Release date: 29th April 2016/Watch the trailer here
Amongst Marvel fans, the names Anthony Russo and Joe Russo are revered. They are the brothers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film that is considered by many to be the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The name Joss Whedon, however, has a different effect on Marvel fans, after he struggled to balance the many characters of last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, later stating that the experience ‘broke’ him. So when it was announced that the Russos would be directing the final film in the Captain America trilogy, Civil War, Marvel fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. Civil War was surely in safe hands.
Now, still bleary-eyed after the midnight screening of one of my most anticipated films of the year, I can confidently confirm that the Russo brothers achieved everything that was expected of them and more. As with Age of Ultron before it, Civil War comes with a hefty cast – in many ways more of an Avengers movie than a Captain America flick, the only key players absent being Thor, Hulk and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. As well as the struggle of directing the vast majority of the Avengers – split firmly into ‘Team Cap’ and ‘Team Iron Man’ – the Russos also had to deal with the introduction of characters new to the MCU: some appearing on the big screen for the first time (Black Panther) and others, slightly more familiar (Spider-Man).
The ‘Civil War’ in question stems from a disagreement over the Sokovia Accords that the Secretary of State, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt, taking on the role for the first time since The Incredible Hulk) has issued as a way to regulate the Avengers following concerns over the collateral damage that so frequently occurs as a result of their missions. While a guilt-stricken Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is keen to sign, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) remains driven by his need for the freedom that Captain America stands for. His refusal to sign causes a rift between the former allies that is widened further by Cap’s insistence on protecting his old friend-turned-assassin Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
Perhaps more than anything else, Steve’s out-of-time friendship with Bucky is at the real heart of the conflict, and it is what keeps this firmly as a Captain America story, rather than The Avengers 2.5. An explosion at the United Nations in Vienna, believed to have been triggered by Barnes and resulting in the death of the King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, spurs his son, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the Black Panther, onto a mission of vengeance. Meanwhile, Iron Man has a new recruit in the form of Peter Parker (Tom Holland), who shoots webs at people while dressed in a red and blue onesie. With War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Spider-Man, Black Panther and Vision (Paul Bettany) on Team Iron Man, Captain America must fight to prove his friend’s innocence. Of course, Team Cap isn’t completely outnumbered – as well as the Winter Soldier, Cap has help in the form of Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
When these two teams come together in an epic confrontation at an airport in Germany, it makes for what is easily the most entertaining sequence of the entire film, and quite possibly the best action sequence to have been seen in a Marvel film thus far. Despite the overwhelmingly large number of characters, not once does the scene – or the entire film, for that matter – feel overcrowded, and no character is underused to make room for those with bigger egos. The action is tightly-choreographed, never anything less than jaw-dropping, and interspersed with the kind of witty humour that is synonymous with Marvel (yet, as opposed to Age of Ultron, the humour never detracts from the emotions at the heart of the film). Spider-Man, in particular, brings the laughs – the casting of Tom Holland is undoubtedly one of the best decisions that Marvel has ever made, as it finally feels like they’ve got this beloved character right. His chemistry with Tony is a highlight of Civil War.
Ant-Man, too, is a surprise scene-stealer, but in a film where every actor has embodied their characters, credit must be given to our other newcomer, Chadwick Boseman. Black Panther is stunning, always painstakingly cool, and a character to surely be excited for in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ultimately, Captain America: Civil War feels like everything that a superhero movie should be, and the film that fans deserve. It’s constantly fun, the pace never relenting over the course of its 150 minute runtime, but it packs more than its fair share of emotional punches. Without a real villain at the centre of the plot (something that, with the exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Marvel has often struggled with) – Daniel Brühl’s scheming Zemo, while effective, is more of a subplot – Steve and Tony are left in the difficult position of both protagonist and antagonist. Take sides if you will (I myself stand firmly with Team Cap), but Civil War makes sure that the line between right and wrong is never clear-cut.
This is an epic battle of a film, a confrontation between the heroes that we know and love, but the story remains character-driven enough to give Civil War an intimacy and emotional depth that is missing from so many other films of the same large scale.
The Russo brothers: Marvel fans thank you yet again. The Avengers: Infinity War films are safe in your capable hands.