YOU’D HAVE to be living on another planet not to know that Captain America: Civil War is now playing at a cinema screen near you. Once again, Marvel has transcended itself to bring movie-goers the most epic comic book clash since Batman took on Superman. What a time to be a comic book geek!
With this latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – now surely the biggest movie franchise of all time – Marvel Studios is at its boldest and most innovative. Not only are they pitting their two biggest characters against each other, a move previously only done to revitalise ailing brands or as a ticket-boosting gimmick (I’m thinking Alien vs Predator, Freddy vs Jason and yes, to an extent calling it Batman vs Superman was a marketing ploy), but they’re still bringing in new heroes along the way.
It’s important to remember that we are literally watching cinema history in the making here. Marvel has exceeded even Star Wars or Harry Potter in the sheer number of films that it has brought to audiences as part of a wider story arc. Remember, the Guardian’s of the Galaxy are part of this thing! Not to mention the soon-to-be five television series (Agent’s of Shield, Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the upcoming The Punisher – did I miss any out?) all taking place in the same cinematic universe. The comics have literally come to life and Disney, who owns Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, is fronting the cash to keep us nerds in bliss.
In Civil War we’re introduced, for the very first time on film, to T’Challa, aka Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman (you might know him from his role as James Brown in biopic Get On Up). King of the fictional African country of Wakanda by day and be-clawed, agile street-fighter wearing a man’s cat-suit (mat-suit?) whenever it takes his fancy. (Wakanda, incidentally, is where Vibranium comes from and is what Howard Stark used to make Captain America’s mighty shield). We also get to see a whole lot more of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and, while the character is certainly not new to audiences, Spider-Man finally web-slings his way into the MCU (previous incarnations stood alone) played by young Brit Tom Holland (In the Heart of the Sea).
There are so many characters on the roster that sufficed to say all the usual suspects are in there except for Thor and Hulk. The Russo brothers are back directing, having taken the reigns on the Winter Soldier. Even Frank Grillo is back as Brock Rumlow but this time in full Crossbones getup. Plus there’s a new role for Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit), who probably doesn’t care a bit about missing out on even a small part in the Harry Potter franchise after first bagging Bilbo and now the uptight Everett K. Ross in the MCU.
The core of the film is based on Mark Millar’s story arc for Marvel comics, of the same name, with writing duo Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely penning the screenplay for the third time for Captain America having also worked on Thor: The Dark World. (They’re also due to write both Infinity War films along with Jim Starlin, who had a hand in hit video game Batman: Arkham Knight).
Without giving away too much, Iron Man and Captain America find themselves suddenly on opposite sides after an incident in Nigeria, preceded by catastrophes in New York and fictional eastern European country Sirkovia shown in the two Avengers movies, leads to calls to regulate and charter superheroes from a number of disaffected UN countries. Steve Rogers needs to know that if it comes to it, his team has the freedom to do what needs to be done, while Tony Stark says that without limits the Avengers are no better than the bad guys. Driving them apart is Cap’s love for his best friend Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, whose past comes back to haunt him.
Thankfully there’s so much more nuance to it than that. This is a superhero blockbuster with brains, relevance, that renowned Marvel wit and of course the obligatory super-sized portion of astounding action. This is an area where Marvel has never disappointed, they’ve made the incredible credible, but between this movie’s gargantuan set-pieces are moments when Robert Downey Jr’s unmasked Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Cap are just talking with palpable emotion. It’s fine drama that shows the human side of the heroes.
If there was anything to complain about it’s that Civil War peaks in the middle a bit with a titanic clash that Anthony and Joe Russo apparently shot on IMAX cameras (so see it there for the full effect if you can). Other than that, buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Final word: A superhero movie that delivers some of the most spectacular action sequences ever shown on film while delivering real drama, real emotion, real humour and real intelligence.
If you liked Captain America: Civil War you should also watch
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Captain America: The First Avenger
- Avengers Assemble
- Avengers: Age of Ultron