The Russo brothers return with Captain America: Civil War, pitting two of Marvel’s favourite sons against each other – but are you #TeamCap or #TeamIronman? Swathes of superheroes go at it and action abounds, but at the core of this film is not the light-hearted frolics of Joss Whedon’s Avengers outings. Instead, this is something a little more confused, overly-long, but nevertheless an entertaining blockbuster with a few surprising decisions thrown in. Following the Battle of New York, the destruction of Sokovia and numerous other catastrophes indirectly caused by the Avengers, it is decided by the world’s governments that these heroes need to be brought into check.
The UN and US Secretary of State General Ross (William Hurt) step forward as the ones to do it with a brick of a document dubbed The Sokovia Accord, backed by a war-weary Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Captain America (Chris Evans) is immediately suspicious, primarily because he has seen what corrupt powers-that-be can do with super-weapons, namely his war buddy James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Each hero picks their side. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the aforementioned Winter Solider decide to go rogue after the discovery of a mysterious plot by a former Sokovian solider, Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), to unearth a mysterious covert-op that took place in 1991. Meanwhile, Stark and his loyal band – War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany) and new addition Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) – decide that Cap and comrades need to be brought into check.
The pitch is simple enough – liberalism or totalitarianism, heroes or vigilantes – and it has more than a whiff of American imperialism on both sides of the coin. The Russo brothers manage to navigate the territory to the level the genre demands, bringing back the spy-thriller movie credentials demonstrated in The Winter Soldier. It’s this that holds our attention rather than the bombast of the fight scenes. Civil War truly shines when we get extended dialogues, best of all when they include Downey Jr., who again brings his always reliable level of depth to Iron-Man. A particularly fine moment of sees Stark decide that he needs backup in the form of everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who gives a brief yet highly entertaining turn as the web-slinger. The two compare notes on why they took up the superhero mantle and Stark leaves assured that Spidey is his Spider-homey. No origin stories here, thankfully.
There are also some credible ‘real-world’ issues thrown in along the way by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeel. The problem then, perhaps, is that the Russo brothers – now locked in for two more Avengers: Infinity War sequels – insist on far too many samey Bourne-style chase-chat-fight scenes, padding out Civil War to a whopping two-and-a-half hours (including credits). There’s a certain bloatedness to much of the first half, while the film in general lacks the balance of humour to hard-hitting found in Shane Black’s superb Iron Man 3 and/or Whedon’s two Avengers outings. Fortunately, unlike the abysmal Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War just about gets away with its flaws with through sheer swagger alone, in no doubt that it’s the superhero showdown fans have so keenly awaited.
Joe Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh