…and so begins phase three of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and quest for world domination. Seriously, if Marvel get any bigger I can see M sending 007 in to take them down! With Disney owning both Marvel and Star Wars it’s a great time to be a shareholder in the House of Mouse!
So, no pressure on directors the Russo brothers, who have not only got to follow up what is the best Captain America film but arguably the most accomplished entry in the Marvel catalogue in The Winter Soldier, but they have to deliver the first Marvel film of the year that not only kicks off the aforementioned phase three but is also being affectionately subtitled “Avengers 2.5”!
Oh, and then they’re directing Avengers: Infinity War. I think I’d retire after all this…
Civil War follows on from the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and after the collateral damage caused by their actions to save the world the political powers want accountability to be instilled into the Avengers programme by having them report to and take orders from the UN. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) supports this, whereas Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees. The Avengers are divided, and civil war commences.
Let’s face it, this whole comic book movie genre is ridiculous. Thoroughly entertaining, but ridiculous nonetheless. I mean, we’re talking heroes with incredible powers and abilities all dressed in colourful and glamorous attire fighting awesome villains who are just as flamboyant with the stakes being the Earth, the Universe or both. This story has been repeated over and over again in the same formulaic way that has prompted discussion on whether this genre will eventually go the way of the Western and disappear into obscurity. What the Russos have done here though is take what is a ludicrous set up and turn it on it’s head and create not only the best Marvel film to date, but a film that would easily be in the top three superhero/comic book movies of all time.
The most impressive feature of this film is its script, which has such depth that it wouldn’t look out of place as part of a set of Shakespeare plays, even if it is based in the realms of superhero/sci-fi fantasy (read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and tell me I’m wrong!). The Russos have adapted a series of comic books to make both The Winter Soldier and Civil War but at the heart of these films they have created tense, action-packed, humanistic thrillers that would work superbly even without the superhero wrapping paper. You are on the edge of your seat from start to finish and it makes no difference that the two main antagonists/protagonists are in a tin can and stars-and-stripes spandex. Anyone familiar with even the fewest of Marvel films will know that they follow a particular act structure, but this film rips up the rule book and does its own thing. I wish I could go into more detail but it may be classed as a spoiler, but this isn’t like any Marvel film gone by and it is all the better for it. The moniker of “Avengers 2.5” also does Civil War a disservice as it is much much more than a bridging film between Age of Ultron and Infinity War. Cap 3 has all the heft, depth, flair, style and cinematic panache that the Avengers films can only dream of whilst maintaining the humour we have come to expect from a Marvel film.
The entire cast put in faultless performances (bar the appalling Martin Freeman, who is once again playing “Martin Freeman”) and despite the number of characters the film includes from previous films and the new ones it introduces none of them feel shoe-horned in or just there as a cameo making up the numbers. The introduction of Spider-man is a particular highlight and they have cast him well with Tom Holland. They seem to be harking back to the Tobey Maguire days and that is all good with me as he epitomised Spider-man and was the quintessential Peter Parker. Marvel’s take on the web-slinger has got me excited about what they will do with this character in his own movie, and that’s an achievement in itself considering how much I oppose reboots. Also, Robert Downey Jr puts in a gloriously complex performance that shows an expansive range of what this actor is capable of. It’s such a pity as he is so good as Tony Stark that he is Tony Stark and I can’t see him ever shaking that off when given a straight role (as in The Judge). They are all given realistic issues to deal with and the film spends the correct amount of time exploring these alongside showing off their super powers/skills. I know it’s easy and lazy to attack DC at the moment, but if this is how successful a film can be when given the unenviable task of establishing a range of new characters whilst servicing the much-loved Marvel regulars then what happened with Batman vs Superman?
I could go on about how much I enjoyed Civil War but I risk boring you, the reader, geeking out beyond hope of rescue and giving away spoilers. I was so close to giving this full marks, but its one flaw is that it is too long. There’s not much fat they could trim but there is some that could have hit the cutting room floor and not been missed that would have got it closer to a more comfortable two-hour running time. Having said that, I found Civil War is like eating an indulgent slab of dark chocolate, gooey fudge cake. You enjoy every delicious, sumptuous mouthful and despite your belly being fit to burst you just don’t want the treat to end. And when I compare a film to the delights of fudge cake then you know it’s a winner…
…crikey, if this film malarky doesn’t work out for me I might become a food critic! That’s some good writing up there y’know! I wonder if M&S want a new voice over…