Now this is how you do a superhero versus superhero movie.
This may be a Captain America solo movie in name, but it might as well have been called Avengers 3, or, to borrow the name of another recent superhero smackdown movie, Captain America V Iron Man: Civil War.
It is testament to just how big the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown that a supposed solo movie can include not just one or two, but TWELVE different major superheroes. Besides the aforementioned Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), there are also returns for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), plus MCU debuts for two characters – Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and … drumroll please … Spider-Man!
The much-awaited and ultimately triumphant introduction of Marvel’s favourite wall-crawler (played with likable and geeky enthusiasm by Tom Holland) is just one of the highlights in Anthony and Joe Russo’s highly entertaining and immensely fun movie. There’s a thrilling car chase through the streets of Bucharest involving Captain America, Winter Soldier and Black Panther; a well-choreographed team takedown of a terrorist named Crossbones (Frank Grillo, reprising his role as Brock Rumlow from Captain America: The Winter Soldier); and the mother of all superhero battles involving ALL the heroes in an airport that has to be seen to be believed.
Just like Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (BVS), Civil War tackles the issue of post-superhero-battle collateral damage.
After more lives are lost during a fight between the Avengers and Crossbones, the governments of the world have had enough. The United Nations comes up with the so-called Sokovia Accords, which requires the supeheroes, specifically the Avengers, to answer to a governing body that will pretty much dictate their actions.
Tony Stark, wracked by guilt over the lives lost in Sokovia and battling personal issues of his own, thinks that this is the right way to go, that superheroes should be held accountable for their actions. Steve Rogers, however, thinks that putting the Avengers under a governing body would seriously compromise their efficiency in saving lives, and decides against signing it.
This accord is just one of the reasons that the Avengers become divided – lurking in the shadows is a man named Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who has very sinister intentions of his own. The key to his plans is the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, who of course used to be Captain America’s best friend, and who inevitably becomes the wedge that drives the Avengers apart.
After the big explosive excess of Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this could have been just another superhero smackdown with lots of action and little else. Kudos to the directors for delivering not just a fabulous superhero smackdown movie, but also incorporating a story that, at its very heart, has more to do with highly personal matters than world domination.
The action is also often spectacular, eschewing the big explosive battles of the past and focusing on highlighting the individual powers of each character. The airport battle, in particular, is a spectacularly choreographed sequence that gives each and every hero his or her time to shine, with Ant-Man and Spider-Man adding a healthy dose of humour to the proceedings as well.
Civil War also sets up the upcoming Black Panther and Spider-Man movies perfectly. Boseman’s T’Challa is a formidable character, suitably regal as befits the King of Wakanda, and also ferocious in battle, like his feline namesake. It’s a formidable debut, and bodes well for his solo movie, due in 2018.
The biggest cheer, however, is reserved for the MCU debut of Spider-Man. Off the bat, it is established that Holland’s Spidey is nothing like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spideys. Peter Parker is still a high school kid here, and has only been Spidey for six months, with his youthful exuberance and inexperience played up marvellously; and yes, he dishes out as many quips as he does “thwips” (look out for one line referencing another certain mega-franchise owned by Disney, which is arguably THE best gag in the film). After watching his cameo here, it’s hard not to feel excited about next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
It’s also hard not to compare this to Zack Snyder’s recent BVS. The fact that the Russos manage to make Civil War such an entertaining film while still tackling serious issues like superhero accountability (an issue that featured heavily in BVS too) as well as freedom of choice pours scorn on the DC/Warners theory that superhero movies can’t be serious AND fun at the same time.
Maybe it’s the fact that Marvel’s characters are aleady so well established that more screen time can be spent letting them run wild, but there is just so much joy in seeing these characters interacting on screen together so perfectly. With so many moving parts and different characters to juggle, this could have been a sordid mess. Instead, it’s turned out to be one of the best movies Marvel Studios has ever produced.
Captain America: Civil War
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Daniel Bruhl