Captain America: Civil War (2016) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

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. 

civil-war-posters

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 

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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28 Responses to Captain America: Civil War (2016) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Jason says:

    Great review. I loved Civil War more than you did, but it wasn’t a absolutely perfect. Yes, I agree that the movie was bloated and had too many characters. The villain was also weak (something common almost for a MCU movie). Still, Civil War was amazingly movie experience.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, it really is a big ticket event, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’m amazed how well the Russo’s pulled it off, given massive character detail and plot information that had to present.

    • of course the villain was weak but this movie is more about the conflict between the heroes than is between them and some villain.

      • Jason says:

        Oh yeah, I agree with you on that. Like how Ronan was in Guardians of Galaxy. It was more about the team coming together than hero vs. villain. Similarly, Civil War was about the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. It’s just a shame that the character of Zemo (and Daniel Bruhl) was reduced to a footnote on the movie.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I love Daniel Bruhl in Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’, and he’s such a tremendous actor, clearly cut for playing the baddie. I thought he was more of an orchestrator here, than out-and-out baddie, and I was fine with that. Knowing how excellent he can be, though, you do pine for more of him.

      • Jason says:

        And I agree with you on that as Zemo was more of a orchestrator in Civil War, pulling the strings. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. I was just expecting a little more. Still, I loved the movie!

      • garethrhodes says:

        Can you imagine trying to edit Civil War down to a final cut? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want that responsibility. Honestly, it has more to do with an actual magic trick, than movie making, such is the impossibility of the feat. That said, I agree that we could have had more of him, but I think I was happy enough to settle for what we got, given all the other plates the Russo bro’s managed to simultaneously spin.

      • Jason says:

        Haha…true. There was a lot of moving parts in Civil War.

      • garethrhodes says:

        He was less of a villain, and more of an orchestrator, and yes, the internal conflict is the real baddie, which makes it one of the more interesting MCU films. I still say that Whedon’s first Avengers film is where the bar is set, in terms of quality.

      • oh yeah the first avengers film definitely set the bar but this one does a very good job.

      • garethrhodes says:

        It does, and it gives us a lot of confidence going forward, knowing the Russo brothers have such a clear understanding of how these films are supposed to work. Infinity War is either going to be utterly epic, or the biggest mess since the big bang.

  2. I really enjoyed this review and the film. spiderman was great and more than worth the wait.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Spider-Man was brilliantly done…perhaps the best we’ve seen to date. How exciting to have such a young actor, capable of owning the role. I hope he’s keeping his diary clear for the next 10-15-years…

      • He did what I didn’t think possible and actually made me excited for another spiderman story. I just hope that they don’t do an origin story for him as we have seen that way to many times.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I think they just did the origin story, and you’d hope they’d be smart enough to realise that audiences don’t need or want it. Spidey is now primed for action, and I love that.

      • I hope so but I guess we will just have to wait and see. Either way I thought he was a great addition to this film and I can’t wait to see what he does in his own movie.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I’m a bit cloudy over the ownership of the character, Sony loaned him to Marvel/Disney for this film, right?? Is he going forward in his own adventures under Sony?

      • yeah I think that he was loaned out to Marvel/Disney for this film but I think Sony still owns his solo films. Although I won’t mind seeing him appear again in a Marvel/Disney film at some point in the future.

      • garethrhodes says:

        I see. Though I’m all for competition in a marketplace, I kind of wish he still belonged to Marvel/Disney, so that they could use him as they wish, as opposed to him being a bit-part player. That said, very excited about what’s next for Spider-Man, and that hasn’t felt like a thing since the early 2000’s.

      • well I don’t know all the specifics but it would be cool if marvel/disney could use spiderman as they wished. But yeah It has been a while since people have been this excited for spiderman.

  3. Chris Evans says:

    Great review Gareth (as always), I liked that cloaing comment about it the all you can eat buffet – we were certainly spoilt with the plethora of characters in Civil War. Spidey was great (and I look forward to his re-re-reboot next summer) but I actually felt that Black Panther stole the show – probably because it’s the first time we’ve seen the character on-screen.

    Loved Civil War, it felt less like ‘Avengers 2.5’ for myself than it has doen for others, but that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve always been a big Marvel Comics reader and just used to all the team-ups and crossovers!

    • garethrhodes says:

      That’s interesting Chris, to have your perspective as a regular reader of the Marvel comics, and how you’re used to all the crossovers. I expected it to be cluttered going in, but still, that didn’t prep me for quite how many faces and names populate the screen. It’s interesting that you felt Black Panther stole the show, while I don’t for a second doubt that’s how you felt, I didn’t quite get that much from him, although he was one of the more interesting characters on show. Glad he’s onboard. Ultimately, for me, it was Tony vs Cap, and for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw. Not the best Marvel movie, simply because it’s so dense, with little room for proper character stuff, but I still think its one of the better ones. I’d only place Avengers Assemble (is it called that anymore?), Winter Soldier and Guardians above this.

      • Chris Evans says:

        Yep, definitley up there with the best of the Marvel films but I agree that it’s not hands down the out-and-out best (is that yet to come?). I guess with Black Panther I was just interested to see his introduction as although Spider-Man is one of my absolute fave characters we’ve already seen him on the big screen.

        But you’re right, when it comes down to it, the core of Civil War was Cap vs Stark and the delivered on this.

  4. After feeling disappointed by Age of Ultron, I had high hopes for Civil War and walked out of the theater very pleased. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, but this movie did a good job of reminding us that it all boils down to the conflict between the Cap and Iron Man. The action sequences were great, particularly the Avengers vs. Avengers fight at the airport.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I’ve seen it twice now, and found myself more involved on second screening. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it has enough good stuff to paper over most of the flaws. I agree re – the airport sequence…quite clearly the centrepiece of the entire movie.

  5. T Martin says:

    In terms of emotion and brains, this could have been Marvel’s best if it weren’t another setup movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed it both times I’ve seen it, especially the Ant-Man parts, but I probably won’t remember it ten years down the line unlike The Avengers, a movie that has five movies leading up to it but stands fine on its own.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I agree, there is too much set-up in all of these movies. Aside from a few exceptions, they haven’t wholly figured out the formula of making standalone, classic films to coincide with this push to tell an overarching narrative. It feels, in essence, very in-step with the Netflix model of TV, like each new movie is just a $150m latest, to be continued episode. It’s new for us to have to digest films this way…but it seems to be working out find for the people with money invested in these films. I just worry that like you say, we’ll look back and not remember a great deal of what had occurred in the actual films.

  6. Mr. Fuffcans says:

    i wanted to get a different perspective on this movie (as i dislike it) and its interesting to note that you liked everything i disliked. I thought spiderman was particularly annoying, whose constant asides and youthful earnestness shattered the pacing and tone of the film. The action as well i thought was horribly shot and edited, with too much jerking and quick cutting annihilating any sense of motion and impact (some of it was incoherent to me), although this mostly applies to the earlier action scenes.

    Good review by the way, you make it very easy to see what you liked about the film.

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