FILM: Captain America: Civil War

Certificate: PG-13
Running Time: 147 mins
Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan
Genre: Comic Book, Action, Superhero
Country: USA

In 2006 Marvel kicked off a comic book EVENT (trust me, it deserves the uppercase) that would come to define the quality of writing and inking that was taking place in the offices of the big two comic book distributors.  With a B-List superhero by the name of Nitro going kaboom in Connecticut, and on their reality show no less, the world had finally seen the true potential of unchecked superhuman powers.  If you’ve read the Civil War books believe me, you’ve barely scratched the surface.  With the dawn of the digital age Marvel Unlimited has complied the complete event.  All 98 books, both A, and B story arcs plus all tie-ins.  For any filmmaker, rendering the Civil War events on screen would be a challenge.  This challenge is even greater in the Marvel universe.
"The A?  It stands for the hole I'm gonna pound you in if I hear one more Steve & Bucky joke."

So what do you do when you don’t own the rights to half the characters (many of them crucial) to the Civil War storyline?  The Russo Brothers (in a post-Whedon era) have got the golden ticket and been tasked with the enormous job that is massaging the much loved (and massive) Civil War into a coherent storyline that will not only sit alongside the cinematic offerings to date, but also crush at the box office.

Eight years into Marvel’s all-out-assault on your senses it appears that we’ve finally hit some difficult waters.  Iron Man broke to critical and box office acclaim, and though its box office take would be scoffed at now, it is not an accomplishment to be taken lightly.  Phrase 1 was wrapped up pretty epically.  The Avengers was an all-out smash, Loki was the villain you couldn’t help love to hate and the properties were in damn good shape for the next stage.  Unfortunately, a series of mediocre baddies (Ronan – Guardians of the Galaxy, Yellow Jacket – Ant-Man) and some horrible missteps with much loved characters (Black Widow and Hulk) led us to Marvel’s first sizable mistake in Age of Ultron, irrespective of box office take.
What was once a notable Marvel bad-guy has now been reduced to a goalie in a goth hockey team.
Civil War, rather cleverly, builds on two major incidents.  1. The downing over Washington D.C. of three helicarriers and 2. The sacking of Sokovia.  When the Avengers, on assignment in Africa, create even more headlines the world finally takes a stand against their interference with impunity.

First, let me preface what comes next by stating I am an avid Marvel reader.  My weekly pull list will testify to the characters in their stable I hold particular love for (primarily, Daredevil, Jane Foster Thor, Howard the Duck and most recently Gwenpool).  I also loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The work that the Russos did in delivering a superhero movie that could sit comfortably alongside The Spy That Came in From the Cold or The Bourne Trilogy (we don’t talk about Hawkeye’s Bourne movie) is exceptional.  But Captain America: Civil War for the most part, is a lame duck.  Yes, yes, the action is extremely well done.  Cap not only kicks ass but takes names and the way he interacts with his team’s abilities in order to complete their mission is great.  The Widow is on top form too.  Whedon’s last handling of her had me question whether anyone involved in the creation of AoU actually liked the character; but in Civil War not only does she command the battlefield the way Natasha would but she’s morally grey like Nat also.  Chadwick Boseman is an excellent addition to the Marvel Cinematic family, he has a raw intensity to his performance of T’Challa/Black Panther that’s been missing since the Hulk disappeared into the sunset and I’ve no doubt, his solo movie is going to deliver a whole new set of strings to the MCU bow.  Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) is not only a solid gold revelation but goes to show what can be accomplished when the right people are involved at the right time with the correct material.  Sure, I don’t buy the nerd chic kid not knowing the name of the Star Wars movie that featured AT-ATs and a certain ice planet but aside from that he was brilliant… and not for nothing, his chemistry with Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) is crying out for an Ant-Man/Spider-Man crossover movie.

"Go on, say What's Fappenin'? one more god-damn time!"

So where did the film go wrong?  Sure, you could point to the fact that they were looking to adapt a source material they legally couldn’t actually adapt but this is Civil War in name alone.  The death of Peggy Carter was cheap, tact on and seemed to exist for two reasons.  Firstly, so that Cappie could start macking on his old girlfriend’s grand-daughter (boke) and secondly to make sure that nobody misinterpreted the Wunder-Bromance of Steve and Bucky to be anything else… yup, no Brokeback Avengers movie any-time-soon.  It doesn’t stop there though, sure the representation of Zemo as a “guy out for vengeance” was nice but his plan had so many holes in it you wouldn’t drain pasta in it.  His motives go from the absurd to the absolutely preposterous when he not only kills the other Winter Soldiers but shows Tony Stark some rural YouTube footage of Bucky making him an orphan thus triggering the three-way (phrasing) fight the trailer campaign was built around.  All this could have been forgiven if they had thought to introduce a degree of peril.  Two groups of superheroes with supposedly dangerous abilities take the gloves off and go toe-to-toe and not one person is killed… or even threatened to be killed.  It all just smacks of vanity project smugness that would have been at home in the Golden era of Hollywood with repetitive co-stars who have more fun making the movie than you can have watching it (Four for Texas, Robin and the 7 Hoods).

War-Machine found out the hard way that size does matter.

Captain America: Civil War is widely expected to be the top grossing movie this year, and no doubt many will look at this review and scoff but for my money Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a better movie.  It’s certainly more faithful to the source material and infinitely less smug.

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