Epic Epicness is just one way to describe Marvel’s latest venture in their continued hostile takeover of Hollywood, namely the All-Star movie event Captain America: Civil War. Or as I like to put it, Captain America: School-yard Tickle Fight. I’ll explain why in a moment, but first, the details.
I’ll be the first to admit, as I sit here thinking back through the now 13 strong movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that I’m a much bigger Marvel fan now than I’ve ever been before. Not that I wasn’t a fan, I still remember reading some of the earlier issues when I first got into comic books in my late teens, my favourite of which being the wall crawler himself, Spider-Man. But the impact these movies have had since Iron Man launched into stardom is profound, as much for the growth of fan fantasies come true as it is the comic book industry itself.
But let’s get back to this movie first. Civil War, based extremely loosely on a story arc in the comics, has the events of the previous few big screen outings come back to bite the Avengers in the ass. Returning Hulk adversary General … sorry, now Secretary of State Ross has somewhat of an ultimatum for the team; either sign an agreement to be a Government controlled team or retire from the crime fighting gig. Of course, Captain America himself doesn’t agree on any of it having already seen the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D, but Tony Stark is tired of it all.
This leads to a number of confrontations through-out the team, in which both sides are just as right as the other. Vision wants to keep Scarlet Witch safe by keeping her inside, though she sees it as controlling who she is (something that doesn’t bode well for the team as her powers continually grow), whilst Stark himself is tired of seeing the collateral damage caused by the Avengers in their attempts at ‘avenging’ the enemy. I’m sure most of that comes from his inner voice telling him’ seriously, dude, you really screwed up with Ultron’.
The biggest threat to the entire cause, no matter the side, is the Winter Soldier. Having saved Cap, Bucky has been on the run ever since, until a number of incidents puts him right back at the forefront of everyone’s minds. This leads to a number of heated exchanges, the important one being the introduction of a future star, Black Panther. Wonderfully portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, the future King of Wakanda is perfectly placed into the Marvel universe as a somewhat vengeful and powerful character. As much as I was a little worried he’d come off as a caricature of his origins, the combination of Boseman’s talent and a perfectly designed costume/power set turns him into a crowd pleaser.
And then there’s the other introduction. The anticipation of the return of Spider-Man has been like no other character I can remember, a sense of curiosity and delight at the thought of the web-slinger getting thrown into the mix of Iron Man and co.
I’m proud to report that his arrival was as exciting as I hoped it would be. Tom Holland is another perfectly cast character within the MCU, portraying a Peter Parker who’s starstruck by the possibility of not only working with Tony Stark, but having to fight along side him against Captain America himself. He’s nervous, chatty, fast … he is Peter Parker.
Given that there are so many characters involved in Civil War, you’d be forgiven for thinking there wouldn’t be anywhere near enough time to give them all a chance to shine. Credit goes to the Russo brothers and scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for their balanced world building that doesn’t just feel like piece to a grander puzzle. Everyone gets a chance to play their part, from moments of action to witty one liners, to situations that will impact these characters going forward into the future of the brand. I won’t spoil anything here since it hasn’t been released in the US at the time of writing this, but let’s just say there are events here that will have far reaching consequences.
If you’re expecting something similar to the comic book, you’ll be sadly leaving the cinema shaking your head. This is Civil War in name only (hence the title of this article), there’s no mass destruction or death everywhere, plus there’s no X-Men or Fantastic Four involved (both IP’s belong to Fox for the time being). Most of that story has been toned down into a tighter narrative focused solely on the characters we know, and a few others who will use this as a catalyst for growth.
Now, if you’re going into this expecting a good action set piece, Civil War definitely won’t leave you hanging. There’s explosions, fistycuffs, plenty of opportunities for crowd pleasing spots. Surprisingly, there’s also a sense of playful humour to the proceedings, capped off by a cameo moment or two that will leave fans grinning from ear to ear. Though it’s no ‘Hulkbuster vs Hulk’ moment from Age of Ultron, the battle at the airport is a definite crowd pleaser. Cap that off (no pun intended) with the final, emotional showdown between our two heroes over Bucky’s life, the first battle in any Marvel film where a villain doesn’t get his butt kicked.
Speaking of the villain, Daniel Brühl plays Zemo, a cutdown version of the comic book Hydra member Baron Zemo. Unlike that version, here Zemo is considered a ‘terrorist’ type of character, someone out for revenge after the events of Age of Ultron. Again, no spoilers, but I liked the fact that his motivations were far more realistic and heartfelt than any previous villain in the MCU. I’ve read elsewhere that he felt a little lost within the story, that his villainy didn’t hold up, but I disagree. If nothing else, Zemo is simply trying to prove a point and is far from the usual ‘villain out for power’ types we’ve become used to. His role is just as important as everyone else’s, nevermind understandable given the world around him.
Despite the jam packed cast, this is still a Captain America movie. With the story pushed along through elements of Hydra’s shady past and Cap’s relationship with Bucky, there’s plenty of emotional tension and moments that remind you how important the so-called leader of the Avengers is to this universe. Chris Evans has continued to grow into the role and it’s a testament to his acting chops that he can turn the all American hero into a loveable and respected character no matter which side your on. It’s heartbreaking, if nothing else, to watch the two go a it.
Alright, let’s wrap this up. Captain America: Civil War goes to prove that, with the right kind of script and a solid cast behind it, comic book events still have a lot to give. Where as Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice did its best to provide a reason for those fan favourite heroes to clash, it felt forced and undefined, more like a franchise desperate to take off as quickly as possible. In comparison, Marvel has the envious advantage of ‘time’, providing all the backstory and motivations for the franchise at an almost leisurely pace.
It’s a plan that Kevin Feige was told would never work, yet here we are 13 movies later and with Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Ant-Man leading the charge. If you’d told mid 20 year old me who, honestly, thought the first Iron Man trailer looked a little iffy that we’d be sitting here living out our fantasies of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and the future possibilities within Infinity War … well I probably would have laughed. Yet here we are, loving every minute of a battle between two of the best heroes we’ll ever get on screen at one time. It’s geeky bliss, pure and simple.
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist who does whatever a spider-man fan can. Go say hi @kartanym