Director: Anthony & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, William Hurt, Daniel Brühl
Run Time: 147 mins
(POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD)
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is the 3rd instalment in the Captain America franchise and the first chapter of Phase 3. Back in the director’s chair are Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ which is regarded as one of the best entries in the franchise thus far and a film that also allowed them the gig of directing the upcoming 2-part ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ extravaganza. ‘Civil War’, however is more of a continuation of the events from last year’s abysmal ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and particularly coming hot off the heels of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, this needs to deliver if audiences are going to have faith in these directors of a film that will be the climax of every single film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
‘Captain America: Civil War’ is a very solid effort from the Russo brothers and is an improvement over ‘The Winter Soldier’. It has a great cast and is one of the rare ensemble comic book films of recent times to not feel overstuffed. The film is however overlong – it takes a long while to get going and there is a lot of excess baggage that could have been trimmed but when the film does get going after 45 minutes or so, it’s very coherent and well-paced. Surprisingly, the film also features one of the best villains in the franchise, an aspect that Marvel are not good at and consistently fail at even in their best films, but Daniel Bruhl makes for a menacing and calculative three-dimensional villain.
The performances by the cast here are generally very good with the standouts being Robert Downey Jr, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Brühl’s villain. Robert Downey Jr is always great in these films but here we see a completely different side to him, a paranoid figure racked with guilt and he really does develop the character well and seeing him opposite Chris Evans, who is also more relaxed here demonstrates the great chemistry that both actors share. Chadwick Boseman makes his debut here as Black Panther, who will be getting his own film in a few years time and he is very good here, hopefully being able to replicate this in his own film. As mentioned, Daniel Brühl’s villain is one of the best in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and he is a very calculative and menacing character, always multiple steps ahead of the characters and Brühl is very committed to the role here which had the potential to be very hammy and forgettable. Unfortunately, although Tom Holland has received showers of praise for his debut as Spider-Man, I thought he was rather weak and annoying but I am interested to see how he will fare in his own standalone film – however his definitive moment is definitely not here.
The script penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is very coherent and polished and although the film has to juggle a lot of characters, everyone gets a chance to make their mark which is simply outstanding. It is one of the first team-up superhero film that has a long run time, which although undeniably overlong, the film is not overstuffed completely reverting the incoherent mess that was ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ last year which is a big achievement. Both writers should be excellent for the ‘Infinity War’.
One of the main strengths that the Russo Brothers have over other their Marvel Cinematic Universe director counterparts is their ability to craft memorable and awe-inspiring action sequences. They do not fall short here. The stellar action sequences in ‘The Winter Soldier’ proved their knack for creating action and it’s refreshing that they try and use mostly practical effects as opposed to CGI. The now infamous airport sequence where all of the superheroes battle it out is a work of art and is one of the very best action scenes in the entire plethora of Marvel films and although the last half an hour to the film is fairly low-key in terms of spectacle, it’s absolutely stunning to watch the relationships change between our favourite characters, complimented by the action.
The score by Henry Jackman is surprisingly very lacklustre and not memorable in the slightest, lazily reusing riffs from ‘The Winter Soldier’ and adding nothing new to the film. The cinematography by Trent Opalach is very sound here and there are many shots in the film that are unique and creative.
Unfortunately, through no fault of the Russo Brothers, the film cannot shake off feeling very formulaic in places and particularly in the film’s beginning, I was very worried the film would be a let-down. Even still, the film is so unbelievably predictable in places and heavy-handed but the Russo’s manage to just about fix this with the stellar ending. Marvel also continue to infuriate me with being unable to kill off a character for good and I was very disappointed here with this trend continuing to be prevalent.
As for the future of the highly profitable and critically loved Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Civil War’ has started off Phase 3 very well but I really hope that the films are able to have their own identification and directors stamp, I was always aware here that I was watching a Marvel film whereas although maybe a crude comparison, Zack Snyder really does allow his personality to flow through ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and it feels more the work of an auteur that it does a DC film. Here’s hoping that Scott Derrickson, director of the next film in this franchise, ‘Doctor Strange’ will be able to allow his directors stamp to command the film.
Overall, ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is a very solid effort from the Russo Brothers and ranks highly in the franchise in terms of quality. Although very formulaic in places and overlong, it does pose a lot of interesting ideas and the chemistry between these characters continues to flourish and the Russo’s take a risk that pays off in having a quieter, more thoughtful climax than recent films. The film also works on the strength of its villain played masterfully by Daniel Brühl, who will hopefully reprise his role in future films. In terms of how it compares to the other superhero films this year, I think it ranks higher than ‘Deadpool’ but controversially although ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ is a troubled film and at times incoherent, there is more of a sense of wonder about it and it is visually stunning. But ‘Civil War’ is a very good effort and I have full confidence in the Russo Brothers in being able to deliver two great films on the Avengers.