2016.35: Captain America: Civil War (Cinema)
Its fascinating, the thematic similarities between this film and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films hark back to the central themes of Alan Moore’s Watchmen. In the Real World, for how long would superheroes be able to run around unchecked before the authorities stepped in? How long would it be until the number of normal humans caught in the crossfire of superhero/supervillain battles become enough to raise the questions of responsibility and blame? When does the body-count of innocents reach a Critical Mass?
Typically of Marvel, such dark and rather sober thinking doesn’t drag Civil War into the same operatic agonising that Batman Vs Superman (or Man of Steel before it) descended into. Yes its action-heavy with a lot of allegiances and friendships stretched and broken and there are far-reaching consequences at films end, but somehow a lightness persists.
In hindsight, Civil War is the inevitable consequence of all those huge conflicts that occurred in Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the two Avengers films in particular. The body count of civilians is awfully high by this point and plenty of cities laid waste. Naturally the world and its politicians are nervous of the legality and accountability of the Avengers. The opening sequence of Civil War, in which members of the Avengers chasing down bad guys are involved in the deaths of innocents caught in an explosion, is the tipping point. A treaty -the Sokovia Accords- signed by the leaders of over a hundred countries is designed to block the Avengers from going into action without United Nations authority. The Avengers are divided- surprisingly Tony Stark (mindful of the loss of life in Sokovia at the end of Age of Ultron) thinks it is the way forward- Steve Rogers however is against it, wary of being controlled by the whims of corrupt politicians and nations with their own agendas- he believes the Avengers should be independent, not held to account by any nation or possible vested interest.
Battle lines are drawn. Divided, the Avengers battle each other while events are secretly orchestrated by someone manipulating things in the background with far more subtlety than Lex Luthor or Loki ever managed.
This is a great comic-book movie. There are big ideas here and big action sequences but the lightness of touch that persists through so many of these Marvel Studios movies dominates the proceedings, stopping the film being as bogged-down Batman vs Superman was. The consequences of those climatic events of the two Avengers films lends a weight to the film that makes it more interesting, and enables the film to raise itself above the one-liners and posing that scuppered much of Age of Ultron. And yet the central plot regarding the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes and his friendship with Captain America/Steve Rogers, something that runs through all three Captain America movies, makes this much more than an Avengers 2.5; it makes it a genuinely great trilogy.
Indeed, I’m of the opinion that this might be the best Marvel film yet. The film has an elegance and sophistication that is quite astonishing. Pacing is terrific, the fights interesting and varied, the character moments satisfying. These Marvel films make it look so effortless, particularly in ensemble films such as this, how they somehow juggle all the heroes and their superpowers with consummate ease. The appearance of Tom Holland’s Spiderman is terrific and promises a great movie of his own next year- indeed he almost completely steals the show in the scenes he appears in. All the more astonishing when you think he hasn’t had his own film to establish the character or his character beats yet. Likewise the antics (sorry, couldn’t resist) of Ant Man are another highlight. Batman vs Superman stumbled so badly trying to establish its Justice League, here Marvel shows how it should really be done.
Its a great superhero movie, and yes, possibly Marvel’s best. Until that famous webslinger comes into town, anyway.