- Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
- Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
- Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jnr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Bozeman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp & Tom Holland
Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is in worldwide now!
In the wake of criticisms of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (reviewed here) and overwhelming success of ‘Ant-Man’ Marvel needed to kick-off ‘phase three’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with something of a big bang. It’s no secret that ‘Civil War’ was commissioned as a reaction to the announcement of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’.
It’s important to note this film is also a turning point for the MCU. Bringing in Ant-Man to the Avengers fold but also marking the live action debut of Black Panther. Above all else this film was highly anticipated for its introduction of Spider-Man to the MCU following the landmark agreement with Sony Pictures to co-produce future Spidey films.
This film is the utter antithesis of ‘Batman v Superman’ in the press. Resoundingly well received by fans and critics alike. Already sitting at over $250M in box office returns from it’s opening week at the international box office the film is now in US cinemas as of this writing and is sure to be huge. But does it live up to the hype?
Sadly the answer, for me at least, is not quite.
There are moments where ‘Civil War’ proves itself to be one of the best films that Marvel has yet to produce. But there are also moments that show this film to be little more than a response to the appetite for super-hero mashups.
Let’s start with the good.
The story of ‘Civil War’ is very similar to that of ‘Batman v Superman’. The idea of consequences and collateral damage is very poignant when it comes to big blockbuster superhero films. It helps ground the characters in reality and helps us as an audience to interact with the story.
The first act of ‘Civil War’ holds a huge amount of potential. Moreno than any other film within the MCU. The introduction of the Sokovia Accords and the conflict it causes between the Avengers team members should be a great source of material. However the film fails to see that conflict through to the end shelving the accords for interpersonal issues in its second half, more on that later.
The scope of the story is in line with that of ‘Age of Ultron’ but far beyond that of any of the previous solo offerings that Marvel has given us. It exudes confidence that outside of the ‘Avengers’ banner ‘Captain America’ is the strongest franchise that Marvel has.
There’s some well deserved character development for Bucky who has become surprisingly integral to the ‘Captain America’ franchise. Sebastian Stan adds further dimensions to the role in ‘Civil War’ playing a fractured Winter Soldier with great depth.
Scarlett Johansson is unsurprisingly a strong supporting player as Black Widow. Her relationship with Cap has developed hugely in the four films in which they have appeared together. With Bruce Banner out of sight she has no romantic sub-plot to drown in and is firmly part of the action. Her allegiances are tested throughout ‘Civil War’ and Johansson brings her strongest Marvel performance for it.
The show is entirely stolen by one returning and one new character. First: Paul Rudd in his second appearance as Ant-Man is utterly brilliant. He brings some great lightness to a film which has heavy subject matter. His first meeting with Cap and the Avengers is a standout moment for me. It will be interesting to see how he is placed with the team come his sequel in 2018 given the events of ‘Civil War’.
Second: Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. His introductory scenes fit perfectly with the MCU and do not retread old ground. We see enough to of him to build anticipation for ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ due in cinemas next year. Holland gives the character the youthful glee he’s lacked in recent films. His dialogue jumps right off the pages of Marvel comics. It’s a flawless performance and flawless writing.
Chadwick Bozeman does a fine job introducing Black Panther to the franchise but there’s little for him to do to stand out from the crowd. Elizabeth Olsen, Emily VanCamp, Martin Freeman and Anthony Mackie also do the best with what screen time they have.
The fight choreography in this film is stunning. The opening sequence set in Lagos is the most spectacular sequence that Marvel have ever committed to film. The ensemble is perfectly balanced, the action is hard and the sequence is edited perfectly.
The airport sequence shown in so many of the trailers is also brilliantly choreographed. In the bigger picture that is ‘Civil War’ the airport sequence exists purely to show hero vs hero. Take yourself out of the story and enjoy it for the action, don’t question its validity as part of a serious piece of filmmaking.
The final fight between Cap, Bucky and Iron Man is very tightly filmed and the cinematography in the tunnels under the old launch bay is well executed to bring about a comic book cover brought to life moment.
Now for the less good parts…
Captain America himself is lost in this film. He begins ‘Civil War’ firmly in charge of the Avengers playing the perfect leader in Lagos. After the death of Peggy Carter – a bigger deal should have been made of this! – his story begins to meander through the rest of the film. At the films close he’s clearly exactly where Marvel needs him to be to bring about a ‘we need Cap, let’s go find him!’ sequence in ‘Avengers: Infinity War Part 1’.
