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Captain America: Civil War (Movie Review)


Captain America: Civil War, the third of the Captain America trilogy, follows the Captain doing what’s right in order to save his best friend, Bucky Barnes, who you may remember as the villain of the previous installment The Winter Soldier. This is mixed in with the important Avengers-themed question that a summary of previous Marvel films laid on the table: should a team of such powerful super-beings, even with good intentions, assemble for justice where they please or be kept on a government leash in the name of public safety?

2016 has and will continue to be a crowded year for superhero films. This makes it inevitable that some will be great and some will be called The Dawn of Disappointment *clears throat*. The premise of a film like Civil War requires a large amount of ambition, but even then the other ingredients need to mix perfectly to make it one of the greats of the year. Ingredients being characters and storylines galore. Thankfully, The Winter Soldier directors, the Russo brothers, are back at the helm and have delivered on the film's promises in a way that will not only have people praising Civil War for what it is, but also what it has achieved.

This moment is as perfect as the trailer made it look.

Tone & Execution

At the start of the film, you’re already thrown into the action-spy-thriller feel that gave the Winter Solider its own legs to stand on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), blended with that Avengers spice. It’s a tense chase-scene that not only gets you ready for what’s to come, but sets the theme to give you a new habit of having your jaw dropped. Watching Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff’s telekinetic magic powers being utilised in a tactical espionage fight against terrorists is one of the many examples of the Russo-directors charm. It's a tasteful combination of Marvel and action-thriller elements with efficient shifts of the film’s tone. Within a 10 minute portion of the film, I’d gone from being in cheerful hysterics to seriously edging on the end of my seat in suspense and I didn’t even realise it. That’s how gorgeously transitional Civil War is.

As many heart-racing action sequences as there are in the first act, followed by those in the remaining two, the film doesn’t just hurl you into the civil war conflict like you’d expect. Civil War takes it’s time. Realistic character development; a look at the then and now, plausible and legitimate reasons to be both for and against superheroes being put under government control, as if it’s all what would actually happen if this were a real world situation. Newcomers to Marvel films are fed the main facts so they have the crash-course info they need, but fans of the MCU will feel like they're being dragged down to earth when thinking about previous films. High stakes events that were presented in a slightly light-hearted and colourful tone in the Avengers films are even shown in a new light as incidents with genuine, life-ending consequences. For both new and veteran Marvel fans, the stakes for Civil War are laid out as an authentic insight into the debate of our need for such superheroes in our own world.

Pulls at the heart strings in an awesome way.

Story & Characters

Among the tasks for pulling off Civil War effectively, one of the largest for the Russo brothers was to give each of these already-MCU-existing heroes their own time in the spotlight, having both their personalities and potential shine through. Not only that; but two new characters had to be introduced: Spider-Man and Black Panther. Each cast performance is brilliantly engrossing, Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark) and Chris Evans (Captain America) especially. Every participant of the Civil War even has their own fleshed out motivations for being there, except maybe for Ant-Man, whose motivations are basically “Hells yeah, I’ll help Captain America!” but it all fits dynamically enough that you won’t even care.

Forgot to mention that Black Panther looks epic!

Speaking of characters old and new, the stand out highlight is, of course, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man/Peter Parker. Every second this character’s onscreen, both in and out of the Spidey suit, you can’t help but grin with laughter. It’s not only a refreshingly child-like take on the characters but the new Spider-Man is written and performed in a way that matches perfectly with the Marvel flow. From how Spider-Man interacts with other characters; Iron Man/Tony Stark in particular; it is clear Civil War wouldn’t have been able to tell the story even half as well without him being such an essential element of positivity and joy.

Any MCU fan who has seen even one trailer of Captain America: Civil War has been excited about how the scene at the airport, where both sides of heroes brawl together, will play out. There is so much going on in terms of different pairings fighting and banter exchanges, you’d think it wouldn’t work, yet it is an incredible scene. Suspension fills the air and you can feel what’s at stake, but you can’t stop smiling. Each combatant has their own action sequences and remarks that make you both filled with tension and joy simultaneously. It’s not only the best action scene in the film but also the best action scene in a comic book film in general.

In terms of issues with the film, the only gripe would be in the form of an unnecessary addition. Namely, villain Helmut Zemo played by Daniel Brühl. His own agenda and motivations involve adding fuel to the fire that is the civil war conflict, pulling his own strings to move the plot along. This thrown-in villain as part of the plot seemed futile. The premise of Civil War makes it so that an additional villain isn’t needed, due to the hero-villain conflict being replaced by the clash of ideologies between opposing sides of heroes. In the eyes of the viewer, the villain would be the opposing side as to which the viewer supports. Instead, Zemo edges the Marvel characters along to conclusions and plot points they would have been able to get to on their own. The end of his arc does reveal an unexpected and unique method to his madness, but it seemed unnecessary.

Verdict

Captain America: Civil War is a large machine with a lot of moving cogs trying to make it work properly. That machine is well-oiled and those cogs are slotted in the right place. Returning characters are well developed, new characters are launched fittingly into its story, and a world of superheroes is changed forever in an exciting flow of events and a clash of ideologies. All of these elements contain so many pieces that fit so well together, it’s seamless. An unnecessary generic villain is hurled in there but it luckily doesn't come close to eclipsing the exciting and gripping story that Civil War is. The film delivered on its promise: to have all of those heroes fight each other for grounded, legitimate motivations in Marvel’s fun-filled tone. We’ll all be excited to see where these changes to the Avengers world will take us, alongside remembering Civil War as the best Marvel film to date.

Rating: 9.5/10

 
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