Contains minor spoilers
Captain America: Civil War is fantastic. Of course it is, it was never going to not be. Is it flawless? Of course not, but the flaws are so small and almost invisible in a film executed with such precision that it’s easy to mistake it as such.
Marvel Studios are at the top of their game, and never has it been so evident than in Civil War. The obstacles and issues that would otherwise crush lesser studios or franchises are handled with such deftness and fluidity it’s baffling to puzzle out how they were overcome with such ease. The initial worry that including over a dozen well established Marvel superheroes in Cap’s swan song solo outing would overshadow and shove aside it’s titular hero is obliterated within the first 20 minutes. This is a Captain America movie, through and through. Yes there’s plenty of Iron Man too, but the backbone of the story is clearly focused on Cap (Chris Evans) and his relationship with loyal wartime buddy turned brainwashed assassin Bucky/Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan).
After an intriguing opening flashback to a Winter Solider mission in 1991 we return to the present where Cap and his seasoned Avengers are in the field tracking down a returning Bock Rumlow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo). After the operation goes south resulting in collateral damage via Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch, (Elizabeth Olsen) the UN finally steps in and creates the Sokovia Accords – a legislation which would make the Avengers directly answerable to the 117 countres who’ve signed it.
Given his past with S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap is immediately reluctant to sign, putting him in direct conflict with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who, not only plagued with existing guilt after his creation of Ultron, is now presented with a face and a name of one of the victims killed in Age of Ultron’s Sokovia disaster, putting a more human perspective on the damage the Avengers unintentionally leave in their best intentioned attempts to save the world. From here the films conflict jumps off, with the teams internal conflict complicated by the nefarious intentions of Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl).
To say anything more about the plot would be heading into spoiler territory, however by the films end all of the characters are left in a place that lacks any sort of consequence or actual jeopardy and it feels that Marvel played it somewhat safe in the overall endgame. It feels a little too neat and a little too soft given the potential that both the films premise and the original graphic novel suggested.
Like their previous Marvel venture Captain America: The Winter Solider Directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s cinematography and choreography are nothing short of outstanding with the climactic airport battle being the most grin-inducing comic book smack down we’re ever likely to see on screen. Every single character gets a chance to shine, not only in the battle but throughout the film although we could have done without the Lego and POP merchandise spoiling the arrival of… well… someone worth seeing on screen for sure.
Marvel newcomer Chadwick Boseman makes for a charismatic and bad-ass Black Panther, with every element of his character transferring to screen perfectly. His arc in the film is both valid and very different from the rest of the group and he makes for a fresh outside perspective. It makes us very excited for his solo outing in 2018, although this was unfortunately delayed due to Marvel’s acquisition of Spider-Man.
Oh, Spider-Man. Executed so wonderfully with such reverence, heart and buoyancy and only showcasing how terribly skewed Sony’s handling of the character was, Tom Holland is a fantastic addition to the universe, unfortunately, despite every interview with the production team claiming otherwise, he is completely redundant to the story. Take out Spider-Man and the film would have functioned exactly the same, except with fewer laughs – his well-timed “Holy shit!” is however, definitely a highlight. At times his presence felt like a cheap audience draw – although completely unnecessary for the 13th film in a franchise that is a cultural phenomenon with a stellar cast.
Although the question of how on Earth Tony even discovered Peter Parker was Spider-Man was a small but niggling irk in an otherwise exceptionally assembled narrative tapestry. A tapestry that is also surprisingly accessible to Marvel novices as evidenced by our co-attendee.
Overall, Captain America: Civil War meets all expectations set for it, and only proves the Marvel Cinematic Universe has no chance of slowing down anytime soon. However, Civil War is not quite perfection; with the inclusion of some much needed higher stakes, and a some slight tweaks with certain characters screen-time it would reach the level of cinematic blockbuster perfection that is just, just shy of being. Whereas The Winter Solider resulted in a drastic paradigm shift in the MCU, Civil War ultimately doesn’t result in anything as game changing and feels like it should have done.