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Review: Captain America: Civil War – “gut-punchingly good”

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Captain America: Civil War

It was never in doubt that Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War was going to wipe the floor with DC’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was it? But with early word proclaiming it the best of producer Kevin Feige’s instalments to date, in order to solidify such a claim we must assess it in the most objective of ways.

As is a staple of the studio (note the literally explosive opening to Age of Ultron), Civil War begins with a bang and, for most of its two-and-a-half hour duration, barely stutters or lowers in its highly-charged manner in which it opens. In fact, one could argue it’s one of the most entertaining, thrilling, funny, and daring superhero films out there.

While directors Anthony and Joe Russo hit every intended beat, nail every moment of wit, and deliver on a barrage of increasingly tense and inventive hero-on-hero fisty cuffs, pleasingly and somewhat purposefully it slots into the the Marvel formula with ease. In short, while it appears to push the boundaries of what’s expected from the studio that’s seen the likes of Iron Man and Cap become franchise gold, it’s inevitably handled rather safely, especially in its outcome; perhaps afraid to commit to a catastrophe that cannot be undone further down the MCU’s line.

Even from the perspective of a recently converted Marvel admirer, such as myself, it’s hard to nitpick the quality of the film in question because Civil War has an arguably tougher job of winning audiences over since 2012’s Avengers Assemble set the benchmark for merging numerous heroes on-screen at once. Not only that, but the politically-driven Captain America: The Winter Solider again heightened expectation for the solo outings spearheaded by the chiselled-jawed Steve Rogers.

The story works because it doesn’t dilly-dally. Rather than slowing things down every so often to offer exposition and over-explain, Civil War tells us what it wants with visual prowess amidst a well-placed flashback to a HYDRA incident from 1991, for example. Amazingly, the dozen or so characters that all demand screen time at some point – or, on occasion, all at once – don’t feel cluttered or shoehorned and it’s not messy in the slightest. In fact, new additions to the Captain America thread – Black Panther, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Vision, War Machine, Scarlett Witch, and Iron Man – all feel rather at home among Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Winter Solider, Falcon, and the film’s title character.

Its focus on the comic book friction between Rogers and Tony Stark unfolds at a pacey rate; never drawn out or rushed nor does it laboriously plod along. The cracks that appear in Age of Ultron’s written narrative is a catalyst for the splintered factions here, as is the idea of past actions having severe repercussions and consequences down the line; as similarly explored in of Dawn of Justice, which is a particularly interesting direction for superhero films to go.

At its core, despite a host of characters involved, the impetus is still very much on Steve Rogers’ moral plight, as we’re invited to see things from his perspective while leaving a door open to conceivably support Stark’s law-abiding pigheadedness as events unfold before your eyes. Significantly though, it is the faces behind the superhero masks that we connect with most, as their humanistic tendencies burst through and transform these iconic, fearless, heroic names into fractured, ambiguous human beings.

The intricate narrative that’s jam-packed may be brutal and devastating, but it’s not without charm. Marvel’s decision to steer clear from an overly serious tone and blend comedy with a sense of urgency, danger, and poignancy gels seamlessly. All the jokes land, with a cluster of memorable quips during Tom Holland’s scene-stealing time as Spider-Man a high point.

Captain America: Civil War is gut-punchingly good, in an already established, middle section of an ongoing Marvel universe – so don’t expect to be able to waltz in blind and know precisely what’s going on. But then, if you’re heading into the third Cap movie, the thirteenth from Disney and Marvel, you’ll no doubt be fully aware what’s to come beforehand, so prepare for an exhilarating experience.

Words: Mike Williams

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