Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Tom Holland, Emily Van Camp, Daniel Brühl
After an adventure in Nigeria to stop a supervillain gets out of control, the Avengers are commanded by various world governments to submit to a new law where a UN committee will oversee their actions. The Avengers divide themselves in two camps; Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) supports this new law, believing that the collateral damage suffered by people as a result of their adventures is too great a risk, while Captain America (Chris Evans) believes that any government control over their activities can compromise their effectiveness.
The debate gets out of hand when the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) returns from the underground as the puppet of Zemo (Daniel Brühl) — a new villain who has access to secrets that can permanently destroy the Avengers and turn friends into enemies. Captain America: Civil War’s strongest moments are a series of well produced action sequences: The opening sequence in Wakanda, a thrilling chase sequence in a tunnel in Germany, a mammoth battle at the airport and the finale at an abandoned Soviet facility. The problem is that the scenes between these action sequences, while not bereft of pathos and humour, don’t entirely make sense because of the weakness of the central plot.
The main plot of Civil War is superheroes fighting each other, but the reasons why they do so is unconvincing. The issues of collateral damage and government oversight are raised but not addressed, the logic behind why certain characters take sides on this issue does not rise to the level of deep-rooted ideology that could convince the audience that close friends and comrades fight each other for genuinely valid reasons.
The motivations for the supporting characters are clearer and the pleasures of Civil War come from them. Black Panther, played by Chadewick Boseman emerges as the film’s most interesting new character, one who is more than worthy of his own movie. Daniel Brühl is impressive as the film’s villain. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and, especially, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow are highly engaging in their small roles. The biggest scene-stealer is Paul Rudd returning from last year’s unexpectedly good Ant-Man. He is funny and he gets an amazingly powerful action scene at the finale, which I won’t spoil, but suffice to say includes a cool role reversal.
The nature of the plot is such that the original motivation for the conflict between Captain America and Iron Man keeps shifting. Initially, it’s a sincere agreement, then it becomes an ego conflict and finally it’s a dramatic secret from the past. Indeed neither Captain America nor Iron Man come across as especially likeable. One sequence at a maximum security prison with Iron Man confronting heroes loyal to Captain America and kept behind bars is especially hard to take since the impression conveyed is of Iron Man acting like a villain.
Likewise, Captain America casually shrugs away the collateral damage of lives lost in battle as a necessary evil of serving the greater good, which doesn’t make the character heroic or likeable. Indeed at the end of the film, one might have greater sympathy for the villain’s plan to end the Avengers and their self-destructive ego trips.
The big news about Civil War is the presence of Spiderman, to which one might say that newcomer Tom Holland is not as effective as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were. The character is too big to play the role of a sidekick. It seems like an awkward trailer inserted for the new Spiderman movie which will be part of the shared universe of Marvel movies.
The main draw of Civil War is the action sequences, and those who were big fans of the earlier Iron Man and Avengers movies will find this very enjoyable. For others, the film’s use of clichés, vague motivations and contrived drama might leave them confused and disappointing and wonder if this genre, not known for its innovation, has finally run its well dry....