CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
FILM REVIEW - CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Running Length: 147 minutes
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
Screenplay by: Christopher Marcus, Stephen McFeely
Cinematography: Trent Opaloch
Release Date: 29th April 2016
This is The Avengers 2.5, and frankly it’s a bit of a cheek to advertise it otherwise.
Back in 2011, this all-American Boy Scout with a steel Frisbee seemed an unlikely contender to make the transition from pulp to the big screen. But Captain America: The First Avenger turned out to be one of the better modern comic adaptions. Aided in no small part by a charismatic turn from Chris Evans, both it and its 2014 sequel were well received by critics and fans alike. Sadly, in this third instalment Evans gets sidelined in his own movie.
Captain America: Civil War picks up where Avengers: Age of Ultron left off. In the course of two movies, The Avengers have managed to destroy two cities and the authorities are understandably a little concerned. The United Nations decides to regulate the activities of super-people, and the newly-drafted “Sokovia Accords” proposes to restrict Avengers activity to UN-sanctioned actions only. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) agrees with the proposal, but Captain America (Evans) sees it as the thin end of the wedge that will inevitably lead to the withdrawal of civil liberties. Tensions between the two de-facto leaders increase with the reappearance of Captain America’s BFF, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), the former Hydra Manchurian Candidate who may have had something to do with the death of Stark’s parents.
Things come to a head in a superhero superbowl smackdown where a cast of thousands destroy an airport (rather than a city… now that’s progress). By the standards of Marvel’s trademark “blow up everything” clusterfudge finales, the sequence is a vast improvement. It is about as credible as it’s possible to get when you’re dealing with an incredible shrinking man, a witch, and a guy dressed up as a cat. And by placing it around the halfway point it leaves some space for a more subdued, personal climax.
But this sequence is also emblematic of Civil War’s shortcomings, which is that the number of characters kept in play is simply staggering. Apart from every Avenger bar Thor and the Hulk, screen time is allotted to hangers on including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). And I haven’t even mentioned the introduction of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (a vast improvement over poor Andrew Garfield’s effort). In essence, Captain America: Civil War is The Avengers 2.5 and frankly it’s a bit of a cheek to advertise it otherwise.
Marvel has gone from a fledgling studio to an industry in the short space of eight years. When The Avengers turned out to be one of the most successful movies of all time, the relatively modest stand-alone movies like Iron Man and Thor where ditched. The studio is now a global brand, and the focus is on crossover potential and setting up future instalments. The history of the MCU is almost as convoluted as the source comics themselves, and trying to keep up with what’s happening to whom and where is becoming quite exhausting.
The major problem with Captain America: Civil War is that Marvel is now in the business of empire building, not entertainment. Instead of telling a self-contained story with a satisfying resolution, the Russo brothers are forced into the position of leaving multiple strands in mid-air to set up the next instalment. These films now seem to answer little but leave many questions. There is still much to recommend in Captain America: Civil War, but Downey Jr. remains Marvel’s MVP, and Evans is criminally underused.