Captain America: Civil War : As a result of the pseudo-episodic nature of Marvel films, Captain America: Civil War has a lot of boxes to tick. First and foremost, it is a Captain America film. Second, it must fit into the Marvel chronology as a whole. Third, it must introduce new characters as well as integrate older ones into the ever growing cast. Fourth, and most importantly, it must be a good film in its own right.
“Literally everyone, assemble!” Civil War’s cast is simply something to behold. There is, of course, the main Avengers cast (sans Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo), the Avengers B-team (the sidekicks) and then the supporting cast. A-List actors fill every major role (and some minor) and it shows. The performances never waver and every character is firmly adhered to. Civil War is in a very unique position where every supporting character has a film’s worth of screen time dedicated to them. Just not in this film. Depending on who you are, this will be what makes or break’s Civil War’s impact. If you’re up to date on Marvel’s cinematic universe, well done, you understand who everyone is and understand their motivations. This allows them depth in the short time they have on screen.
You’ve been framed. Like all Marvel movies, Civil War doesn’t use the medium of film to it’s fullest. Framing is uninspired and purely functional most of the time and the same goes for the editing. Fight scenes are next to incomprehensible due to the camera whipping around, too many close-ups and too many cuts. While it does represent the fast-paced nature of the fights (and obscure the fact that the actors have been replaced with their stunt doubles), this style wastes the choreography and ends up detaching the audience from the character’s emotions. This wouldn’t be as glaring an issue had the final fight not been so well executed. Showing the entire conflict in a wide shot, not cutting between punches and keeping the camera still, the audience is able to fully comprehend the actor’s movements, emotions and abilities and the fight is immeasurably better for it. Lighting and set design, meanwhile, really help sell the film’s gritty atmosphere brilliantly and the film’s text inserts over establishing shots maintains that slick, modern espionage thriller feel the Russo brothers have been chasing with their Captain America films.
A civil war in more ways than one. Civil War, suitably so, is at odds with itself almost all the time. On the one hand it forgoes Marvel’s cookie cutter formula and doesn’t culminate in a battle against several dozen (if not more) homogenised grey minions, then a fight with a main antagonist with similar abilities. Moreover, unlike other Marvel films, the film does take a more nuanced approach to morality in Civil War. Both sides have reasonable arguments with reasonable evidence to support it. Though, while it bucks trends in some places, it adheres strongly to them in others. The Russo Brothers themselves have stated that killing a character in the Marvel universe is a financial decision, not a creative one. When every character has franchise potential, each one worth upwards of a couple of hundred million, you get the sense that that they’re all invincible. Not to mention none of the characters are truly put in mortal peril and being punched in the face by a rocket-propelled iron fist does no more than a nosebleed (at worst). Another key internal conflict for Civil War is its commitment to being both a Captain America film and an Avengers film. For the most part it marries both perfectly and doesn’t feel like two films mashed into one, though it occasionally slips into feeling bloated at points (the run up to the airport sequence for example).
“Wasn’t it cool when…” You’re going to say that a lot. For each of the complaints I have, there are several fond memories. The film is a celebration of superhero culture at it’s finest. It knows its strengths and plays into them strongly. Every character has a witty quip, a trick up their sleeve and an interesting interaction with a fellow superhero. Spiderman is fun and energetic, Tony Stark is the cool uncle, Scott Lang is lovably down to earth, the Vision is naive yet powerful. Every character is distinct and interesting, but most importantly, they’re fun. That’s what this film is truly about. You’re not going to go home and question the level of power the government should be granted for our safety. You’re going to go home and squeal about how cool it was when -spoiler- became -spoiler- and had to band together so -spoiler- could escape before it was too late. This is what the film is about. It’s just a really good time.