Film review of ‘Captain America: Civil War’

Every DC turkey followed by a Marvel soaring eagle

Playing nationwide
With The Avengers (2012), writer/director Joss Whedon was tasked with bringing together some lone wolves as unlikely team players along with all other disparate strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). No small feat – but he pulled it off with aplomb.

Since then, there’s been six more Marvel Movies and Whedon’s sequel to his movie – last year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron. That second outing for the super-friends lacked the first’s kinetic energy and, most crucially, a sense of purpose. Whedon’s first film brought the gang together, but with his second, he seemed unclear about what to do with them.

But maybe he should have taken a leaf out of the Brothers Russo’s book, as their film Captain America: Civil War (also functioning as a continuation of their Captain America: The Winter Soldier narrative) promptly tears them apart.

More powers than X-Men
Superheroes! They might occasionally save the world, but crikey – they don’t half make a mess while they’re doing it. In a premise that closely echoes that of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see our heroes split over the issue of their culpability in relation to the collateral damage done to cities and people during their world-saving antics.

Iron Man (Downey Jnr) is up for a UN-sanctioned mandate that will effectively put the heroes on a leash. But Captain America isn’t down with all the bureaucracy and instead opts to go things alone, believing that the mandate will prevent their help reaching those who need it.

This fundamental disagreement between the pair splits the Avengers down the middle and when Cap’s old war buddy/nemesis Bucky (Stan – aka eponymous Winter Soldier) resurfaces with the news of five more super-soldiers like himself, our heroes have opposing ideas on how to tackle the threat. The Avengers choose their allegiances, with Cap and Iron Man recruiting a few new faces (Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman is a promising addition to the MCU and Tom Holland might just be the most loveable Spiderman yet) for the inevitable showdown.

Fun for the fatigued – finally!
Even for life-long comic book fans such as myself, the saturation of superhero movies has led to an inevitable fatigue. The box office for Whedon’s first Avengers film, and the phenomenal success of the MCU as a whole, has a lot to answer for. With DC/Warner, Sony and Fox now scrambling to emulate that success, a film can appear attractive simply by virtue of it not featuring any spandex-clad characters. And yet, even if that’s your mindset, CACW should win you over.

The film benefits from omitting the more fantastical Marvel characters, such as Thor and The Hulk, in order to maintain that edgy, political thriller tone that marked Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a little more grown up, grittier and something quite deliberately different from other Marvel fare. It’s something that has proven key to Marvel’s success – keeping their output unpredictable by creating diverse sub-genres within the superhero mould.

Given DC’s thoroughly uninspired offerings so far (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) it’s an approach that they would do well to emulate. Above all, Marvel has proven once again that they’re capable of exciting fare, bringing both substance and laughs while ensuring none of it comes at the expense of – keyword coming – FUN.