***This Review (like this trailer) contains SPOILERS!***
Plot: After inadvertently causing some civilian casualties, the Avengers are given an ultimatum ratified by the UN – rules for the Avengers to go by under their watch. Iron Man agrees, Captain America doesn’t, and it threatens to tear the Avengers apart.
Cast: Actually, most of the Avengers! So much so I keep thinking this is an Avengers movie and not Captain America’s. Cap, Iron Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Hawkeye…. everyone except Samuel L, Thor and Hulk. We get some new faces in Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) in a non-Ant-Man movie! Awesome!
The main plotline – Free Will vs Order:
• Enjoyed the basic premise weaved throughout the film of free will vs order – it’s something that’s always a big logic hole in superhero films, that these super-powered heroes are literal weapons of mass destruction and should be held accountable for their actions – Cap believes that “the safest hands are our own”, in that they do good, and should be free to get things done how they see fit, vs Stark’s “we need to be placed in check” and work with/for a governing body, so their actions are sanctioned and approved. As the two “leaders” of the Avengers, their differing philosophies split the team in half and end up fighting. Bringing the concept more personal, Cap wants to protect Bucky/Winter Soldier, who had his brainwashed to be a sleeper Russian killing machine, but still has his personality in there. He might not have known what he was doing but his body committed those crimes and was awake for all of it (which plays into the Free Will vs Order theme). The US army want him dead and Cap won’t have it, even if he’s disobeying orders, the good part of him (Bucky) is alive. It’s great o see Cap to great lengths for his friend. I also loved how Cap kinda dodges Stark’s question of “did you know (about my parents)?” and Tony just repeats himself more angrily, and gets his answer – yes. Great, showed Captain A doing something wrong.
• Stark’s reasoning is mainly spurred on by guilt, focusing on the lives lost in their battles, whilst Cap has a clear conscience, empathetic of the deaths caused but focusing on the much greater lives saved from these dangers. Vision interestingly postulates that although The Avengers are a collective massive force for good, they are perhaps the cause of these collective massive threats to mankind (evil rising to combat the good) — it’s like how Joker once told Batman that his vigilantism/heroism actually drew the worst criminals to Gotham. Peter Parker chimes in with his two cents (“it’s when you choose to do nothing, and bad things happen, that is your fault”) which is actually more a Captain America side of thinking. All just great food for thought.
• I thought Iron Man’s reasoning/justification to be pro-accountability was a bit weak, and things like a villain sneaking into a maximum security jail to break out Sleeper-Soldier Bucky aren’t thrown in his face as direct examples of the Avengers needing to do what’s right before asking first. Plus, he does what he thinks is right before asking first anyway – prior to this film and during it! In the comics V1 tells me he’s much more the heel; actually releasing super-villains from jail to help him get more signatures to the accord (which is straight up heel!), but they showcase him here as a little bit of an idiot, and that his ego and guilt has clouded his judgement. Didn’t he successfully privatize world peace in Iron Man 2? What about all that! Thankfully, he wasn’t siding with the US Government (who’ve been portrayed as easily corruptible in the Marvel Universe) but rather siding with the United Nations with the backing of 117 countries, so this is very much a world wide affair.
The New Additions:
• The action fight scenes build and build, peaking with the second last fight in an airspace, where we get a Survivor Series showdown (actually more like War Games as there are individual feuds and they pick partners to fight with).
• It’s cool to see that these opposing viewpoints forces the rest of the Avengers to take sides, and they clearly don’t want to fight (like Rominov and Hawkeye go very easy on each other)
• The fights are choreographed/booked very well to be as interesting as possible. You know the way in triple threats it’s usually lazily mapped out – one guy gets thrown out and it’s a singles, the 3rd guy comes in and another out, so it’s still one on one? Well in this there’s some awesome three-man choreography with Bucky, Cap and Iron Man. Yes!
• Very quickly you see the scope of the ensemble cast, which keeps layering as they bring in more new faces – it’s brilliant, it takes it out of a “Captain America film” and into an “Avengers film”. I was cool with not having Thor or Banner because of the new faces (and wasn’t expecting them in a Captain A film)
• I love how Marvel treated the new additions – Spider-Man and Ant Man are really happy and grateful to be in the mix, part of basically an Avengers film and getting int he fight – because that’s how fans would view it and expect the ‘shoot’ superheroes to feel (“thanks for having me in the film! woo!”). I really appreciated that we just got one scene explaining Spider-Man, and (much like the fans) Iron Man already knew everything about him so he put the conversation of explaining and recruiting Spider-Man on fast-forward, in a wonderfully organic and absolutely fitting conversation which only Tony Stark could hold.
