Film Review: Captain America Civil War (2016)

Captain America Civil War is directed by the Russo brothers and stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansen. It is the third entry in the Captain America series and is interconnected with the Marvel cinematic universe which also includes the Iron Man, Thor and Ant Man franchises. Frustrated with the spate of collateral damage constantly left in the wake of The Avengers’ heroics, the UN proposes that the team have certain restrictions to abide by. Some members, like Tony Stark and James Rhodes agree with the restrictions, whilst others like the ever righteous Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson have their reservations. It’s this divide that sets up the basis for the eventual split and conflict between the two halves of the Avengers, once things get particularly dire.

While there is a certain level of entertainment consistency that the Marvel cinematic universe manages to keep up through each of its instalments, with the ridiculous oversaturation of comic book movies at the moment it is hard not to approach this film with a certain level of scepticism. My scepticism proved to be ill-founded however, as Civil War might be the best Marvel film since the first Avengers movie. The action sequences are unsurprisingly top-notch, though the Russo brothers have to be commended for raising the bar even higher than the already excellent spectacle of The Winter Solider. As if that wasn’t entertaining enough, the snippy dialogue which has come to characterise the universe returns and is as funny as ever.

Outside of its expected strengths, Civil War also manages to excel in unexpected places as well. I credit the much of the film’s excellence to the performance of two actors. No it’s not Evan’s always great performance as Captain America nor is it Johanssen’s equally consistent greatness as Black Widow. It’s not even the show-stealing Tom Holland who gives Spiderman his most exciting performance in years. No the best performances against this stiff competition come from Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Sebastian Stan as The Winter Solider. The cracks beneath Tony Stark’s cool veneer which were hinted at in Age of Ultron are really fleshed out here. Stark is a traumatised, damaged man who seeks redemption for his perceived wrongdoings from wherever he may find it. While the illusive Bucky Barnes is also a mentally-scarred character, he is far more distant and the years of brainwashing have clearly taken their toll on his emotional grasp.

Despite being brilliant, Civil War does suffer from the same key issue I have found with practically all movies in the series. As the Marvel Universe is a valuable piece of property which makes just as much money in merchandising as it does in ticket sales, it’s hard for the writers to do anything truly surprising. Granted, there is a nifty twist near the end of the film but, as expected, nothing that is legitimately shocking ever happens. There’s too much money invested into each of these characters for the writers to ever be bold enough to kill them off, once you reach this realisation it’s hard to gain back that sense of tension.

Captain America Civil War is an excellent entry into the series that helps to revitalize the ailing comic book movie trend. Driven by great performances all round with two amazing stand-outs and the action directorial competency of the Russo brothers, it may very well be the must see superhero movie of the year.

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