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“Captain America: Civil War” is the culmination of eight years of planning and in many ways it is Marvel’s masterpiece. The action, the CGI, and the performances are great, and in my opinion it’s the best film to feature the main MCU cast thus far. However, for my money “Civil War” is still a victim of the Marvel formula, as it features another lacklustre villain and a story filled with plot holes.
The story, as you would expect, relates to an internal dispute within The Avengers. After a flashback opening involving The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) the film starts proper as Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) attempt to prevent a biological attack and capture Crossbones in Lagos (Frank Grillo). The mission goes wrong as Scarlet Witch accidently takes the lives of Wakandans on a good will trip, and this leads to a dilemma – report to an international governing body or retire. Some of The Avengers agree – Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr) group – and some don’t – Captain America’s group.
There’s more to the story than that, and in fact it’s The Winter Soldier who really causes the team to divide, but there’s nothing that you can’t work out based on what you’ve seen in the trailers. I have to say that in my opinion the trailers gave far too much away, because you can’t feel worried about a character when they appear in the trailers in a scene that hasn’t occurred yet, and the trailers shows a lot of scenes which happen late on in the film.
The biggest issue I have with the plot, (other than the fact that people are very ungrateful to The Avengers for saving the world multiple times), is that it isn’t plausible that our heroes would get into such a mess given that they have such a good rapport. They’re smart people with valuable life experience, so it seems to me that they could always talk about their issues in a civilised and intelligent manner. They aren’t a group of meatheads as this film would have you believe – Tony Stark is a genius, Vision (Paul Bettany) is basically a god, and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is a king. They can talk it out if they want to.
Moreover, neither side’s motivations really make sense because they treat the problem as though it’s incredibly black-and-white. Tony Stark refuses to accept that Steve Rogers doesn’t want to report to a committee to decide which people he saves and which he doesn’t, even though he knows that Rogers has been burned in the past by S.H.I.E.L.D. On the other side, Rogers refuses to explain this to Stark and he constantly portrays himself as the bad guy even though his rationale makes complete sense.
Both Stark and Rogers act like idiots so that the film has its (artificial) conflict, which in turn makes that conflict feel utterly hollow. The writers are too scared to break the mould to create real problems, because this would result in real and lasting differences; if The Avengers are truly and irreparably destroyed from the inside then they won’t be able to team up against Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the upcoming “Avengers : Infinity War” movie, which is unthinkable for Marvel. As such, nothing of real significance occurs in this movie.
This also speaks to a larger issue that the film has, which is that because Marvel’s writers are always thinking about the next step in their filmmaking schedule they refuse to kill off their characters when necessary. When you call your movie “Civil War” it’s rational for your audience to expect that at least one person will die, because the word ‘war’ evokes thoughts of chaos and death. Plus, if you have several godlike beings attacking each other then there should be some damage right?
(SPOILER ALERT) Alas, no one from The Avengers dies in this film despite the fact that planes are thrown at protagonists, people fall from the sky, and arrows are shot around by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as though they were made out of jelly. Because of this I personally couldn’t take the movie seriously at all after about the ¾ mark, and by then I’d lost any fleeting interest I had in the plot. Say what you want about “Batman v Superman”, but at least it had the guts to kill off one of its major characters (sort of).
However, with all that said I still enjoyed the film. The main fight scene between the two rivalling factions is an utter triumph, despite the fact that the stakes are so low that it feels more like a food fight than a battle of life and death, and with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) fighting alongside the main cast of The Avengers it’s hard to shake the feeling of genius that permeates the action. Within the extended battle sequence we see such things as Spider-Man stealing Captain America’s shield, using his webbing to take down a supersized Ant-Man, and taking down Falcon and The Winter Soldier as though they were toddlers, and I have to say that it is glorious.
The real beauty of the film is the way in which it introduces new characters to the story, and how those characters fit into that story, which is why I felt that Black Panther and Spider-Man made the movie. I can’t wait to see their solo films, and I hope that they have a large part to play in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Nevertheless, other characters weren’t handled so well, particularly Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) who was another forgettable Marvel villain. I still don’t understand the motivation that was driving him throughout the film, (which is probably my fault because he was so dull that when he turned up I tended to switch off), and for the most part he was a pointless player in a movie which didn’t even need a villain in the first place.
All in all, “Captain America: Civil War” was an entertaining but predictable experience. It was action-packed, polished, and filled with drama, but it was hard to feel invested in what was a fairly paint-by-numbers film. Marvel have a successful formula going right now and they know how to create amazing action with fantastic CGI, but this formula also contains familiar problems such as underdeveloped villains, awkward romance, and unnecessary comedy. “Civil War” is plagued by these issues, so whilst I enjoyed the film for what it was, I felt that it could’ve been much better had it broke the mould.