Primarily following on from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - I don't know about Agents of Shield having never watched that show - Captain America: Civil War addresses the pertinent question of what the heck-fire were the other Avengers doing when the sh*t was hitting the fan in the aforementioned The Winter Soldier? Overcompensating, atoning for or redressing the balance; whatever it is Captain America: Civil War is most definitely an Avengers movie in all but name as almost everyone (well not everyone if you're a comic book purist) are in this film - Hulk, Thor and Nick Fury are conspicuous by their absence. With such a roster of characters vying for attention, it is a testament to the abilities of The Russo Brothers - with huge credit also to the screenwriters, editors etc. of course - that Civil War manages a considerably more free flowing narrative than the slightly over-convoluted Age of Ultron. Without taking anything away from the master of quick-fire dialogue Joss Whedon, the brothers have made probably the best Marvel feature to date in The Winter Soldier up to this point.
Captain America: Civil War is the second film this year, after Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, to address the theme of superheroes and accountability. Saving the world comes at a price, and the actions of The Avengers have caused plenty of collateral damage. To paraphrase The Vision, since the emergence of enhanced beings there has been a rise in potentially world ending events. Overcome by guilt after an encounter with someone affected by the Avengers' exploits in Sokovia, the angst ridden Tony Stark (in tandem with the US government, and other world leaders) decides that the team should not have carte blanche to do as they see fit. On a side note, it is rather ironic that the US government should be a major force in wanting to regulate the actions of The Avengers if their real life Foreign Policy (and collateral damage produced) is anything to go by, but that's a debate for another platform. Back to the movie, and suffice to say that Stark's initiative does not go down well with Steve Rogers, especially when his best buddy "Bucky" (aka The Winter Soldier) is implicated in a major act of terrorism. To say any more would potentially spoil the plot, apart from the main themes are that of guilt, grief and vengeance.
After an explosive opening sequence, the first hour or so of Civil War is surprisingly sombre and exposition heavy for a film involving Iron Man and "The Cap." That's not a criticism as it shows the Russo's confidence in taking the time to tell the story (and benefiting by re-teaming with Winter Soldier scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely). Interspersed between the narrative is a stonking action set piece centering around the attempted apprehension of Bucky and the introduction of Black Panther - and boy is that guy a cool cat (pun intended). The movie's first half retains the relatively serious tone of The Winter Soldier, and fans of Joss Whedon's entries may find the lack of humorous interludes a little bit trying.
The second half of Civil War is when the film shifts into top gear, and properly springs to life. A few more characters make an appearance - including a certain web slinging, hyper talkative, high schooler - and it features what we've all paid to see: the mother of all epic superhero smackdowns. The latter definitely does not disappoint, with a plethora of crowd pleasing moments, and even a couple of nice surprises too (if you've not had it spoiled by too much info on the net or trailer clips). In terms of unexpectedness, there seems to be a deliberate shift into Whedon territory for the Team America vs Team Iron Man face-off, with a sudden injection of visual gags and witty repartee that was largely absent in the angst ridden first hour. Again to have the confidence for such an abrupt tonal shift, and for it not to have a detrimental effect, is further proof that Marvel films are in safe hands with Joe and Anthony Russo. The film's climax is more of an emotional and intimate battle, for once eschewing the usual, tiresome slaying of faceless, generic foot soldiers and destruction porn orientated denouement.
With regards to the cast, nobody really puts a foot wrong. Admittedly, Captain America was the superhero that I probably least identified with as a child. However, in the five full features (not including cameos) in which he has starred as Steve Rogers, Chris Evans has really grown into the role, and now I couldn't envisage anyone else being as good if he relinquished the character. On the other hand, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man has gone from being a quick witted, sardonic character to increasingly subdued with each film. However, you can forgive him for that given the series of events which transpire in Civil War. Chadwick Boseman also makes an impressive entrance as Black Panther (a character I'd hitherto been unfamiliar with). Personally, the unequivocal scene stealers of the film are the introduction of Peter Parker/Spider-man and the appearance of Antman. Both characters bring some very welcome respite to the intense proceedings. As the latter, Paul Rudd is such a natural comedic presence, and the concise introduction of the former is all that is required so we can get straight into further adventures with the friendly, neighbourhood webslinger. Tom Holland is perfect as the teenaged version (and for once, the actor is still in his teens) of the character and I can't wait for the main solo outing having tasted this appetiser. On a side note, it felt slightly strange - like if you fancied your mate's mum - to see (the still very hot) Marisa Tomei playing Aunt May.
After enjoying the hell out of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and being somewhat disappointed with Age of Ultron, i wondered if Civil War might surpass its brilliant predecessor. It doesn't quite manage to achieve that, instead comfortably ensconced between (the lesser) Ultron and (just behind) Winter Soldier respectively. Nonetheless, The Russo Brothers have yet again delivered the goods, which may come as a surprise for some when you consider their other film credits of note include You, Me and Dupree and Welcome to Collingwood. As far as superhero movies go, Civil War is on a superlative level compared to most, even if (and I'm scared to declare this) I enjoyed Batman vs Superman equally as much, if not a little bit more! Regardless, I've seen three superhero movies this year (Deadpool in addition to the latter two) and none have disappointed, so there's plenty of "kapow" left in the genre.