In spite of being a jaded viewer at this point, the Russo Brothers (Arrested Development and Community) and the screenwriting duo of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Narnia Franchise) proved still capable when it comes to keeping the Marvel Franchise afloat and, nay, helping it to flourish like few franchises ever have. The pair of directing and writing duos who brought us Captain America: Winter Solider were able to add another link in the armor, and Marvel has remained stalwart. There are moments of misguided drama, times when the fight sequences become monotonous rather than momentous, but Marvel always does well to keep their funny bone intact.
As with any superhero movie Civil War calls for a suspension of disbelief, but it also becomes a balancing act, because for any movie to truly resonate with a mass audience its characters must feel human in some way shape or form. Where their powers and superhuman abilities must be on display for all those awaiting a popcorn thriller, but still restrained enough to keep them relatable.
In this case, Captain America (Chris Evans) is swayed by the love of a friend he’s known for over 70 years. Bucky Barnes is once more in the middle of a manhunt, and yet Cap has faith in his old friend. But it’s exactly that kind of loyalty that lands him on the wrong side of the law. Meanwhile, our other force of nature Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) rehashes the tragic death of his parents and tough times with Pepper Potts leave him conflicted. He’s ready to concede to the United Nation’s demands to put the Avengers in check and that’s where he breaks with his former ally. When the two undisputed leaders of the Avengers become polarized that forms the dividing line between factions and the whole film becomes fascinating as the sides are slowly drawn up. As an audience, we are forced to make a choice. It’s either the true blue Steve Rogers or the wonderfully snarky Tony Stark or perhaps we watch as an impartial observer. But, nevertheless, a mental decision must be made.
And it’s not only a balancing act of super versus human qualities, but the sheer size and scope of the cast could easily be a hindrance. Equality of screen time or at least moments in the spotlight for everyone are key, and the film generally does that capably enough. Marvel revels in the callbacks and Civil War is no different. In this installment alone we have the pleasure of seeing numerous returning players sans Hulk. In fact, the most entertaining fight sequence involves everyone duking it out, and the fact that it feels almost like play fighting rather than full-fledged combat is of little consequence.
But the new additions are also noteworthy including the likes of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and yet another Spiderman. Credit due to Tom Holland for in some ways making Peter Parker into an invariably entertaining persona, who feels different than his predecessors. There are a few others in smaller roles of note including the likes of William Hurt, Martin Freeman, and even Jim Rash.
By this point, we have long grown tired of villains rising up from outer space harnessing some unfathomable amount of power. The antagonists that are truly compelling are those who are closer to home, more realistic, and sometimes even within our own ranks. Built into this film’s title is that type of conflict, between former friends, between people who used to be close or would be on the same side given any other circumstances. But Civil War ups the ante not by getting bigger and grander necessarily. It’s the fact that it gets more personal that makes it work surprisingly well.
Daniel Bruhl is a delightful actor, and he does well to play what some might call a villain and others might simply label a pained, vengeful man. That’s oftentimes far more interesting.
It’s overstuffed with players, many who are admittedly wonderful acting talents. Its editing and cinematography is at times overly frenetic and mind-numbing. While Civil War is the expected superhero extravaganza, there are dour, more mature interludes that are difficult not to appreciate. If Marvel has not completely kept me enraptured, due to so many subsequent films, they still have me coming back and if I’m any indication, there will be many far more ardent fans than me who will truly enjoy what this film has to offer.