Captain America: Civil War (2016) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. With Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Chadwick Boseman.
It’s beginning to feel like we’ve been through a lot with these characters. It’s all of 8-years since we first met Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and in that time, he’s wisecracked his way through going toe-to-toe with Mickey Rourke, saved New York from extra terrestrials, and gone all Dr. Frankenstein in creating bad robot, Ultron…and those are just a few select highlights. Of course, on paper, this spanking-new Russo brothers offering belongs to Chris Evans’s lantern-jawed Captain America, but make no mistake, this is Avengers 2.5, co-headlined by Downey Jr’s charismatic Tony Stark.
After the critical acclaim adorned upon Captain America: Winter Soldier (bums on seats also helped), co-directors Anthony & Joe Russo’s stock was high. So high, in-fact, that not only did they win this prestigious gig, but have been entrusted with driving forward the future of the MCU by co-helming Avengers: Infinity War Parts I and II, to be released in 2018 and 2019.
So, we pick up the reigns after last summer’s Age of Ultron, which sowed the seeds of division between Earth’s mightiest defenders. In many quarters (including this one), Joss Whedon’s film was criticised for behaving like a cluttered set-up film. The problem is, these Avengers movies are not self-contained stories, they are part of a greater whole…or so we are led to believe. The aforementioned seeds of division begin to sprout in this continuation, to the point of much-anticipated fisticuffs.
Many of the things that were problematic with Ultron, remain here. For starters, there are now so many characters to accommodate, that frankly, it’s becoming a struggle to keep up. With that in mind, the Russo’s do a borderline miraculous job keeping the story afloat, despite a bum-numbingly long 147mins of it. They do have prominent stop/start pacing issues, though, and sometimes the movie gets bogged down by one too many scenes of characters waffling their way through the occasionally porridgey plot.
What keeps it afloat, and, ultimately helps it fly, is the undiluted joy of witnessing such audacity realised, as our rival heroes face-off with and against each other in some of the most enjoyable MCU action sequences to date. What makes this all the more entertaining, is how the audience are constantly pressed to take sides, but also how the film is written to ensure there isn’t really a right side to take. In short, we’re allowed to root for who we like best, which is very deftly done. Kudos to screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, for adapting the Mark Millar graphic novel in such a way.
Even before it all kicks off between the good guys, though, the film opens with a ferocious action sequence that doubles as reassurance that the Russo’s are the perfect duo to take over from Joss Whedon. What Civil War has that Ultron did not, however, is an ace in its pack by the name of Spider-Man. They make us wait for him (don’t worry, not as long as Luke Skywalker), but when he’s introduced, it’s done with exactly the right amount of nod-wink humour, that we quickly get onside. It feels, in some way, like a homecoming, and it reinvigorates the film at a moment when feels like it’s beginning to sag.
Watching Captain America: Civil War is a bit like stuffing yourself on Christmas day. There’s so much to digest, and the 147-mins feels hefty, yet the action and world building that have gone into creating these enormous films carry it firmly over the line, as we attempt to catch our collective breath for whatever is coming next. 3.5/5