Thursday, 28 April 2016

"O Captain! My Captain!" - Civil War

Political interference in the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man. 

As the third Captain America entry jump-starts the summer movie season, and so called Phase 3 of the MCU, its box-office muscle is beyond question. When the Avengers first assembled four years ago, it felt like a grand culmination, THE Ultimate Marvel superhero event. Since then, the studio's ever expanding Cinematic Universe has delivered sequels or varying quality and introduced new heroes in stand-alone movies, but it has never quite matched the ensemble-balancing finesse and Earth-quaking action scale of Joss Whedon's initial assembling. Not until now. This is not some hastily assembled battle to sell more movie tickets; these two have been quarreling over the course of two Avengers movies - one of their first conversation includes Captain America telling Stark "Put on the suit, let's go a few rounds". It's all been building to this; with hashtag-powered marketing campaign, prompting True Believers to pick a side. 

This film is build around a bigger conflict that, despite the title, does place it as a direct sequel to Age of Ultron. While Bucky and Cap friendship being the core of the film, makes it Captain America Three rather than Avengers Two and a Half. Captain America: Civil War might be the best Marvel Studios move yet. There, I said it. It does what the best Marvel films do: juggling between characters so each is allowed to shine in a story that pushes forward the series continuity and while also forming and concluding its own plot. 

Forget Batman v Superman. Here you get Ant-Man v Spider-Man, Hawkeye v Black Widow, Scarlet Witch v Vision, The Winter Soldier v Black Panther and Captain America v Iron Man, all rolled into one film. And that is what you call THE Ultimate Marvel superhero event. What could serve as the detriment to some hero-stuffed movies, actually works to the advantage of Civil War. Part of what is so delightful is how easily the characters, the majority of which we've come to know over the course of thirteen Marvel Studios movies, interact and play off each other. However, it all comes to these two characters, ultimately Captain America v Iron Man and their own beliefs, personalities, neuroses and paranoia coming out to play. For both of them, the bonds of friendship are shown to run deeper than any commitment to the greater good. 

Steve defense of Bucky is questionable: he may be his childhood friend, but now he's a lethal, robot-armed killing machine forever in danger of being reactivated. Sebastian Stan remains, for the most part, as blank and frosty as he was in Winter Soldier. Chris Evans meanwhile, further hones a role he has effortlessly owned for five movies now; pushing Rogers to impressive new depths and reminding us that his straight arrow still has a dangerous edge. He's perfect. The stoic heart and soul of the MCU. There's little doubt why anyone would risk being branded as fugitive to follow him into battle (I VOLUNTEER!). And as perfect is Robert Downey Jr., who shows a completely different side of Tony Stark. He's more the elder statesman here than the witty merchant; reflecting on the consequences of his actions and looking to make amends. The brilliance of Downey Jr. sympathetic performance is that even if (like me) you are resolutely #TeamCap you can still (obviously) feel for him. 

As you might expect, it's one of the MCU's more serious entries, tonally a world away from Age of Ultron. But that doesn't mean it's humorless; far from it. Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson can be relied upon for laugh-out-loud one-liners wherever he's on screen, Vision stylish new wardrobe is comedy gold and Paul Rudd's Scott Lang is "HUGE" fun in relatively brief appearance. Moreover, Black Panther gets a lot of shine too. Going in I didn't know much about the character, so this bing my strong introduction to the character, I really liked him. He works for this story and situations in many ways ( I can't reveal in a spoiler free review). Now let's get into what everyone seem to be waiting for - except me, because I've never really been a huge fan - 19-year-old Tom Holland's Spider-Man. he might be the best Spidey so far. His Peter Parker is great: nervy, goofy and instantly endearing. In the airport fight, in which he's truly spectacular, using his webs in entertaining and creative ways; while his wit couldn't be better. I have to admit that I'm in love and I can't wait to see more of Holland's Spider-Man. And no Loki or Ultron equivalent this time. Who needs a villain when you have Steve and Tony? Both protagonists. Both antagonists.

Civil War is rises above the series' greatest weaknesses. In a movie that has an almost literal army of superheroes, it's remarkable that a film this big can still feel intimate. Reflecting the material's comic book roots, the Russos keep the film's action heavy. "It always ends in a fight", says Bucky. Of course it does. And Civil War builds to an unforgettable main event. The airport scene is magnificent and exhilarating, a scene that never feels overstuffed or confused, despite the enormity of the action. This airport set Battle Royale ranks among the most inventive and fun superhero action sequences. Everyone gets a moment to shine. It comes with no surprise that John Wick directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski served as Sceond Unit Directors on this one. Ultimately a later three-way fight massively raises the emotional stakes, because after eight years and twelve films you cant help but care about the people on each side of the teams. 

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo don't just blow your mind with their action sequences, they want to keep your brain firmly engaged too. That is why matters of friendship, family and loyalty course through the action. More impressively the film feels genuinely invested in the questions it raises about freedom v responsibility, heroism v vigilantism and what those distinctions say about the individuals making them. The Civil War is not one that anyone expects to be "won" in any permanent sense. While their resolve is every bit as firm as their abs and biceps, to say nothing of their titanium suits and vibranium shield, one senses the growing schism between Captain America and Iron Man will be healed in the long run. Finally, this film feels like the movie this series has been building towards for the past eight years. After all, Marvel earned this fight. This is the best Marvel so far. I had my doubts they could make anything greater than Whedon's first Avengers. but this one is as close as things come to "superhero movie perfection". this movie made me, humble Marvel fangirl, very happy indeed. 

Overall, Civil War isn't just a perfect popcorn crowd-pleaser, it is bright, creative, insightful, affecting and above all: FUN! If you're #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, it doesn't matter... Here the real winner is #TeamMarvel!

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