Captain America: Civil War

2016

Director(s): Joe and Anthony Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Holland, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Sebastain Stan

Words: C. Abbott

So here we are, eight years on since Iron Man hit cinemas and began this entire journey. Eight years since Hollywood decided every franchise needed to be part of a larger universe. Eight years since the death of the standalone superhero film. In many ways it feels like everything has been building to this moment, the moment when Marvel Studios realised they just cannot provide a half decent villain so why not pit our heroes against each other. This isn’t so much a Captain America film than it is another Avengers one, as many characters within reason have a moment to shine here with varying degrees of success. There is a lot going on within the narrative of this film and it is both impressively coherent and ultimately underwhelming.

The division of our favourite heroes comes from collateral damage of previous battles. The events of Avengers, Age of Ultron, Winter Soldier and more have led to the UN deeming our heroes as nothing more than vigilantes. They are required to sign a document which dictates they can only act under government control and this obviously divides opinion within the team. Iron Man is pro, Captain America is con – let battle commence.  

Under the most basic of scrutiny you’ll find how weak this reasoning is. Forget how these men and women have saved the planet on numerous occasions, “my son died during one of them so I now hate them”. Give me a break. Regardless, they are now at odds and we are at a moral impasse of what to do. The issues here hold back what could have been Marvel’s most mature and engaging film yet, they can be sorted into two factors: fear of vilification and contractual obligations.

The first issue is one that the Russo brothers, who directed the film, unknowingly brought up when they stated that “some people came to see this film for one specific character”. When writing the script there seems to have been a fear of making some of the characters unlikeable, especially in regards to Iron Man. All moral ambiguity and character justification is gone when both are trying to please their fans and not act in a way that’ll displease them. It results in a distinct lack of narrative tension which brings us to the films other issue: zero impact. Going into this film we are aware of the fact that these characters are fine, nothing will change and everyone will be happy. In Marvel’s defence this is what they want, these are films to simply entertain, and in that sense they succeed. However eventually they’ll have to address an issue that is becoming more and more apparent, the ever decreasing feeling of investment when you know everyone is fine.

There is much to enjoy here though, seeing all these characters together, while never achieving the heights of the first Avengers team-up, is still a delight to behold for any fan. The introductions to new characters like Spider Man and Black Panther are welcome and exciting for their upcoming films. The Russo’s prove yet again they know how to run a tight ship with the action being some of the best in the series and providing exactly what people want and expect. This is a fun joyride of a film that we’ve all come to expect from Marvel at this point, it’s familiar yet pleasing and does exactly what it should.

Marvel, eight years on proves that it really isn’t going anywhere soon despite the issues that are beginning to crop up. With films planned until 2029 we have a long road ahead of us. Next year will see the beginning of three MCU films released yearly, only time will tell whether or not audiences will begin to grow tired of this golden age for the superhero.

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