Captain America: Civil War

Civil War

In everything but its title, the new Captain America sequel is an Avengers film in disguise. The Russo brothers weave a grand, fun, witty superhero action spectacle using the assortment of characters introduced over numerous years (and films), channeling their collective energy to deliver an experience that’s even more satisfying that the actual Avengers sequel from last year.

As the title suggests, Civil War splits the Avengers into factions who end up being at loggerheads with each other. Their differing points of view rise to the surface when they have to sign a charter that places them under the control of the UN in an effort to curb the damage their skirmishes have caused. While Tony Stark is quick to find this an agreeable approach (thanks to his bruised ego), Steve Rogers finds himself opposing such a move, quickly setting up the films theme of freedom vs. control. Both men attract allies to their cause and the resurgence of Roger’s old friend, Bucky Barnes, now working under the guise of the Winter Soldier, firmly divides the group into opposite corners of the fight ring.

With such a large canvas of heroes, its astonishing just how completely fleshed out nearly every character is, whether they have appeared in their own standalone films or, in the case of both Spiderman and Black Panther, are being showcased here for the first time. In that sense, Civil War feels like a definitive Avengers film, a sort of greatest hits compilation. Without any need for exposition and building team dynamics, it sets things up pretty easily and early, first by showing us how the new teams works together in battle and later how their traits rip them apart. The action is clear and unambiguous, a reminder that we live in the same world that went gaga over Mad Max: Fury Road and will soon forget the failed embarrassment that was Batman vs. Superman.

As a consequence of all this, the Captain America trilogy feels like it has progressively improved with each entry, to the extent that the character himself is probably now the best developed within the relatively young Marvel Cinematic Universe. A lot of this credit goes to the director siblings, who continue to demonstrate their command of creating dramatic tension, storytelling and of course executing superhero scuffles with superb efficiency, the most brazenly accomplished of which is the eye-popping battle fought at an empty German airport. The trailer may prepare you for who takes on who but there are still plenty of surprises in store during this breathlessly staged, extended battle sequence including the best ever use of an Empire Strikes Back reference.

While the films visual energy comes from its frenetic, well choreographed action, its intellectual drive comes from the clash of ideologies that divides the team. Because this divide is not motivated by hubris but by personality and largely, rational, it becomes hard for us to pick any one side. This is where the film is a major studio triumph – it attempts and gracefully succeeds at being both a big budget blockbuster vying for audience attention via edge of your seat bouts while also engaging them cerebrally. There is also a maturity to the premise that distinguishes it from the cash grab nature of the graphic novel that inspired this film. While the formula that has pre-existed in previous Marvel films is still there, the equation is re-written. If the first Avengers film focused on establishing the setup, Civil War embraces change – and in terms of the resolution and final outcome, some pretty big ones at that.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com