Much has been written about the vision Marvel has for the cinematic universe they’ve built around their characters, and that there is a unifying vision in place is really not up for debate. In that sense the Marvel superhero universe is run sort of like an American TV show – the writers and the showrunners define the universe, even explore and expand its boundaries with each successive movie, while the director simply execute that vision. This means we now have the foul-mouthed and violent arm of the universe that lives on Netflix. The family friendly part that lives on network TV. And the big glorious big screen universe that lords over it all. Characters visit each other’s worlds in standalone movies and then come together in quip-heavy, action-rich ensemble movies like the Avengers titles.
Captain America: Civil War is not one of those ensemble movies but it has possibly a bigger cast than either of the actual Avengers movies. Only missing on screen are The Hulk and Thor, who I believe, are scheduled to appear together in the next episode of the latter’s standalone story. So an overflowing-with-characters movie that is ostensibly a Captain America movie should feel bloated and sluggish, no?
Nope. This puppy zips through so many locations it could make James Bond’s head spin, and it features so many characters that the only way to think of it is to hark back to a childhood filled with superhero action figures where all the toys were called into play at the same time. That airport sequence in particular is just a marvel – no pun intended – of choreography and excitement. Unlike the recent Batman V Superman movie, these guys look like they are having fun. Yes I have superpowers. Yes I wear ridiculous clothing. Yes I can flatten your neighbourhood without exerting too much effort. So I’m definitely not going to be grim about it.
And it works.
I forgot that Spider-Man (Tom Holland) was going to be in this movie – even though I’d seen all the trailers and promotional material heralding this fact. And when he turns up on screen for the first time I got actual goosebumps. I don’t mind admitting that this does not happen very often.
Crossbones (Frank Grillo) is in this movie and he gets a nice little showcase for those jackhammer fists.
But the new character that made the biggest impression was Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and I loved the way this character moved and the way the actor played the character with just the right amount of balanced regality. I am totally looking forward to the Black Panther standalone movie now.
What I was most impressed by was the way this narrative is handled: the factionalization of the superheroes causes Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to end up on opposite sides of the debate on whether or not superheroes should be policed/held responsible for their actions. This is not new ground for superhero-led movies – in fact this ground has previously been mined–extensively–by the X-Men movies. What was cool about how this movie handled that situation was in the fact that these characters share a genuine affection for each other, so even the fighting demonstrates that affection.
The narrative is very ably handled by Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. I feel good about the fact that the next Avengers movies are going to be directed by the brothers. Maybe this time around we will get a story that doesn’t feel exactly like the first two parts of the Avengers saga did.
I was very entertained by Captain America: Civil War, and I am looking forward to seeing it again. In fact I had so much fun watching this movie I (re)downloaded Marvel’s Contest of Champions game for iPad and have begun playing it again. Be warned: the game is freakishly addictive and you should only try it if you have huge chunks of time to spare.