Given we’ve had to endure one horribly stoic, dark and frankly boring superhero smackdown this year, yes we’re looking at you Batman Vs. Superman, Captain America: Civil War has little to live up to. But, as if to twist the kryptonite-coated knife into DC Comics, Marvel are here to show the world how you do two iconic heroes facing off against each other, in style. This might technically be a Captain America film but make no mistake, this could just as easily be called Avengers Disassembled.
When their latest exploits result in more innocent deaths The Avengers, led by Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), are told to get in line with the United Nations in how they administer justice. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is on board but when the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), aka Bucky and Captain’s childhood best friend, seemingly blows up a UN assembly the Avengers are split down the middle as to how they should proceed. With Iron Man getting his team together, including a web-slinging new recruit in the form of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Cap and Bucky, aided by their own recruits, go on the run.
As with all Marvel films Civil War is a perfect continuation of the saga so far. It’s not always going to play perfectly to newcomers but given Marvel have monopolised the blockbusters for the past few years is there really such a thing as newcomers?
The Russo Brothers, returning after the huge success of their Captain America: The Winter Soldier, bring a kinetic and fluid energy to the film. They’re not going to indulge in as much banter as Avengers helmer Joss Whedon, but they bring enough humour to certainly paint a smile in many sequences. One such sequence is the main event, the prize fight in which Team Cap square off against Team Iron Man. It’s one of those action set pieces that is so wonderfully inventive, utilising every superheroes’ powers perfectly, that it’s worth the admission price alone. And it takes place in broad daylight, so you get to actually see all the action. Take that Superman and Dark Knight.
There are times where you feel as if the writers have over-complicated proceedings, that the twists and turns of The Winter Soldier needed to be matched when all you really need is to pit the two teams on opposing sides. Thankfully exposition is handled with brevity that means we get much more character development than overburdening plotting.
Accolades should also be given to the way, for once, a Marvel film doesn’t end in a huge CGI climax. That particular moment comes at the close of the second act meaning the final battle is, thanks to the time we’ve invested in these characters, a more intimate and affectionate bust-up between two of the Marvel Universe’s most important characters.
At this point, after countless films in their superhero guises, Evans and Downey Jr. are like old friends you get to hang out with. They’re both effortlessly perfect in their respective roles made all the more powerful by their often fractured but always respectful brotherly issues that have played out previously and on an even grander scale now. Stan is never really given much time to either pout as conflicted Bucky or be broad enough to worry Thor as The Winter Soldier. Scarlett Johansson continues to be one of the franchise’s most interesting and identifiable characters, that Marvel still haven’t planned a solo outing for her Black Widow is a crying shame. Likewise Elizabeth Olsen brings a wonderfully conflicted emotional core to the film, her all-powerful Scarlet Witch struggling with her powers and her purpose. Meanwhile Tom Holland marks himself out as a genuine contender for best screen Spider-Man ever and Paul Rudd not subtly steals every scene he’s in with his dry, sarcastic comedy. And while Chadwick Boseman is magnetic as Black Panther you do wonder if his royal, all too serious tone, might see him slip down a DC depressing route in a solo film.
The superhero battle we really needed after Dawn Of Justice, Captain America: Civil War proves that Marvel really are kings of the superhero castle.