Many fans complained about the forced love story between Black Widow and Hulk in ‘Age of Ultron’. Here it is Cap forced in to a romantic moment with Sharon Carter, niece of Peggy. There were clearly always meant to be sparks between them in ‘Winter Soldier’ but they share so little screen time that when they finally kiss it feels very out of the blue. It could and should have been handled a lot better, particularly considering the family connection to his first love.
I hate to say it but Tony Stark is just plain annoying in ‘Civil War’. He continues along the path started in ‘Iron Man 3’ which led to the abhorrent time lost to him in a shed making friends with a young boy. Now he also has the weight of the events of Sokovia on his shoulders.
It was great to see some of the interplay between Starks junior and senior but little is made of how this connects back to the Winter Soldier programme and ultimately to the demise of his friendship with Cap.
His character is dull and adds very little to the film. He feels poorly written and Paul Bettany seems to struggle at playing an oddly emotional, yet emotionless character. His scenes felt difficult for watch for me both times I have seen the film.
I promised I’d come back to it… after setting up the Sokovia Accords and having General Ross bark at the Avengers about the millions of dollars and lives lost to their actions the film fails to deliver on its promise. The second act slowly moves away from the accords to focus on how Cap and Stark’s views differ. The two fail to see eye-to-eye on controlling the Avengers but instead of talking about their issues it leads to both ultimately showing disdain for the other and unashamedly going about undermining the other.
The construction of the conflict is where ‘Civil War’ differs heavily from ‘Batman v Superman’. Where the writers of ‘Batman v Superman’ constructed reasons for Bruce Wayne to fear the actions of Superman the writers of ‘Civil War’ instead decide to go down the path of least resistance and indulge in the fun of making heroes fight. There’s little reason for the two to fall out other than for us to watch them fight and the film revels in making that clear obvious.
The low point for me comes in the airport sequence where Black Widow is pitted against Hawkeye. We know they have history and a strong friendship from their scenes in ‘Avengers Assemble’ so there should be a huge emotional weight to seeing them at odds. Instead the film chooses to have Hawkeye quip ‘are we still friends?’ and for Widow to agree they are. In two lines the film completely negates any weight that the fight has.
If you are able to remove yourself and ignore the story then the film does remain incredibly enjoyable throughout, it’s just a shame they chose to forsake story for spectacle.
One other small gripe: Elizabeth Olsen is great in this film but there is not one mention of Quicksilver. There is no grieving process on film for her. No memento in her room that we see. He’s entirely absent and that seems a great loss to have avoided showing the effect his death has on her.
This is not a consistent problem throughout the film but there are moments when editing choices are confusing. Cap attends Peggy’s funeral in London where he is visited by Black Widow. Widow is then in Vienna at the signing of the Sokovia Accords that same day. Cap, Sharon and Falcon witness the explosion at the accords on the news from their London hotel, in the next scene all three are then at the bombing site in Vienna before fire crews are able to put out the blaze. It all happens too fast to reconcile that they have travelled across Europe.
This sequence aside the editing of ‘Civil War’ is on par with all previous Marvel entries.
There is a lot to like about ‘Civil War’. I had no issue with the run time which others have said is overlong. I’ve watched it in both 3D and 2D, there’s little difference between the two. Some of the finer details on costumes and sets was lost in the 3D version but it has no big impact on enjoyment.
I wasn’t hoping for a clone of ‘Batman v Superman’ to suddenly take Marvel off on a very serious tangent but I was hoping for a film which took all the fun of Marvel and showed how serious the consequences that heroic actions can have. Ironically after the first act spends so much time talking about the consequences of the Avengers various battles in it’s third act ‘Civil War’ decides to entirely ignore the real life consequences that War Machine should face after a traumatic spinal injury and have him walking where you or I would be paralysed. Thus negating serious injury as a problem for even the least super of the heroes in the film.
Regardless of what I or any other reviewer says I want people to go out and see this film and enjoy it for the spectacle it is. It’s definitely one of my top three Marvel films but I do not feel it deserves to be called on of the best superhero films of all time.
Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments!