DUTIFULLY step aside Avengers Assemble, cool off The Winter Soldier, and crack a joke somewhere else Guardians of the Galaxy – it’s time to say hello to the best Marvel movie to date.
“While a great many people see you as a hero, there are some who prefer the word vigilante.” That’s the intriguing moral dilemma at the crux of Civil War’s bold plot. It picks up in the physical and political aftermath of the Sokovia showdown that left human casualties in the wake of our super-powered team defending the world against Ultron.
As a result of this the government – and, indeed, a scared worldwide population – have had enough of the relentless collateral damage. Spearheaded by General Ross (William Hurt), there is a proposal put forward which would involve The Avengers signing the so-called “Sokovia Accords” to essentially keep them in check.
Leading the pro campaign is Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), who sees them being no better than the bad guys if they continue to be held unaccountable for the destruction they cause. On the other hand we have Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), who staunchly views this politicised agreement as a limiting and insidiously dangerous step.
So starts the fracturing of the team that they’ve spent many movies assembling. And that’s a big part of what makes Civil War not only supremely entertaining but also tremendously satisfying in how it ties the bombast together with grounded drama and thought-provoking themes within the framework of a fantastical comic book world.
Unlike the other solo Marvel adventures, this has the added benefit of bringing the whole gang out to play, with the notable exception of Thor and The Hulk who – if you’ve been keeping up – are understandably conspicuous by their absence. However, it’s first and foremost a Captain America story and we’re invited into the plot largely from his noble, if disharmonious, perspective.
The discordant nature adds a fun and unpredictable edge to this particular Marvel instalment and to its credit sticks to its guns the whole way through, not buckling under the kind of pressure that would forced it into generic territory.
The action is as dynamic as it is plentiful, with a fantastic mix of acrobatic combat, superpower displays and even finding room for some thrilling chase sequences that would give the Bourne franchise a run for its money. All delivered with playful quips and a self-aware glint in its eye.
Many of those action sequences take the form of gloriously visualised in-fighting between a group ripped apart by fundamental disagreement or, at the very least, old allegiances forcing certain members to choose one side or the other.
As well as the usual Avengers, it also introduces us to a couple of new characters who are there to serve a purpose in this particular story and also to use it as a springboard for their own coming down the line. But, unlike Batman v Superman, it never instils that clunky feeling of always keeping its eye on what’s to come.
Firstly, there’s Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, whose feline escapades add an interesting flavour to the mix. But, perhaps more importantly, the film marks the first appearance by rising British star Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man, finally able to be a part of all the MCU fun after a new rights agreement behind the scenes.
The web-slinging teen is in it a lot more than you’d expect and Holland makes him everything the character should be: sparky, wisecracking and extremely likeable, with a nice mix of the knowing and the wide-eyed. He makes for a brilliantly enjoyable young counterpoint to the older team members. The film is supposed to be about Team Cap or Team Iron Man but you may very well leave the cinema as Team Spidey.
Whereas The First Avenger was an unashamedly old-school wartime yarn and The Winter Soldier was a throwback to 70s political thrillers, Civil War more than lives up to its name as an all-out battle movie.
Under the direction of returning Winter Soldier helmers Anthony and Joe Russo, this is the kind of big, expansive, dynamic and ambitious blockbuster you hope for from the Marvel name, one that works best because it never forgets that, for these fantastical characters, this fight is deeply personal.