You can’t trust freedom
When it’s not in your hands
When everybody’s fightin’
For their promised land
– Civil War by Guns n’ Roses
As much as I would like to, and attempted a few times, I’d love to write this and not bring up Batman v. Superman:Dawn Of Justice. It seems inevitable that the comparison is going to be made. It’s unfortunate as last I checked, in spite of what “hardcore fans” would have you believe, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy both DC and Marvel. However as both Civil War and Dawn of Justice are virtually the same story anyone who has seen both is going to find themselves comparing the two. Simply put Civil War is everything Dawn of Justice wanted to be and attempted to be but fell short in the process. And I say that as a fan of Dawn of Justice.
The main difference is Marvel/Disney has been building their cinematic universe for a decade now so as the events of Civil War unfold we are more than familiar with it and the characters that inhabit it. The actors in the roles also have years of playing the characters and interacting with each other so they are as emotionally invested as we the audience are.
We don’t need backstory or much expository dialogue. We understand why Bucky is more than just a friend to Cap or why Black Widow and Hawkeye pull their punches against each other. We’ve watched Tony Stark slowly descend into paranoia, guilt. How the effects of his PTSD have changed his relationship with those closest to him. All the groundwork has been laid so there’s a solid foundation for the idea that there has been consequences to the actions of The Avengers amid the collateral damage of their wars. By contrast Dawn of Justice was rushed and felt like it was playing catchup.
Civil War is another in long line of strong story telling from the Marvel team. The Registration Act of the books has been replaced with the Sokovia Accords which would effectively neuter The Avengers and simply turn them into a tool for the U.N. Tony agrees with it. Cap doesn’t. Sides are taken. This is set against the backdrop of Cap attempting to prove Bucky’s innocence in a terrorist act and introducing us to both Black Panther and of course your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Not to mention a central villain pulling the strings from behind the scenes whose devious and evil yet has motivations that are relatable which in turn makes him slightly sympathetic. It’s also surprisingly dark! It still retains the Marvel quips and gags we’ve all come to expect and enjoy but there’s no denying the weight and drama of it. Irreparable damage is done by films end. Characters and their relationships with each other and the world are forever changed. This film will have consequences down the road.
First thing’s first. Yes, Tom Holland is as fantastic as Peter and Spidey as you’ve heard. I feel confident in saying they finally got the character right after five movies! Holland is just nerdy enough as Peter yet just cool enough to make you believe him as the guy in the suit. It’s a real fine line that until now no one has totally nailed.
But one thing that doesn’t seem to be getting much talk is Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. Which for me is surprising. He knocked it completely out of the park! I have virtually no knowledge or personal attachment to the charcter. I have always been aware of him and knew who was but I’ve never read one of his books. But for me Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther had an amazing arc as a character here. He feels very naturally placed into the established universe. While I’m trying hard not to keep dragging Dawn of Justice into this, the parallels between Panther and Wonder Woman are undeniable. Black Panther means something to the story and when he’s called to action you understand why. It makes sense. Wonder Woman looked awesome and her fighting style was cool and easily one of the better things about that movie, but why was she there other than to set her up for her own movie? Essentially she was there to find a .jpeg. T’Challa’s arc is finding peace somewhere between vengeance and diplomacy and he ends up in a radically different place than he started. We see his moral compass shift. And Boseman plays it with such an intense quiet ferocity and diginity it’s a joy to watch.
And a shout out to Paul Bettany who is totally owning Vision This character is incredible. And how stylish!? But like, his whole reasoned robot logic is so cool.
Vision: “Our very strength invites challenge. Challenge incites conflict, conflict breeds catastrophe. Oversight…..oversight is something that can’t be dismissed out of hand.” This movie!
The big set pieces are excellent as usual. The eventual showdown between Team Cap and Team Tony? Twelve bright and flashy costumed comic book characters, duking it out, every single moment speaking to character, every super power utilized in new, fun, organic ways, top notch choreography, smooth, perfectly framed, camera work, incredible visual fx,..all in BROAD DAYLIGHT…..The BALLS on these people! Pure joy and nerdgasms!!
But most importantly the final fight between Captain America and Iron Man. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am getting tired of all the massive “destruction porn” in movies. And Civil War has it’s fair share of that. But the climax comes down to two guys fighting each other in a room, and it’s incredible. A brutal, violent last man standing affair that no one can win. This is how you pay off a set-up ten years in the making. This is the answer to every Cap/ Stark snide remark thrown at each other over a dozen movies. It will be interesting to see how these two interact together down the road after this.
Ultimately Civil War accomplishes more than Dawn of Justice or the equally flawed Age Of Ultron did. It effectively sets up for what comes next while remaining a strong story on its own. The last couple of Marvel entries were a little unfocused but this is definite return to form and is among the best of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.