With dozens of reviews being written about this film, each trying their best not to spoil the film, so I have decided to spoil the shit out of it.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!
Captain America: Civil War is the third Captain America feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I use the term “third” with a bucket of Salt, because it is very much an Avengers film, I tweeted after seeing this for the first time that Captain America: Civil War was the Avengers film that we deserved, because The Avengers: Age of Ultron was properly crap. Now, I bought a copy of Age of Ultron last week, deciding to watch it again in preparation for this and I can confidently confirm that it’s a pile of shite.
However, the actions of Age of Ultron is the catalyst for the motivations of the chief antagonist in Civil War… So I guess it does serve a purpose.
The great thing about Marvel is that their movies don’t involve a total rehash of an origin story every time you see another film. For a film that’s already 2 ½ hours long (half an hour too long in my opinion) this is a good thing. You need to know that Bucky (Barnes), The Winter Soldier, is the childhood friend of Captain America. He was frozen and has been conditioned to act on command following a series of key words.
Following on from the events of previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s become clear that collateral damage is an issue, and this has not gone unnoticed. The Avengers (all but the Hulk and Thor) are given a choice, to sign a document handing over power to the UN or retire. This divides the team, on one side Tony Stark feels that for the work of The Avengers to be legitimised and legal, everyone should sign. There is a moment where Alfre Woodard makes an appearance as the mother of a man who killed in Sokovia during the events of Age of Ultron and she blames Stark. On the other side, Steve Rogers believes that signing the “accords” will diminish the freedoms of The Avengers to act when they feel what they are doing is right.
At this point in the film, it’s made clear that there is no right and no wrong side to be on. As a viewer, it’s possible to be in either camp, but ultimately, they’re all really on the same side. But lines are drawn when Captain America’s loyalty to his friend Bucky comes between the group.
The theme of accountability is one that permeates this narrative, and when the “accords” are being ratified at a convention in Vienna a bomb is set off killing the King T’Chaka of Wakanda. His son, who is later revealed as Black Panther vows to kill the bomber to Romanoff. Security footage reveals the bomber to be Bucky. Rogers goes to find him in Bucharest to confront and protect him from the police who have a shoot to kill order.
They are eventually captured, but Barnes is released when a HYRDA agent uses they key words to unleash The Winter Soldier. Rogers is able to stop him and get him out. At the same time, Stark is given 36 hours to bring them back. With this Stark assembles Peter (Spider-Man) Parker, Black Panther, Vision and War Machine. In the Captain America camp, Falcon brings in Ant-Man, Wanda and Hawkeye and at Leipzig airport all hell breaks loose.
Fight sequences in Civil War are all choreographed wonderfully, in the first third of the film the man-on-man combat is very reminiscent of a Paul Greengrass’s Bourne film direction. But in IMAX 3D it doesn’t look quite right. The choppiness of the frames doesn’t help the 3D whatsoever and as the camera is moving quickly I can imagine some people getting into a bit of headache territory, in 2D though, it looks brilliant.
When the IMAX version comes alive is in the sequences that have been shot on the new Arri Alexa 65 camera. This 2D digital camera shoots with an IMAX ratio of 1.90:1 (not quite the genuine IMAX ratio of 1.43:1) and was the camera used to shoot The Revenant. (which is the best looking film in YEARS). The airport sequence used this camera the image immediately pops. It’s hard to describe. I want to say it looks “cleaner”, but that not giving the sequence it’s dues, the only way I can describe it is like jumping from 4K to 4K HDR. It’s a terrible shame that the entire film wasn’t shot using these cameras. Luckily The Avengers Infinity War Parts 1 and 2 will be shot entirely on these new cameras!
Unlike Age of Ultron, Civil War gives Wanda a chance to shine. When originally coming across her, she was like a moody x-men reject, but in this she’s really come into her own. She has inner strength and she’s no longer a victim and this has done Elizabeth Olsen a ton of favours, because she’s been able to take a useless character and make her necessary. She does a great job. Speaking of great job…
Tom Holland plays the best on screen Spider-Man. Period. He’s Spider-Man as he should have always been. He’s young, cheeky and funny. He’s absolutely the stand out character in this film, and make sure you stay for the end credits sequence (not just the mid-credits sequence) because he’s cracking. He’s only in it for the sequence at the airport, but it doesn’t feel like they’re brought him in to say “Here’s Spider-Man and his film is out next summer”; the writers and directors have made his input feel integral to the sequence – and bring some much needed humour, much like with Ant-Man.
When I heard they were bringing in Black Panther as well, I was like “for fuck sake”. The problem with films where you bring in so many new characters is that each of them end up with hardly any lines and it feels like they keep adding for the sake of adding. This is where X-Men The Last Stand got it wrong. When Jean Grey died, I literally couldn’t give a toss, because there was so much going on I just gave up. All those characters made the film a mess. Thankfully, Civil War doesn’t fuck this up. The way they bring Black Panther into the film as the son of the fallen King T’Chaka is perfect because he’s got a purpose and a drive, they give him humanity, a history and he’s integrated into the team with ease. Even though his costume is badass, it’s still just fingernails. Ninja fingernails. Awesome. Chadwick Boseman should really be commended, he does a wonderful job. Particularly in one of his final scenes.
As the film enters the final act, and it becomes clear to Stark that Bucky was framed for the bombing, he follows Captain America and Bucky to Siberia where they believe the man responsible is going to thaw out more Winter Soldiers. They form a short lived truce, until the man reveals that it was Bucky who killed Starks parents in 1991. Since Rogers knew about this, they enter into a huge fight and when Rogers shouts “Bucky had no control” (or something like that), Stark simply says “I don’t care. He killed my mom” – and they beat the shit out of each other. This was a great devise from a narrative perspective as it personalised their division. It was no longer about politics, it was personal to stark and his everlasting need to take revenge since their death. And also Bucky was all who is left from Rogers’s past in the 1040s. When Agent ‘Peggy’ Carter dies. Bucky is all Rogers has left. It works really well, and throughout the film we’re given glimpses of what happened in 1991 the arc comes together nicely.
This is NOT Batman V Superman
It’s impossible not to make comparisons with Batman V Superman. They’re both stories about collateral damage and they’re both films about revenge and vengeance. However, this is a far better film on so many counts. Civil War marks the first film in “Phase 3” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and over the past two phases there has been some hit and misses, but each character has their own arc which is considered in their own films. Those arcs have some bearing on the ensemble films, like The Avengers, but they don’t drive those stories.
BvS literally had mini-trailers for the films that’ll introduce the characters in Justice League. It was rushing forward, probably to capitalise of the financial benefits of the popularity of comic book adaptations. If Wonder Woman was released before BvS, I’d probably not see her as a throw away character. (and don’t get me started on the Aqua-Man mini-trailer)
Captain America: Civil War is about half an hour too long, but as a friend said to me recently, “I don’t know what I’d have cut” and I agree. It’s too long, but I couldn’t think of what I’d have got rid of, everything seemed to be necessary to bring all the character together and to give them drive and the film the heart that Marvel movies all have. And this film does have heart, a lot of it. I came out smiling, it was fun to watch. It had a darker tone, but not like Batman does, because these characters aren’t dark like Batman, or Punisher, and they shouldn’t be. It’s a shame that I’m being so naïve as to even make those comparisons in the first place.
Some have said that this is really an Avengers film, and to some degree, I would have to concur, however, at its core Captain America: Civil War is still a Captain America film. But let me put this simply:
This is the Avengers film that we deserve, which happens to also be the best Captain America film in the series to date.
It’s a strong start to Phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.