as a man from another age who fought Nazis. Up against him is Downy Jr. who probably gets to imbue Stark with more pathos than he has in many of the actual Iron Man films, and it’s too his credit that he doesn’t even try to overshadow Evans (because at the end of the day this is a Cap film).

There are way too many characters to go into detail re every actor, but suffice to say that no one puts in a poor performance. Johansson isn’t in it enough, but she does a good job of providing balance between Rogers and Stark. Elizabeth Olsen continues to impress as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch, and not only for her spooky hand gestures, and she plays nicely with Vision, who really should be the most ludicrous of Avengers (even more so than Thor) but Paul Bettany plays the role so utterly straight that you believe in the character. Mackie continues to really impress me as Wilson, and he has some nice scenes with Sebastian Stan, in particular whilst cooped up in an old VW Beetle. The two make an engaging combo that I hope we see more of. Stan is somewhat hamstrung by having to play the monosyllabic killing machine at times, but when he’s allowed to be Bucky he’s very engaging.

Paul Rudd drops in for an amusing cameo as Ant Man when both sides go looking for reinforcements, and whilst I’ll never be Hawkeye’s biggest fan Jeremy Renner gets a lot to do here. Don Cheadle as Rhodey/War Machine is really the only one who feels short-changed, as he often does.

And then there are two never before seen (In a Marvel film at least) heroes. The first of which is Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, who now has me excited for a Black Panther film, and given I know very little of the character that was a pleasant surprise. Regal and eloquent he makes you empathise with him throughout the film and by the end he’s a welcome addition to the Marvel family.

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Apparently he does whatever a spider can…

And then there’s Spidey. Young Tom Holland almost steals the whole damn film, and he’s only in it for about fifteen minutes. As someone who liked Raimi’s take but was never quite sold on Tobey Maguire, and who thought Andrew Garfield was a great Spider-Man in not so great films, I have to say that however excited I am about a Black Panther film pales by comparison to how jazzed I am about the upcoming Spider-Man film that will finally see Spidey under the Marvel umbrella. Holland’s Parker is wonderfully geeky and spends most of the fight he’s involved in making all too nervous quips which are just hilarious (As Wilson says at one point “There isn’t usually this much talking in the middle of a fight) and his Empire Strikes Back line will probably make you feel very old.

But enough about Spider-Man because, great as he is, he’s just one small part of what makes this a fantastic film. It’s funny, its dark, its heart-breaking, its exciting (the airport fight between the two groups of superheroes might possibly be the best superhero fight of all time) it defies your expectations at times and gives us a very human villain whose motivations and scheme make more sense than Lex Luthor’s ever did. And beyond all of this it’s fun! Zach Snyder could learn a lot.

Yeah it’s too long, and yes there probably are one or two characters too many and people do vanish never to be seen again, and maybe it wimps out of doing anything truly shocking, but these are minor quibbles.

Now the question is, are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Me I’m Cap all the way, although kudos to a film that makes both side’s arguments seem valid, because I did waver there for a while…

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Comments
  1. I’m always going to be Team Iron Man, I fear. Cap is lovely, but I’d rather have a beer with tony Stark. Though Peggy Carter and/or Agent Coulson top both for me!

    • starkers70 says:

      I see, I shall see you on the battle field then Vintage Woman! Mwa ha ha ha ha.

      Cough. Coulson and Peggy are great. I like most of the Marvel characters and think new Spidey looks to be awesome. I imagine Tony would be really annoying if you had to spend any length of time with him!

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