Captain America: Civil War: The Five Greatest Things it got Right
As if there was any doubt that they wouldn’t, Marvel have continued their successful track record of churning out great movies with Captain America: Civil War. Though some of their movies haven’t been classics, Marvel seem to operate on their own scale of review at this point. A weak Marvel movie is still a very good action movie, outside of Iron Man 2 of course. The fact that they can still manage to find a new level to go to is a testament not just to their ability to churn out great movies but to their ability to create a universe that gives every movie within it extra strength. In comparison to rival DC, who have decided to pit their two big heroes against one another before they even know each other, Marvel have spend years building the Captain America/Iron Man relationship, which makes the shift in their friendship all the more tragic in Civil War.
There is so much to like in Civil War that I could talk for a long time, so instead, I’m going to change this one up. Instead of reviewing the movie as a whole, I’ll instead highlight the top five things I deem most worthy of highlighting.
5) THE DIRECTORS
After the highly successful Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo return behind the camera for Civil War, and it is not hard to see why they were recently announced as the next directors of the Avengers. The sheer number of characters in this movie could have made the narrative hard to keep coherent but the Russo’s manage to juggle characters effortlessly, all while developing relationships and character arcs in the background. Not only do they further develop characters such as Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Vision, War Machine, Ant-Man and Hawkeye, they even manage to introduce both Black Panther and Spider-man, as well as a new villain in the form of Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo; and even Martin Freeman gets introduced as a character that will continue on in the Black Panther movies. It’s actually startling to look back at the movie, think about the large cast, who all got opportunities to shine, and realise that the Russos still never lost sight of their story, which is even more satisfying than the action that is layered on top of it. Civil War may have just cemented the Russos as two of the best action directors around.
The biggest issue in the Marvel cinematic universe to date has been one critical flaw: lack of interesting villains. Up to this point the only villains that could be described as memorable would be Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Obadiah Stane. At this point we are so far removed from Jeff Bridge’s Stane that it was starting to feel like Marvel might never crack the villain code again. For the most part, the villains in the Marvel universe have either been poor imitations of Stane or just plain weak. Following on from the forgetful debut of Ultron last year, it is entirely refreshing to find Marvel have managed to stop their run of poor villains with Daniel Bruhl’s excellent Zemo. From the first moment he shows up on screen he carries with him a genuine tension, with his lack of a clear plan keeping the audience guessing the entire time. In lazier hands, it would have been easy to have the heroes fight it out while Zemo plotted behind the scenes to pull off an obvious scheme that only the audience was privy to. The fact that Zemo’s motives and end-game are so ambiguous provides the movie with a third act that is not just genuinely surprising but also reveals him to be the best kind of villain: one that not only thinks what he is doing is justified, but also one that has a genuine, relatable reason for wanting to do it. Daniel Bruhl was definitely one of the pleasant surprises of Civil War.
3) STEVE/BUCKY RELATIONSHIP
I’ve long considered Captain America: The First Avenger to be Marvel’s weakest movie outside of Iron Man 2. It never really gripped me, as everything about it just felt too safe. They could have taken great risks with the World War 2 setting but instead we ended up being greeted with a PG-13 war movie that never really did anything special. Eventually The First Avenger started to feel more relevant once Winter Soldier was released and the time Marvel had spent developing the Steve and Bucky relationship in The First Avenger was proven to not only be worthwhile, but to be vital. No more has that been true than in Civil War as Captain America literally goes to war with his friends to save his best friend and at no point does that feel unrealistic. It is a testament to the amount of time Marvel have put into this relationship that the pay-off feels so real. The drama that is created from Steve’s decision to defend Bucky against all odds is palpable and creates a tension that would not be possible had Marvel not spent so much time building the relationship to this date. We even see a mirror of the Bucky/Cap relationship towards the end through the Tony Stark/Rhodey friendship, which feels like it deserves some more time in the sunshine. It will always be hard to sell an audience on two heroes fighting and have it not feel contrived. Thankfully, the Steve and Bucky friendship is so believable that it never feels like the heroes have no reason to fight.
2) BLACK PANTHER
This movie sees the screen debut of T’Challa, known to comic fans since the 60’s as the Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman is the actor tasked with bringing the iconic character to life and he does an incredible job here. Not only does he do a great job of introducing the character, he manages to make himself stand out in a movie with so many interesting elements that it was always going to be hard to make an impression. Thankfully, he is even given a story arc that places him in the middle of the action, though he is not interested in the politics clouding the situation. Instead, he is out for revenge, pure and simple. It bodes well for the future of the Marvel cinematic universe that they have effortlessly introduced such an interesting and unique character at this stage of its lifespan. Unlike Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision, who all debuted in last years Age of Ultron, it’s easy to picture Black Panther holding his own movie. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to visiting Wakanda when his movie hits in 2018, and I ultimately I feel that Black Panther would be the most talked about part of this movie if it wasn’t for another character showing up.
This is an easy one. Pure and simple, Spider-man steals this movie. He doesn’t get much screen time but what we do get is gold and it is easy to see why Marvel pushed so hard to get him into their cinematic universe. Tom Holland shows he doesn’t just have the heart but also the gravitas to pull off Peter Parker and he is even better inside the suit. From quipping while fighting, to quickly earning the respect of Captain America because of his guts, Spider-man is always great. He doesn’t stick around for a lot of the movie and in the end I feel that is a good thing, because he commands so much attention that it would take from the other Avengers in the scene. It bodes well for the future of the Marvel cinematic universe, and for Sony of course, that their most iconic character is now in very capable hands. Something tells me the crown of Spider-man 2 being the best Spider-man movie may not last many more years.
Captain America: Civil War could have gone many ways with its war between heroes, but the fact that it never feels contrived or unnatural at any point is a testament to how good the movie is. Another sign of the film’s quality is that I never got to mention the strong showings from Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, the continuing growth in chemistry between Black Widow and Hawkeye, or even the groundwork being paved for the Scarlet Witch/Vision romance. There is so much in Civil War that it is truly surprising that it never feels rushed, and that it somehow didn’t bloat to four hours long. There are some movies made just for fans and some movies made just for critics and then there are these kinds of movies: ones that it is near impossible to hate. There is just too much quality on show here.
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