• Ant-Man marking out meeting Captain A is pretty hilarious and makes for some fun bravado. He keeps hugging/touching Cap which is very funny. It feels like Marvel have some awesome ideas and space them out and bring out maybe 2 per film — in this one, Ant-Man getting inside Iron Man’s suit, and then turning HUGE are both fantastic gimmicks and did everything they needed to do.
• I was incredibly weary of such a young Spider-Man and Aunt May, wow he looks like he’s 15, Benjamin-buttoning his way through Hollywood. My Goodness, Marvel knocked it out the park. He is shown as unique (i.e. not Steve Rogers in a spider-man outfit), he’s unsure, polite, enthusiastic and wise-cracking – like a PG Deadpool who doesn’t break the 4th wall. He brings a great touch of levity to the film.
• Bit surreal (in a cool way) he mentions Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back where the rebels bring down a giant robot camel by tying up the legs (and does such with Ant-Man) – since Disney own both Marvel and Star Wars, also because it’s a great timber spot that would be compared to Star Wars anyway. I wish one of the Avengers outed themselves as a bigger nerd by calling the ‘giant robots’ AT-ATs.
• Black Panther is a cool ‘new’ superhero who looks at the Civil War conflict with fresh eyes. I get he had a few lines explaining he was a warrior and now a king and by the way I’ve this fucking sweet super suit but that wasn’t not nearly enough for me, it’s like a new superhero out of nowhere!
Other thoughts on the film:
• Vision the Android is basically a God, no? He is fit to hold Thor’s hammer, I felt he was jobbed out pretty bad in this film. They play it off as he’s confused about looking to connect with Wanda so his immense powers are kinda brought down the level of the rest of the Avengers. It’s like Chyna absolutely massacring the women’s division so they have to do an injury angle to ‘bring her down’ to the level of Ivory.
• In general, it’s shocking how Steve Rogers is a boy scout, a white meat babyface, John Cena with much less corny lines, but is still immensely likeable. My brain in general is drawn to heels because they’re so much more free to be creative and entertaining, so I should side with wise-cracking jerk Tony, but I’m rooting for Cap to succeed. That’s an amazing accomplishment by Marvel. Great job.
• I think Don Cheadle should’ve died for this to have more impact, there’s so many new faces, losing him and his limited screen time wouldn’t be bad, perhaps they didn’t want to show deaths (even if they’re from 1991) too close together.
• Crossbones, former STRIKE commander, bit like deathstroke but with a black mask. He’s awesome, and he’s just a set-up guy to further the plot point of order vs free-will.
• In general I love how fights are booked in Marvel films, that people will lose function of a part of their suit and have to adapt, or lose a weapon, so the match-up is progressed into the next part (like Iron Man losing thrusters in one boot).
• Easter Egg! At the airport fight, I saw a Bluthmobile (a staircar) – it was confirmed by the directors as an Arrested Development reference! YAHOO!
• A small point but Brian Mann once gave out about the length of Family Guy’s subtitles on the screen. Basically the longer the subtitle stays, the dumber the makers think their audience is (i.e. how slow they are at reading). And WOW Captain America’s subtitles (which are usually one word) are on there for seconds! Way to go, even illiterate 2-year-olds can read it! How long does it take to read LONDON!
Overall: An hour into this film I thought it was the best Captain America film, and when the credits rolled, it’s either this or the original Avengers movie as the best Marvel movie, so Civil War is a huge win. It’s weird as I’ve heard nothing but praise for this movie, and it lives up to and exceeds the praise. It was really great. Congratulations Marvel, knocking it out of the park again. So shocking because I reckon a lot of people are suffering from “Superhero fatigue” and would jump on Marvel if they released a stinker, but this is one of their finest offerings to date. Bravo.
Of course it’s still a child-friendly superhero film and so it’s all a bit bombastic and ridiculous (Vision the purple android god wearing sweaters!), but in it’s field, it’s fantastic. A must watch.