The thing I look for most when watching films is a good story. Make no mistake, Captain America: Civil War is a damn good story. The Russo brothers promised that you would leave the film arguing about who was right. While I feel that wasn’t necessarily true (Team Cap all the way), you do leave the theatre with the knowledge that this conflict was very grey, that neither side was entirely right and both have to shoulder part of the blame. This of course makes for very interesting story telling, and grey areas are one thing that Marvel films do extremely well.
This film outshines Age of Ultron by miles. The Russo brothers took great pains to show that that was a Captain America film, not an Avengers film, but considering that the only Avengers missing are Thor and Bruce Banner (the Hulk), it’s kind of hard not to think of it like that. However, Captain America was clearly the protagonist of this story, exploring how his relationship with Bucky and Tony Stark impacts the world around him, and the wider world. This is not a film for first time Marvel viewing. This film is an accumulation of years worth of world building and character development, of relationship growth and ideals shifting. It is only because of this world building that this film works. Without it, Civil War would just be a bunch of super people arguing over what was right and what was wrong in a fictional universe which we don’t care about.
Civil War is beautifully paced. With so many characters it would have been very easy for the film to drag, or feel too cramped. Instead it bounced along with serious moments and funny moments (often at the same time) and characterisation which felt very natural and smooth. New characters slotted right in where they needed to be and nothing felt shoe-horned for the sake of it. The plot, although complicated, was followable and more to the point, was satisfactorily closed. Not only that, but it just kept coming. When you thought you had everything figured out, BOOM! Another bomb would drop and create a whole new set of problems we had to work through. As a viewer it really kept me on the edge of my seat. I genuinely had no idea how that final fight featuring Iron Man, Bucky and Captain America would finish. I feared for Iron Man, I really did.
As always with action films, I think the camera moved around too much during the fight scenes. I know that part of this is to allow the use of stunt doubles to work properly, but I really would like just two or three different angles to see the action better, instead of changing the shot every time a punch is thrown. Sometimes I feel a little ill watching the camera dance around like a cat trying to catch a laser dot.
Let’s mention Spider-man briefly too, because he’s my favourite superhero. I’m still a little mad that Spider-man was Peter Parker and not Miles Morales, but that’s a different issue. I’m just glad we didn’t have a huge “great power = great responsibility” thing because that’s already been done to death. Keeping Andrew Garfield on as Spider-Man would have eliminated any need of that at all, and also possibly have had slightly more incentive to side with Tony Stark. Tom Holland’s Spider-man brought an entertaining dynamic, in an entirely different way to what Andrew Garfield would have done. He was a breath of fresh, well timed, comedic air, in a scene that threatened to be a little too heavy. I still missed Andrew Garfield and he is still my favourite out of the three, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of Tom Holland’s representation than I thought I would. I hope we see this Peter grow and shift his view to Steve’s way of thinking, like in the comics, but only time (and yet another reboot) will tell.
Civil War passed the Bechdel test in the first 5 minutes, and thank goodness it did, because the three women in this film literally all work for the same company and it would have been embarrassing if it hadn’t. Unfortunately, this was the only time it did, which is a shame, but considering most Marvel films don’t pass, I’m gonna mark this as a win.
I know a lot of people have issues with feeling like Steve and Sharon’s relationship was shoved in there for the sake of it, but that’s not how I see it. Again, this is a relationship that has been subtly been building over several films. This story is set two years after Captain America 2. They obviously have been dancing around each other for a while and you know what? Romance happens! The fact that Sharon Carter is not there solely to be Steve’s love interest is what prevents the relationship from being a cliche.
Civil War is a well paced, well written and beautifully executed film. It’s quite possibly the best of the Marvel films to date. Instead of superheroes facing off against some strange alien trying to destroy the earth, we got given a moral dilemma, what to do when your best friends and teammates disagree with your ideals. It raises the question of who should be calling the shots and asks when you should compromise and who should be the one to compromise. It unquestionably teaches that ultimately, revenge does nothing but tear you apart. It shows that friendships can be grey, you don’t always need to be in agreement to be friends. Even for those on opposite sides of this conflict, the friendships they had built over the past years shone through in beautiful and touching moments. It is the strength of those relationships that makes this conflict so much more heart-breaking and that makes for one hell of a story.