Captain America: Civil War

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 21 Apr 2016
Film title: Captain America: Civil War
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Daniel Brühl, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Emily VanCamp, William Hurt, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, John Kani, Hope Davis, John Slattery, Alfre Woodard
Release date: 29 Apr
Certificate: 12A

It's Captain America v Iron-Man in this Marvel clash of The Avengers. The good news is that Captain America: Civil War has great action set-pieces and a delightful Paul Rudd

One of the most frequent complaints to be thrown at Marvel Studios' franchise (released under Disney) concerns their entries' tendency towards homogeneity. Another is their too-frequent focus on the ongoing 'cinematic universe' brand, rather than making cohesive, satisfying individual films in their own right. Well, Captain America: Civil War feels like something of a turning point, for several reasons. It manages to be a sprawling clash of the titans that incorporates key superhero players from other movies (with their own individual personal conflicts and quirks) while also debuting entertaining new ones (Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther and Tom Holland as some kid called Peter Parker); it largely keeps its teases for future entries concerned with emotional fallout instead of plot McGuffins; and it tells a cohesive, compelling story with genuinely interesting ramifications.

Furthermore, unlike a certain theoretically similar superhero film from earlier this yearCivil War actually sticks to the thematic throughline it sets up, one concerning the validity of putting The Avengers under the control of the world's governments, to be deployed only when they deem appropriate, so as to limit collateral damage and retain a semblance of consistent international borders. And when the tackling of the issues takes the form of extended dialogue scenes, it's a case of semi-subtly weaving thematic points into real-feeling, personal conversations, rather than bombastic speechifying.

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Everyone gets their spot in the limelight; everyone feels like a real person behind the capes and costumes, even the android guy. Like actual civil wars that don't involve telekinetic beings and Paul Rudd being delightful, there are rifts that cannot be healed and sympathetic reasoning on both sides. The film ultimately sways one particular way concerning Team Captain America vs Team Iron Man, but it certainly doesn't end with everyone changing their minds, even when a grand manipulator is – as is wont to happen – revealed to be pulling the strings to instigate conflict.

In the directing chairs for Civil War are brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who helmed 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and their work here is a considerable step up when it comes to the big set-pieces. As impressive as the action choreography was in The Winter Soldier, it was too often marred by a brand of quick cutting that didn't complement it. Bar a couple of close-combat fist fights early on that suffer the same fate, Civil War is very impressive when it comes to action, both the large-scale bang-bang and more intimate, emotionally-fuelled spars.

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The crowning achievement is the big scene where all the heroes turn up to fight each other, which initially comes across like the newscaster brawl in Anchorman, if mainly because of a certain shared cast member – again, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is just delightful. The sequence's increasing, gleeful absurdity and thrilling escalation is infectious, and it's all presented with a lucidity that prevents it from ever coming across like a CG blur. It's a very strong contender for the best action scene in a superhero film, though the train fight in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 probably still gives it a run for its money. 

There are still imperfections to be found in this particular Marvel offering, but when the highs are this good, it's hard not to temporarily give in to our new insect overlords who are possibly going to control our multiplex screens for the rest of eternity. This time, anyway.

Released by Disney Studios