If nothing else, Captain America: Civil War is a testament to Marvel being incredibly consistent, so much so that it is defining the genre. What directors Joe and Anthony Russo do with the film isn’t particularly fresh but they manage to follow the blueprint and deliver a few “wow” moments that will keep the audience coming back for the next installment.
Following the events of Age of Ultron and a botched mission that opens the movie, the United Nations decides it needs to impose limits on what the Avengers can and cannot do with the Sokovia Accords. This creates the divide that pits Captain America (Chris Evans) on one side fighting for the Avengers to remain an autonomous entity and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) on the other advocating in favor of government restriction. Each side then rallies their troops calling upon a number of heroes (old and new) from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to their aid culminating in one fantastic all-out brawl (more on that later) and one flimsy reveal that serves more as a push towards the finish line than an actual conclusion.
It becomes evident very early on that the Russo Brothers don’t have the same flair as Joss Whedon (The director of the two previous Avengers films) visually. Almost the entire movie is set to a single palate tone rather than the vibrant, diverse tones that were present in Whedon’s take on the franchise (It may have Captain America in the title but this is essentially an Avengers film). When you have such a diverse cast of characters that represent such a stark difference in individual tone (ie the more serious darker tones of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) vs the bright color scheme/tone of Spider-Man), it is important to find a balance to help create the image of a cohesive world while not sacrificing the distinct tones that make each character unique.
These issues are compounded by dialogue that mirrors Whedon’s quips and jokes but are lacking in quality exposition and defining of character motivations. For example, Tony Stark seemingly becomes a strong supporter of government interference after just one brief exchange with a victim of The Avengers (inadvertent) actions. It is here that credit has to be given to Marvel for their expansive world building – using previous films we can piece together the rationale behind the characters’ position, This helps for the characters we have become well acquainted with such as Iron Man or Captain America but for characters who haven’t gotten as much screen time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are left with largely unexplained reasons for why they chose the side they did.
While the clunkiness of the exposition and mass of characters to fit in make the film feel slightly bloated, there are some great minor moments hidden within the fluff though like Vision (Paul Bettany) trying to cook for the girl that he not so secretly admires that justify the extended run time. Though much of the focus remains on the Captain/ Bucky (Sebastian Stan) everyone gets a moment to shine instead of being background noise which is a nice touch for a movie with this much to tackle and serves to build excitement for future solo titles (the ultimate goal of these films).
No more is this evident than in the all-out brawl between the sides. The new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Rudd’s Ant-Man steal the show with their moves but everyone gets a good punch or projectile in. Here we get a small sample of what the MCU has been building towards so far. The inclusion of the new heroes a further tease at even more expansive things to come in the future. Much like that first shot of the Avengers together back in 2011, the coming together of these figures will garner much excitement and for now, that fresh energy is enough to bury some of the more flawed technical aspects and shallow plot beats, however as these team-ups begin to become more common the Marvel team will need to find new ways to galvanize an audience.
Because this film has no real third act (as has been the norm for Marvel) choosing instead to leave things hanging for the next film, there is no real sense of completion, the entire plot is revealed to be the work of yet another forgettable villain. In a small sense, you have to wonder how/when Marvel can give the audience the payoff they deserve after years of promising and teasing. However the train keeps rolling for the time being and while Civil War doesn’t push the needle as some expected, it provides intrigue for the next phase in Marvel’s master plan.
The world's longest serial drama in cinema continues to give you just enough to come crawling back