Captain America: Civil War FILM REVIEW
Release: 29 April 2016
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
First, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way – because, despite this review’s five-star rating, there are a few issues with this film that are still worthy of note. One: it’s too long, but so are most blockbuster movies these days, so we’ll let that go. Two: despite being the plot’s focal point, there isn’t much character development for Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier. And three: the 3D is nothing special, in case that sways you when you’re buying your cinema ticket.
There. Those are the niggles. As you can see, they’re small ones. Which means that, gloriously, the rest of Captain America: Civil War is everything you always hoped it would be – a loose adaptation of Marvel’s “Civil War” event series, which delivers quiet character moments and rampaging, devastating action without faltering once. It’s big (the longest Marvel movie yet), it’s important and it’s compelling, with characters that feel like real people doing real things, even if those things are shooting energy blasts from your hands like Scarlet Witch, or figuring out what it means to be human like the artificial Vision.
You already know the plot, of course: politicians are getting twitchy about a band of superheroes flitting around the world with nobody to answer to, and so the Avengers are asked to sign away their freedom so they’re under UN control. Tony Stark’s all for it; Steve Rogers is most certainly not. And then Steve’s brainwashed pal Bucky is implicated in a bombing, so it’s down to him to find and protect the unfortunately deadly chap, while the rest of the Avengers angst, choose sides, angst some more and then line up either for or against their old friend Cap.
Long-term Marvel scribblers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have produced a script that has retained the sure hand for an ensemble cast that Joss Whedon showed in his two Avengers movies. Lord only knows how they achieved it when you consider there are 12 of them, but every single superhero here gets a moment to shine, from Ant-Man’s glee at meeting Cap to the debut of Chadwick Boseman as a dignified Black Panther, who could have suffered from being shoehorned in as an afterthought. Instead this firmly establishes him as a force to watch; you can’t argue with his cat-claws scraping grooves in Captain America’s indestructible shield, after all.
Then there’s the film’s undoubted highlight: the first outing of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, a teenage geek who can’t quite believe what he’s swung himself into. He gets all the best lines – despite stiff competition from Anthony Mackie’s wry Falcon – and breathes new life into the middle of the film… you know, the bit that can sometimes sag in Marvel movies. There’s definitely no sagging here – in fact, Civil War’s midsection features a superhero scrap that will leaving you whoopin’ and hollerin’ like you’re there yourself, only with less ducking of flying objects.
When it comes down to it, though, the entire Civil War experience boils down to Captain America versus Iron Man, and the final showdown doesn’t disappoint. The secret to its success? We want both of them to win, because there’s enough subtlety in the writing for us to understand each side’s issues. With both Tony and Steve having a damn good point, but neither of them willing to back off, Evans and Downey Jr up their acting game until their face-off is positively Shakespearean. Watching them hurting each other (and not just physically; their actions also take a strong psychological toll) is painful, and by the time the end credits roll you’re just as exhausted as they are.
So Captain America: Civil War ends up being epic in both scale and emotional scope. It’s also amusing, warm, occasionally shocking and, most importantly, convincing. The path has been firmly laid for the next big Avengers outings – making this a war that could rumble to infinity. We can’t wait.
Review by Jayne Nelson