CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Is the latest Avengers-type movie the best one of the lot?
released OUT NOW! 12a | 147 minutes Directors Joe russo, anthony russo Cast Chris evans, robert downey Jr, scarlett Johansson, sebastian stan, anthony Mackie, elizabeth Olsen
“It’ll never work,” the world scoffed. Cramming Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America into one huge continuity before eventually uniting them as the Avengers was as mad as saying Leicester City could win the Premier League – an ambitious folly that would most likely be abandoned almost as soon as it had begun. How wrong we were.
Now, after eight years, 13 movies, a couple of TV spin-offs and two completed “Phases”, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has reached its zenith. Captain America: Civil War is up there with the best superhero movies ever made, a clash of the titans that manages to be fun, funny, poignant, action-packed, joyous, surprising, edge-of-the-seat exciting, clever, intimate and an instant classic. In other words, it’s everything Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice isn’t.
These days “shared universe” is Hollywood’s favourite buzz phrase when it comes to building a franchise. But everyone else is playing catch-up with Marvel, which has written the blueprint for sprawling, complex, interlocking continuities. Civil War works because it’s the culmination of nearly a decade of meticulous planning and character development, playing out like a season finale in the brilliant, engaging serial that is the MCU.
Where other movies might need to waste an entire act establishing what makes its heroes and villains tick, this is packed with readymade characters, each of whom land with fully-formed backstories and plausible motivations. And that doesn’t just apply to nominal leads Captain America and Iron Man – even the supporting players are people we know and care about. If they’re in peril, we feel it.
While it’s hard to think of any other movies that give as many characters so much to do as Civil War, however, it’s unmistakably a Cap film. He’s the focus of the movie, its beating heart, its hero – and its villain. That’s important. If there’s a criticism you can throw at the MCU it’s that – Loki aside – its bad guys are nowhere near as memorable as its good guys. Civil War ingeniously sidesteps that inconvenient truth, loosely riffing on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s comic storyline to make Cap and Iron Man the nominal villains, opposite sides in a clash of ideologies – Tony Stark wants the Avengers to come under government control, Steve Rogers does not. Civil War is sophisticated
Up there with the best superhero movies ever made
enough to deal in subtle shades of grey, allowing you to sympathise with both sides. It’s certainly a lot more than just an excuse to get two heroes beating the crap out of each other – when they do, it’s entirely justified in the context of the story, the action playing second fiddle to the emotional beats.
That’s not to say that returning directors the Russo brothers are any slouches in the setpiece department. From the rough-and-ready, Bourne-ish opening salvo in Lagos to the endlessly inventive airport-based clash of all the superheroes (probably one of the best action sequences ever made),
Civil War relishes every opportunity to show you things you haven’t seen before. Best of all, it does so with a sense of humour.
Special mention should also go to the two newcomers on the roster. Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther is an intriguingly enigmatic presence both in and out of costume, while Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is a revelation, less mannered than Tobey Maguire, less wannabe-cool than Andrew Garfield – his Peter Parker is an ordinary, geeky teen who can’t hide his inner fanboy. Both of their upcoming solo outings now look incredibly promising. Not least because Civil War is brave enough to shift the trajectory of the MCU in the way The Winter Soldier did with its Hydra revelations – no danger of anybody resting on their laurels here. This is the sort of golden streak of quality and box office success that Pixar went on in the ’00s. Maybe DC should ask Marvel to take over stewardship of the Justice League as well…
Day 2,705 on the Crossrail project and the workers were getting tense.
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