'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look what you've done. 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. Hey!
Building on the events of both The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War asks some pretty big questions about the Avengers’ place in the world as the team is forced to confront the consequences of their actions. The Russo Brothers, returning to direct after blowing us all away with their sequel to The First Avenger, have delivered a superhero blockbuster that manages to be exciting, thought provoking and heartbreaking all at the same time. It doesn't quite top The Winter Soldier as Marvel's best movie, but it comes bloody close.
The crossover series that partially inspired this movie is not one I'm particularly fond of. It was an interesting idea that was poorly executed by a creative team more interested in seeing heroes fighting each other than providing a convincing rationale for why they were even fighting in the first place. Thankfully, this film shares very little with that comic besides the basic premise (heroes fracturing into opposing factions after being forced to accept government oversight) and the central image of Captain America and Iron Man beating the living shit out of each other.
The script, by Winter Soldier writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, manages to fix a lot of what was wrong with Mark Miller's original comic. Steven and Tony don’t suddenly turn into completely unrecognisable characters (both jerks) to further fan the flames of conflict. Said conflict is also allowed to develop more naturally, partly because the source of the fighting is not the team’s ideological differences regarding the
Putting Bucky at the centre of events makes this fight more personal than a disagreement over political oversight. It is not hard to understand why Steve is so protective of the former Winter Soldier. Not only is Bucky like a brother to him, he is also the last link Steve has to his old life, the life he lost when he went into the ice. Bucky is the only one who can really relate to Steve’s experience, the only one who can really understand what he’s been through. As such, Steve will do anything to protect Bucky, even if it means having to break the law and fight his new friends.
As this is Cap's film you would expect it to be completely sympathetic to his point of view and depict Tony as a villain. That's what happened in the comic, but that isn't what happens here. If anything, Tony is more sympathetic than Steve. Tony sees signing up as a way to make amends for creating Ultron and help the team win back the public trust they lost because of his actions. He understands that the Avengers cannot protect a world that sees them as being no different from the monsters they fight. Better they willingly agree to the Sokovia Accords now before they are forcefully subjugated by something far worse later.
As the duelling heroes, Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. have never been better, with RDJ delivering what is quite possibly his best ever performance to date as Tony Stark. With so much focus on Steve and Tony’s disintegrating friendship, the rest of the cast are left to scramble for what precious screentime they can get their hands on. Chadwick Boseman fares best as Black Panther while Tom Holland makes a good first impressions as the new Spider-Man, although I can't help but feel that his presence here is a little shoe-d in. Of the returning favourites, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are given a few cute scenes as Wanda and the Vision start to bond, but Anthony Mackie and Scarlett Johansson are shockingly underused. Falcon is relegated to standard sidekick duties, while Natasha's motives for signing up with Team Iron Man are never explored in depth.
But what of the film's bad guy? Well, you'd be forgiven for thinking there wasn't one, what with Daniel Brühl's almost complete absence from any promotional material. Which is a shame, because his Zemo is the best Marvel movie villain since Loki. Not only does he have a understandable motivation for his actions, his scheme actually makes sense. Admittedly, it requires more than few contrivances for it to work, like all evil schemes, but it still makes a lot more sense than "I want to plunge the universe into darkness because why not?".
Notes and Quotes
--The big airport battle between teams Cap and Iron Man is as spectacular as you'd expect from a Marvel Studios film, but it's the final, soul crushing fight between Steve, Bucky and Tony that will probably stay with you.
--The technology to make actors look decades younger has come a long way since the dark days of X-Men: The Last Stand, but it is still far from perfect. You'll see what I mean.
--Jeremy Renner gets even less to do in this than he did in the first Avengers movie.
--Elisabeth Olsen's accent is just as bad in this film as it was in Age of Ultron.
--I hope Martin Freeman's role will be expanded in future films, otherwise this is a complete waste of a good actor.
Hawkeye: "We haven’t met yet. I’m Clint."
Black Panther: "I don’t care."
Sam: (to T'Challa) "So you like cats?"
Sam: "What? Dude shows up just like a cat. You don’t want to know more?"
Steve: "He's my friend."
Tony: "So was I."
Three and half out of four absent Thor clones.
Mark Greig is Team Peggy Carter. More Mark Greig