The Avengers are split in two in the latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Picking up plot threads from past ventures into the MCU, Captain America: Civil War also deals with the fallout of the destruction caused by The Avengers previous battles. After yet another conflict costs more innocent lives, the United Nations decides it’s time to keep the heroes in check by having them all sign The Sokovia Accords, essentially taking away their freedom to act when and where they want. This is where the rift opens up; Tony Stark, haunted by his involvement in the death of innocents, wants The Avengers to unite under this new leadership. Opposing this however is Steve Rogers, who believes the right to operate freely is the only way to keep the world safe. When the Winter Soldier resurfaces after a terrorist attack, Steve’s loyalty to his old pal opens the divide between The Avengers even further, changing the team forever.
Essentially The Avengers 2.5, Civil War demonstrates the true power that can be achieved by the MCU, more so than 2012s Avengers Assemble. Achieving an incredible mix of drama, action and comedic moments, Joe and Anthony Russo show true craftsmanship in their filmmaking abilities. All of this is achieved along with giving each individual plot thread room to breathe, every character their big moment (one, quite literally) and those big new character introductions that we were all looking forward to do not fail to disappoint. It isn’t just the newcomers who are handled perfectly, the chemistry and relationships between the veteran cast works better in Civil War than perhaps any other Marvel film to date.
The newcomers then. First up is Spider-Man. Marvel had quite a task on its hands with this one. How do you take a character which is so iconic AND who already has two previous cinematic portrayals and make him exciting again? It is pulled off here, and it seems effortless, in no small part thanks to Tom Holland. Holland gives a quip-filled, youthful, energetic performance which is the most faithful representation of the comic book Spidey seen on screen. Enter Chadwick Boseman aka T’Challa, aka Black Panther. If you are perhaps unfamiliar with the character, you will leave the cinema with a massive excitement for his solo outing. Boseman brings an undeniable strength and maturity to the Superhero/King of Wakanda. If you were expecting mere cameos from the newcomers, prepare to be pleasantly surprised as the Russo’s deliver fleshed out, fully realised characters who have pivotal roles to play in the action.
No film, however good, is 100% perfect. It is here we must examine the films one pitfall; Zemo. Like most MCU villains, with perhaps the exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, there is something lacklustre here. Though his motivations are understandable, by the time we discover them, it’s too late in the game to invest in them, especially on the back of a performance so utterly bland. Daniel Bruhl is a very capable actor, so it would have been good to see him flex those acting muscles a little more. At the end of it all, Zemo is only there to serve the plot and set up the Cap/Iron Man fisticuffs.
And when the punches fly, it is nothing short of breath-taking.
The meaty fight scenes are choreographed beautifully. Every fight scene hits all of the right notes at the right times. Although it is somewhat heartbreaking to watch the team fall apart and knock lumps out of each other, the comedic beats are there, delivered mostly by Spider-Man and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, who also has a new shiny suit and a surprise giant ability. The battle at the German airport, which was used so heavily in the promotional material, is the highlight of the film.
It is perhaps no accident that at one point Spidey mentions The Empire Strikes Back, since like that film, this too is the darker, more dramatic, thoughtful sequel. The raw emotional power in the final punch up between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers is undeniable. Many a man tear will be shed.
The film ends in a very uncertain place for The Avengers. Rhodey essentially paralysed from the waist down. Ant-Man, Scarlett Witch, Falcon, Hawkeye and even the Cap himself fugitives having to go metaphorically, perhaps physically, underground. Black Widow has proved herself to be untrustworthy. There are many bonds that will need to be repaired before Thanos comes a knockin’ in Avengers: Infinity War.
Such has become the trend with Marvel films, there are not one, but two after credits scenes here. The first featuring the Winter Soldier going back into the ice in Wakandan prison. This scene also features a look at Wakanda, teasing the Black Panther standalone film due in 2018. The second sees Peter Parker back at home, with Aunt May, nursing his wounds, before a projection of a new shiny Spider-Man logo is projected from his web shooter onto the ceiling. Just incase it wasn’t clear enough, we are then shown the message; Spider-Man Will Return.
Captain America: Civil War may well just be the greatest Marvel film yet. At a time when there are so many superhero movies on offer, if you feel that fatigue is beginning to set in, go and see it. You’ll be glad you did. Despite its forever growing list of shared universe imitators, the MCU proves it’s still at the forefront of the genre and that there’s plenty life left in yet.