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Review – Captain America: Civil War – “Not just the best Captain America movie, it is the best Avengers movie”

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Captain America: Civil War is the thirteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first in Phase 3. Anthony and Joe Russo return to direct after the excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with every hero back, including Chris Evans as Cap, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. New additions include Tom Holland as Spider-Man, and Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther.

Sexy brain-washed assassin slash super soldier – and literal sleeper agent – Bucky Barnes once stole four sachets of blue stuff that were then used to create more Winter Soldiers. Sly and sinister string-puller, Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), is manipulating Bucky to get his hands on these living weapons of mass destruction, while Captain America attempts to stop him and protect his best friend.

Cap’s efforts, and Bucky’s freedom, are hampered by a political cracking down on superheroes followed by the collateral damage inflicted on Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron. To force accountability, The Sokovia Accords – which would see The Avengers supervised by the UN – have been signed by 117 countries. Half the Avengers, led by Iron Man, have signed too, while the other half try to keep their independence and assist Captain America in clearing Bucky’s name and stopping Zemo.

The fundamental ethical split between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark that facilitates the entire Captain America vs Iron Man: Dawn of Civil War is pitched and played perfectly here – unlike in Batman vs Superman. Throughout, the pair try so hard to stay friends and find common ground before a slow and painful split and believable realigning into opposing forces. They truly don’t want to have to fight, and even when a stunning extended scrap occurs, everyone stays friends in spite of it all. But it’s only all fun and games until a shocking and heart-breaking revelation that cannot be stopped by any mere “Martha”’s.

The Russo’s rock. Their handle on not just the material, but all their enhanced characters and their arcs is masterful. Unlike the worries Batman vs Superman evoked for Justice League. The Russo’s have everything so down pat, so true, and so enjoyable, that you will be counting the days until they bring on Avengers: Infinity War.

Their genius juggling sees everyone get time on the field, but for it to still feel like a Captain America movie. The brothers have a thorough understanding of everyone’s abilities, and how to best utilise them. Not only do they even manage to make Falcon cool – Cap has never been better. His shield slinging is so sick that Spidey even remarks: “That thing doesn’t quite obey the laws of physics, does it?!”

And what a Spider-Man, Civil War gives us. A generous sequence in Queens introduces the new web-head, and may have felt too long, or too indulgent, if it was not so excellent. Peter Parker feels like a real kid – excitable and unfocussed and eager-to-please – and his banter with Tony Stark is magic. Aunt May, now played by Marisa Tomei, is also a possible love interest for a Tony on the edge of a conscious uncoupling with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.

Fellow new recruit, Black Panther, jumps straight into the fray with perhaps a quick line of origin story, to become a scene-stealing marvellous new hero with a satisfyingly constant presence throughout the film’s final two thirds. Chadwick Boseman’s Wakandan warrior king is unlike any other existing Avenger, exuding a nobility and regal cool that can turn to fire any second.

Black Panther’s stand out action scene is a car chase where the participants can all run so fast that they don’t need cars, but along with Spider-Man, and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, it is the fab fisticuffs in an abandoned airport that is the most fun fanboy-pleasing scene. Featuring dream match-ups, inventive scrapping, and plenty of those trademark Marvel killer one-liners, it is some of the purest joy felt emanating off the screen thus far, and shows the DC Extended Universe whose playground this still is.

After twelve movies, Civil War exhibits zero signs of superhero fatigue. Captain America: Civil War is not just the best Captain America movie, it is the best Avengers movie. It is rollicking, glorious and heartfelt, and feels like a feature length three-part finale of your favourite show.

5-out-of-5

Captain America: Civil War is released in the UK on the 29th of April.

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