From the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), back with the first Iron Man movie in 2008, cinema-goers the world over have been enjoying the building of something very special. If we thought we had a blockbuster treat with the gathering of household names in Joss Whedon’s 2012 box office smash, The Avengers, the ever-expanding checklist of Marvel heroes to grace our screen has culminated in Supermovie perfection with the third in the Captain America series. Not only is the Cap series the greatest Marvel trilogy, the latest is the greatest Marvel movie to date.
The third in the series of Marvel’s most developed character, Civil War also acts as a perfect sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron. The devastation and destruction that fell upon the fictitious Sokovia is still fresh in the minds of those affected, world leaders and Earth’s mightiest heroes alike when their attempted capture of a familiar foe goes awry and civilians are caught in the cross fire. The latest in a series of high-profile, headline-grabbing scenes of wreckage in the wake of an Avengers intervention is one too many for the powers that be and they decide to step in. The UN propose ‘The Sokovia Accords’, legislation to limit the Avenger’s ability to do as they please, delegating if and when the Avengers should be allowed to step up to the mark and take the world’s security into their own hands.
Iron Man (Downey Jr.), still struggling with the guilt of those lost in the Ultron attacks, sides with Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (again portrayed by William Hurt and last seen in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk). Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), believes that this still leaves the power in the hands of men with agendas and does not place any trust in the treaty.
One of the great things about this plot arc is that it’s not clear whose side you really should be on. Have the Avengers an unquestionable moral standpoint? To quote the great Alan Moore, “who watches the Watchmen?” Vision, the AI created in Age of Ultron (Paul Bethany), points out that since the creation of the Avengers Program, catastrophes have risen exponentially citing “Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict… breeds catastrophe. Supervision is not something to be dismissed out-of-hand.”
To reinforce the split in the team, Cap’s childhood friend, now metal-armed trained assassin The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), raises his head once again. This deepens the divide as well as possibly swaying the audience’s opinion on which side is worth backing.
One of the most defining elements of this movie (and there are many) is the scrapping of the Supermovies handbook on how these films are supposed to play out. There’s no Loki, no Thanos in sight. Sure there’s a meddling “bad guy” pulling some strings in the background, Zemo (Daniel Brühl), but as the movie progresses he doesn’t work out as black and white as previous “Big Bad”s.
In the absence of a villain, our heroes themselves play the roles of both protagonist and antagonist, regularly swapping over as the scenes develop and it pulls at your heartstrings, as if you’re watching your parents having a heated fight in front of your very eyes. The tension and heartache are dealt with brilliantly by writers Markus and McFeely; the ability to create an entirely gripping story, take the risk of scrapping the blueprint (that has literally made billions of dollars in the past), develop existing characters and introduce brand new faces is a testament to their talent.
The balance of a film of this magnitude is so important, and the foursome of the writing pair and directing brothers Joe and Anthony Russo have absolutely nailed it. They give ample screen time to each character and although some feature more heavily than others, each member of the team has their moment in the spotlight. Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s relationship blossoms, as they both try to deal with the new found level of power that they possess. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) must decide which side she will actually take, whether to follow her heart, and join her friend Cap, or her mind as she agrees with Stark’s call for governance. Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton (Jeremy Renner), who has decided he has had enough of retirement, and Sam ‘Falcon’ Wilson may not exactly develop as characters but are involved in some amazing fight scenes and have several brilliant lines.
On the new faces front, the most recent solo-movie in the MCU brought us Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man. Lang may be comedy relief but they use him perfectly in the movie, and he finds himself at the epicentre of the single most entertaining and balls-to-the-wall action-packed scene in the entire movie. Rudd may get less screen time than the rest of them but his brief appearance certainly makes a big impression.
We are also introduced to T’Challa, son to the King of Wakanda and Chadwick Boseman’s casting as the Black Panther is on point. Just as he is on page, Boseman portrays a sombre, intelligent, regal and determined warrior, proud of his heritage. T’Challa has a personal beef with the Winter Soldier and is easily persuaded to join Iron Man’s attempt to thwart the plans of Cap and his buddies.
There is also the re-emergence of a very familiar face as Tom Holland dons the red and blue suit of Spider-Man. For the entirety of his screen time you quickly forget the recent mediocre spell of Andrew Garfield’s reign as the web-slinger, and you are instantly enamoured with the young Parker’s enthusiasm and constant yammering. Flacon even points out at one stage, “I don’t know how many fights you’ve been on, but there’s not usually this much talking.”
The true heart of the movie obviously lies in the matchup of Captain America vs Iron Man. The two most beloved characters in the MCU must finally come to blows. The heartstrings were pulled from the first trailer when Cap says “You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any another choice. But he’s my friend” to which Tony replies “So was I”. Whoever’s side you had chosen throughout the movie, you are once again torn in the final third. You want neither hero to fall, neither friend to lose.
With Whedon leaving big shoes to fill after his time as Avengers director, we can now get even more excited about where the MCU will go from here and how they will handle the two-part upcoming Infinity War saga as the Guardian of the Galaxy crew join ranks (Part 1 coming in 2018 and Part 2 in 2019) as the writing partnership of Markus and McFeely and the directing duo of the Russo Brothers take the helm.
Captain America: Civil War is unquestionably the greatest Marvel movie to date. I could even argue that it’s the greatest comic-book movie ever, but then I’d have the Dark Knight and Christopher Reeve diehards sending me death threats. And no one wants that.