RUNNING TIME: 147 minutes
STARRING: 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 Brühl, Martin Freeman & Marisa Tomei
2016 is sure to be remembered as the year that flipped the comic book movie genre on its head, with heroes going toe-to-toe with each other and villains tasked with saving the world. Last month saw the release of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was met with less than favorable reviews due to being incoherent with an air of self importance. The film never really manages to create a compelling enough reason as to why the two heavy weights of the DC universe collide, and when they eventually do, it’s anticlimactic at best.
No such problem occurs in Marvels latest offering. Captain America: Civil War, sees the titular Cap (Chris Evans) clash with one time partner Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) over a proposed bill that will see all super powered heroes answerable to an international governing body, forcing many of the series’ much loved characters to choose a side. What sets this apart from Dawn of Justice, is the fact that the directors (the Russo Brothers) have crafted a movie that raises the stakes, but also doesn’t take itself too seriously, providing some genuine laughs along the way.
The story opens with Steve Rogers, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) tracking terrorist group leader Crossbones (Frank Grillo) to Lagos, Nigeria. In the ensuing battle, an explosion results in multiple civilian casualties, many of which are Wakandan aid relive workers. This prompts the UN to pass the “Sokovia accords”, which state that all super powered individuals must answer to an international committee; and be accountable for their actions. Wracked with guilt over creating Ultron, which lead to the destruction of Sokovia, Tony Stark embraces the new regime, while Cap, fearing the risk of a government in charge following the infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D by HYDRA, is reluctant to sign up. Black widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Vision (Paul Bettany) all agree with Stark, while Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye ( Jeremy Renner) all side with Cap.
From the get-go, it’s hard as an audience member to choose a side, as both teams make a valid point. From Caps point of view, the Avengers are fighting wars like no other, and as such, collateral damage is to be expected, no matter how much he may not like it. From Iron Mans side, the immortal words ring true: “with great power comes great responsibility”. With the amount of fire power the various Avengers possess, is it right that they just go about using their powers unchecked?
When several heads of state gather for the official signing of the Accords in Vienna, a terrorist bombing takes place, resulting in multiple casualties and Bucky Barnes, a.k.a The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), being blamed for the attack. Captain America and his team strive to help Bucky, resulting in them being declared criminals also and Starks team are tasked with bringing them into custody, leading to an almighty clash between both sides. But little do they know, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is working behind the scenes, pulling the strings and intent on revenge.
For 8 years now, Marvel have been steadily building their cinematic universe and this marks the series’ highest point yet. It has everything; thrilling action sequences, laugh out loud moments, and a huge cast of characters that all feel as if they have their chance to shine, driving the story forward instead of weighing it down. Even at just shy of 2 1/2 hours, the film doesn’t drag at any point. The only reason it loses a mark (and it’s not really a criticism as such) is because this feels more like Avengers Disassembled than a standalone Captain America film.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. are, which is to be expected at this point, excellent as the leaders of the two factions at war. But whats most striking is how Civil War seems to be an answer to one of the most contentious subjects in film making in recent years, namely a lack of diversity among characters. The film has 3 core female characters, in prominent roles that show that they are just as capable as the men when it comes to holding their own. For most of the series up to date, Scarlett Johanssons Black Widow as been at the forefront of female representation in the MCU. This time out, Elizabeth Olsen takes some of the slack, and is compelling as Scarlet Witch, a character still fully unaware of the extent of her true power, to the point where she is scared of what she is capable of. It is this that sees her relationship with Vision grow more, as the recently created superhero is also curious of the true nature of his powers. Emily VanCamp also returns as Sharon Carter, the niece of Peggy Carter, Captain Americas first love. This time out her character gets a little more development, and while the film lays the ground work for a future romance between herself and Steve, it also establishes her as more than just a love interest, with her eulogy of a beloved character solidifying Captain Americas resolve in not adhering to the Sokovia Accords. To add to this fresh approach, the film features 3 black actors in prominent roles, not only including Anthony Mackie as Falcon and Don Cheadle as War Machine, but also an exhilarating Chadwick Boseman, making his debut as T’Challa, the Prince of Wakanda, and more notably, Black Panther, who has a score to settle with Bucky. All three have some memorable lines and more than hold there own in the hero vs hero skirmish.
The films standout moment comes when both teams finally collide in an explosive battle at the Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany. Everyone has their chance to shine in the ensuing clash, most notably Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who is relatable as the films every man, in awe of all the superheros around him, and who also has some new tricks up his sleeve. And we also get a good chunk of time with the brand new Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by 19 year old British actor Tom Holland. In his first scene, Holland manages to instantly dispel any fears that he wouldn’t live up to the role; he was born to play this part and is instantly endearing as the famous web-slinger. His introduction plays out similarly to that of Quicksilver in Fox’s X-Men film franchise, in that he appears for a relatively short time and ultimately steals the show. This film is sure to raise excitement levels for Marvels first crack at a solo Spider-Man movie, due out next summer. Also watch out for Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, who despite having little to say, makes a memorable appearance due to her chemistry with Tony Stark, which is sure to have fans shipping these two together.
Really, I have nothing more to say on the matter, just get yourself to a cinema and enjoy the spectacle. The Russo Brothers have stepped it up a notch from their already impressive previous offering in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and with this being the first movie of Marvels MCU Phase 3 plans, if the quality stays as good as this on what is to follow, we are in for a few years of cinematic delight!