Movie Review: Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America and Iron Man come into conflict over international accords that would grant governmental oversight to the Avengers.

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Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016

During an Avengers mission to stop a terrorist attack in Africa, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) causes a terrible accident that kills several innocent Wakandans. Tensions against the Avengers rise, and the Sokovia Accords are drawn up to grant oversight of the superhero team. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) supports the accords immediately, but Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is wary of what the Accords could mean. He refuses to sign, and tensions rise between the two team members. When dangerous assassin The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) reappears on the scene in connection with a bombing, the tensions rise – Steve is determined to protect his childhood friend Bucky, who was brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier by the Russian government, while Tony wants to bring him in. Battle lines are drawn as the Avengers choose sides and fighting breaks out – but behind the scenes, a mysterious villain (Daniel Bruhl) is pulling the strings.

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There are lots of things to recommend about this third film in the Captain America franchise. The Russos made arguably (no, not really arguably, definitely) the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a tense affair that had modern, relevant themes and strong characterisation. So my hopes were high when I headed in to Civil War. The characters continue to be the best part of the MCU – there’s a LOT of them in this film, but most of them are people we really care about. The casting continues to be strong, with most of the actors pitching terrific performances that resonate, and interacting well with each other. This feels like a real, coherent world. The film balances levity and heavy drama, action and character beats. It’s a ride from start to finish, with no time to be bored. Team Cap is, from the start, clearly on the moral high ground as far as the audience can see (and it doesn’t hurt that all my favourite characters, save Scarlett Johansson as Natasha, are on there), but there’s real heartbreak and pain as Steve and Tony’s differences become irreconcilable. There are some great relationship moments – Bucky and Anthony Mackie’s Sam are a lot of fun together, and interactions between Natasha and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye on opposing sides are great.

The problem, ultimately, is that they shouldn’t have rushed and made Captain America 3 into Civil War. The storyline should have been saved for an Avengers film, where both sides could be given equal weight and importance. There are fundamental flaws in the foundation of this movie that they’ve worked really hard to build a good movie on, but the cracks are visible all the way through. Steve chooses a side and stands firm all through the movie, which means the titular character has no arc in his own movie. Bucky winds up getting short-changed as essentially an object to be fought over, a damsel in distress, despite Sebastian Stan’s very strong performance. Characters that should get more attention are pushed into the shadows as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man (who brings the majority of the film’s levity, but also feels forced) and Chadwick Boseman’s Prince T’Challa/Black Panther (much more organic) are introduced. There are a couple of romances, one of which is given time to build, the other of which feels very unnatural. Some sections of the film feel rushed, as though we’re rushing from one action scene to the next, breathlessly racing towards the Captain America vs. Iron Man showdown the title promises. Understanding of the film depends entirely on seeing the other films – Civil War doesn’t stand on its own. The Accords themselves are rushed and inorganic. Bruhl’s villain is underwhelming. It’s like the studio gave the Russos a set of plot points to hit, and while they tried their very best to create a coherent storyline, they cannot overcome the flaws in its design.

Captain America: Civil War on IMDb

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