Captain America: Civil War

This run of connected Marvel films has been criticised for being too frivolous. Some have considered them a step backwards after the more adult approach of Nolan’s successful Batman trilogy. Warner Brothers and DC certainly seem to think the way to set their own growing superhero universe apart it to make it dark and brooding. Well, with Captain America: Civil War, Marvel has closed this argument down because this is possibly the most mature comic book film yet. What’s more it has managed to be so without compromising the spirit of adventure and humour that has marked these movies out since Tony Stark took that fateful ride in the Funvee (not the Humdrumvee) back in 2008. 


We have had well over forty superhero films in the last ten years and even though the genre has slowly been growing up the one thing that film makers have never really addressed is the consequences of what goes on on screen. Man of Steel was one of the worst offenders here; smashing buildings, cars and people to pieces in a totally amoral fashion. That film’s recent sequel seemed to be addressing this but then forgot about it and ended up doing the same thing all over again. Similarly the Avengers have been trashing cities all over the world but this movie holds them accountable. Finally we have an action film that says ‘with all this devastation people on screen are dying. It might look impressive but audiences need to pause and think about what they are cheering’. In doing this Marvel is not just calling out their own movies but all films of this type and with this American mainstream cinema seems to be taking some responsibility for its actions in its action films. This from Disney no less, who saw that coming? (Mind you they did just release a cute animal movie all about racial prejudice so perhaps this show of social conscience is not such a surprise.)


All of this makes the film sound terribly ponderous. There is angst and guilt played out but we still get the smart one liners and character bests we are used to. Tony Stark and Cap may be facing up to what they’ve done but they are still the same Tony and Cap. The balance the film finds between entertainment and estrangement is spot on. 


Estranged they are though. As the title suggests our heroes are at loggerheads. (As the title suggests, and the poster, and trailers, and the entire marketing campaign – let’s face it, everyone knows the set up.) The reasons for the falling out is totally believable and again, these heroes are flawed in a way that you don’t often see. The plotting is as tight as it was in the first Avengers film and there is a sophistication to the storytelling that exceeds anything Marvel has done before. 


The action sequences are great as well. The problem with films of this types has always been in finding a villain powerful enough to challenge the good guys. Here the good guys are fighting the good guys so that problem is sidestepped. The way each of them uses their powers is well thought through and consistent and seeing Iron Man against Captain America, Falcon against War Machine, Scarlett Witch against Vision, Black Widow against Hawkeye, Black Panther against The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man against Spider-Man and any combination of the above is thrilling. Sensibly this film doesn’t have a big bad, there is no ubervillian for them to reteam against at the end, a little bad is wisely all it needs.


As always the ensemble cast is really skilfully managed. (There are more superheroes here than in Age of Ultron.) A few familiar faces just turn up for the fight but that makes total sense in context and while Paul Rudd, in particular, gets less screen time than most of the others his contribution is plenty big enough. The two newbies, Black Panther and Spider-Man, get a brilliant introduction too, especially the latter. 


When we saw the first Avengers film we saw how everything had been building to that point but now, seven films later, it is clear that everything has actually been building to this. Captain America: Civil War is the best Captain America film, it is the best Avengers film and it is the best Marvel film. It might even be the best superhero film.   

Is this one for the kids? 
Again this is a 12A and again it has the same levels of violence and swearing you would expect for that certificate. In showing the effects of the killing and destruction though it is actually a much more important film for the kids than normal. 

The Ripley Factor:
Three heroes out of twelve are women. That’s 25% which is still trailing behind the X-Men but it is an improvement. Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and Agent 13 (no colour moniker for her) are all presented in the way they should be. No tokenism, they’re not there to define the guys and there’s no objectification. They’ve even made Black Widow’s costume a little looser. 

PS. (because Marvel films always have a PS). In my review of Age of Ultron a year ago I suggested that Pepper Potts wasn’t at the party because Tony had reneged on his promise to stop being Iron Man. Just saying. 

One thought on “Captain America: Civil War

  1. Another excellent review, my friend! You’re spot on about Civil War being the only superhero movie to truly deal with the unintended consequences of their heroic pursuits. I felt that Age of Ultron was about the choices we make, why we make those choices, and the consequences of those choices, but in a thematic way rather than specifically. Civil war hits the issue head on. It’s one thing to admit that innocent bystanders were killed, but quite another to examine the political and emotional fallout of those deaths.
    While I don’t rate Civil War quite as highly as you, it is most definitely fantastic and I can’t wait to see it again! (Preferably with someone less annoying sitting next to me.) Also, good job predicting the Pepper situation. It felt like a natural reaction to the events since we last saw her.

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