By Jake Winwood (United Kingdom)
When Marvel launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, with the release of Iron Man, its success was far from guaranteed. Yet here we are 12 movies later with Captain America: Civil War, a movie that feels like the culmination of eight years’ worth of story-telling. There’s a lot riding on Civil War, after the underwhelming Avengers: Age of Ultron. There’s a sense that this is the point when the MCU runs out of steam or it finds new life, thankfully Civil War ensures the latter. Captain America’s third instalment is brilliantly satisfying and may just be the best Marvel movie to date.
For years the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been operating with little consideration for the consequences of their actions. Avengers Assemble saw New York City flattened, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier a group of helicarriers crashed down in Washington DC and last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron concluded with havoc in Sokovia as a city was dropped out of the sky. Our heroes may have saved the day numerous times but the casualties have been largely ignored, until now. The latest incident in Nigeria is the final straw for the world’s governments who decide that The Avengers need to have greater control imposed on them.
The result is the Sokovia Accords an agreement that will see The Avengers come under the control of the United Nations. The only problem is, not everyone’s ready to sign. Civil War is quick to establish the divide between its flagship heroes, Captain America and Iron Man. Tony Stark, plagued by guilt after the events of Age of Ultron, believes that it’s time for earth’s mightiest heroes to be “put in check”. Stark’s character development is intriguing as the previously rebellious billionaire now finds himself on the side of the government. Meanwhile, Captain America believes that The Avengers need to maintain their independence.
At this point it would be easy for the directors to let Cap and Iron Man go at each other, sensibly they avoid doing this. Instead, Civil War takes its time, establishing the motives of the heroes on both sides, thus we know what everyone is fighting for when the inevitable face-off occurs. Crucially, things never become boring while building up to the fight we’ve all been waiting for. This is because of the genuinely thought provoking plot, The Avengers are faced with some huge moral dilemmas and they don’t always have the answers.
There’s also the small matter of the Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes. Bucky strengthens the division between the leaders of each team. A wanted man after the events of the previous movie, but also the buddy of Steve Rodgers, a sticky situation then. Cap, knowing that Bucky was previously acting under the control of the villainous HYDRA wants to protect his friend, while Stark wants to bring him in.
With the two sides established we’re almost ready for the clash that the film’s title promises, but not before some late additions. Tony Stark travels to Queens to recruit Peter Parker, whose antics as Spider-Man have caught his eye. Meanwhile, Team Cap gains Ant-Man. It’s these two late arrivals that really steal the show. Tom Holland shines as Spider-Man with a believable performance. Spidey’s exchanges with Stark and his other senior heroes are a joy as he seamlessly delivers wise-crack after wise-crack. It was also good to see that the directors did not waste time re-telling the origin story that everyone already knows by now. Paul Rudd is equally as excellent as Ant-Man, building on last year’s solo debut. Rudd delivers some of the films best lines; his interactions with Captain America are particularly funny.
The two sides finally clash at Leipzig/Halle Airport and it’s sensational. With so many involved in this clash, it could quite easily have become a mess but Team Cap vs Team Iron Man is quite simply the best action sequence ever seen in a Marvel movie. All those involved are given their fair share of screen time and it doesn’t feel like anyone is being pushed to the side. The presence of MCU newbies Black Panther and Spider-Man make the fight all the more entertaining. The movie also manages to deliver some of its biggest laughs as the two sides go toe to toe, with Ant-Man again allowed to shine. This is the moment that fans have been waiting for and it certainly delivers.
While watching Civil War it was apparent that the movie could quite easily have been a let-down had things not be done so perfectly. The movie manages to be an overwhelming success despite frankly overwhelming potential for failure. The amount of characters this movie incorporates could have made it a mess; we could have seen some characters get severely restricted screen time like in Age of Ultron. This did not happen. The moral dilemmas the movie puts forward could easily have fallen flat. This did not happen. The movie could have become too dull considering the serious issues being explored. This did not happen. The humour could have felt out of place. This did not happen. Civil War is a remarkable movie because it manages to do everything, and do it well. It delivers a genuinely thought provoking plot but refuses to abandon the trademark humour of the MCU. Thus, Civil War becomes a seriously funny serious movie. In fact it’s so good that I’d be tempted to declare it the best movie Marvel has delivered to date. For me, Civil War would certainly make the top three alongside Avengers Assemble and Guardians of the Galaxy.
I said at the outset of this review that Civil War would be important for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’d be forgiven for thinking, how many more of these can they do? Yet, Civil War proves that the MCU is still going, and boy is it going strong.
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