TL;DR – This is without a doubt the Marvel film so far, it gets the action right, the story right, the characters right, it is a fantastic film that I highly recommend.
Score – 5 out of 5 stars
P.S. There is a mid and end credits sequence
Ok wow, what a film and so far the best film for 2016 and indeed the only one so far to get a 5/5 score. After the recent poor outing of Batman v Superman, I was wondering if Marvel could actually pull this off. Can they contrive a plausible reason these characters would be fighting, actually manage all the characters in a movie that is totally not Avengers 3, but let’s be honest, this is totally Avengers 3. However, I needn’t have been concerned, the Russo Brothers are masters of their craft and they show it here in spades. Ok to lay out how this review will go, the first part will just give a general spoiler-free analysis, and then in the second part we will be going full spoilers, there will be a warning so you can skip it if you have not seen the film.
The first thing that just works for Civil War is the story, it is a bit hard to analysis the story without getting into spoilers, but we will stick to only things that happen at the start of the film and more broad generalisations. So Captain America opens in 1991 where Bucky Barnes (Sabastian Stan) then the mind washed Winter Solder is woken up and reprogrammed again and sent on a kill and retrieve order to obtains some blue liquidy medicalish containers from a car travelling down a quiet country road. We then jump to the present day when Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are preparing to take out Rumlow (Frank Grillo) the last Hydra henchmen left from the last film, before he steals a biological weapon from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. It’s in this first fight that we see the tone of the film, actions have consequences, the past will come to haunt people, the world is kind of getting sick of the Avengers trashing the place, and in probably the first time since Iron Man 2 Black Widow is kicking ass. It is a great opening because it reminds the audience of all the big players, what their skill sets are, where they sit in the world and their relationships with each other. While not getting into specifics, the issue that starts to drive the Avengers apart (ok that’s not a spoiler, it is literally mentioned in the title of the film) is an organic issue, one that feels plausible in this situation, and it is an issue that it would be easy to have two sides. Overall the story has a strong narrative structure and plays out a bit better that the Avengers: Age of Ultron, as it avoids an awkward second act. Given everything this movie has to do, it is remarkable that it actually works as well as it does, it has to get the ball rolling on Phase 3, it has to introduce new characters, continue the story of old characters, and feel like a well-contained story in its own right, and it does all of those things.
Well talking about characters, one of the strengths of this film is the characters. For many of the cast, this is their 5th (or more) film, so they have a familiarity of their roles that lends confidence to their performances. You can feel the anguish of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) with the direction of his life and you sympathise with the emotional place he finds himself in. Indeed we care about these characters (because we have such a long history), so has much more impact when they do fight because we know them. Not to consistently compare this to the recent Batman v Superman, but this is where DC’s film fell flat, as it did not take the time to build the characters and relationships, and that is why Civil War has much more substance to the conflict. But enough about the old characters, how did the new ones go?, really great, and I will talk about that more in the spoilers section.
Now of course so far you might be thinking ‘well mate this film is sounding awful dreary’ and let me stop you there because it is anything but. Firstly, this is a really funny film at times, as in the entire audience of the cinema laughing at a joke funny, no polite chuckles here. As well as this, the action is top notch, this has some of the best-set piece moments in any Marvel film, and I must say someone must have had a bad time with a motorbike, they do not last in this film. I got concerned at the start that there was going to be a lot of bad shaky cam fights, but thankfully it was just a momentary problem. The CGI is all pretty much top notch, bar a couple of small things, a couple of aerial shots are clearly a bit fake, and there is also a very big uncanny valley moment in the film, but then I am not sure if that last one was meant to be intentional. So right now you might be asking with a title ‘Civil War’ does the action live up to the title, and my answer is yes, yes it does, much more than the 5-minute smash around some buildings, then bro out because our mothers have the same name rubbish we saw elsewhere.
Ok now it is time to get into Full Spoiler Mode, you have been warned, skip over to the next paragraph if you have not seen the film. Ok so the only people reading at this point have seen the film.. ok let’s chat, and by a chat I mean I will spew forth thoughts about the movie. Tom Holland is hands down my favourite Spiderman on film, his energy is infectious and he has some of the best lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the first time in a long time I am looking forward to a Spiderman film. Chadwick Boseman was fantastic as Black Panther, I was not sure if he had the presence to play the role after his mostly boring performance in Gods of Egypt, but he nails the mysterious T’Challa, and acts as a great ball of chaos for the plans for both Cap and Stark. The film gives every character their moment to shine, from Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to Vision (Paul Bettany) to War Machine (Don Cheadle) everyone feels like an integral part of the film. All of this would have led to Civil War being a good film but what elevated it to being a great film is the emotional heart of the centre of the film. You understand why everyone ended up on different sides of the fight, you understand why the rest of the world want to put controls on them, you understand why Cap would risk it all for Bucky, you understand why the Black Panther will risk it all to kill Bucky, you understand why the relationship between Cap and Stark becomes irreparably damaged for now, and most importantly you completely understand and can indeed sympathise with the main villain Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Zemo is probably one of the best bad guys that have graced the MCU, and most of all he feels real and he is someone you can sympathise with. A couple of small things, the giant Ant-Man was cool, but how do they put that genie back in the box for his next standalone film? Also, I have no idea what accent Martin Freeman was using as Everett Ross but it was off-putting. Finally, the one character that did feel a bit underused was Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). Ok now most of what we have been chatting about is not super spoiling but now I will be discussing the big reveal at the end of the film so Last Spoiler Warning if you have not seen the film progress no further. The third act of the film (post airport showdown) is what makes this film a classic, Cap and Stark are back on the same side, Zemo is surrounded, and in that moment you start to prep for the big battle sequence that the movie has been setting up since those blue medical vials were stolen and injected into those mercs. But then it hits you why did Zemo let slip his murder? that just worked against him, indeed all it did was bring everyone together, and then the penny drops, the super soldiers are a ruse, why they are all here is so Stark can watch a tape, a tape of his parent murder, who his parent that were murdered by, well if you have seen the film you know and then it all falls apart. This gives the last fight so much raw emotion, and it is everyone’s best performances, and it is such a risk, can you actually go back from that.
So here we are and once again the Russo Brothers have outdone themselves, Captain America Civil War is a great action film, it is a great ensemble film, it is a great Marvel film and most importantly it is a great Captain America film. I highly enjoyed it and I can highly recommend it.
Directed by – Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Screenplay by – Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Based on – Captain America by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Starring – Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sabastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Jermey Renner, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman, Frank Grillo, William Hurt & Daniel Brühl
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A, USA: PG-13