Oh joy and joys and an abundance of wonders, it’s superhero time yet again at the movies. It’s been a long, languid wait of at least a month since the last bout of spandex sparring, and sarcasm aside I was generally looking forward to Civil War, mostly due to the Russo brothers having proved their proficiency in the director’s chair for one of the better movies in the MCU – Winter Soldier. The marketing for the film, the 13th produced in the franchise series since its inception with Iron Man in 2008 has hinged upon the central conflict in the movie, the first of the so-called third phase in Marvel’s multiplex mastery. Are you Team Cap or Team Iron? is evidently one of the great modern mysteries of our time, a pondering which the great philosophical minds have been keenly debating which the furiosity of the Schrödinger’s cat phenomenon, whereas the intellects behind the menagerie couldn’t give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut, just as long as the mental Marvel mechanics melee was as fun as its fulfilling as some of the highpoints in the franchise. In other words I just wanted to check my brain at the multiplex and enjoy two hours of pixelated mayhem, with all the requisite source material call-backs and ferocious fan service to make me reminiscent of my committed comic reading youth. For the most part Civil War delivered, with a few caveats around the critical invulnerability that these films amass – the movie has taken $200 million on it’s first weekend alone and it hasn’t even opened in Russia, China, India or North America yet……
Although it is allocated under the Captain America banner the first thing to be made clear is that this is an Avengers film, with the omission of Thor and Hulk everyone else is in this, although the focus, admittedly, falls under swellhead’s relationship with his brainwashed friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Shaw). Therein lies a critical problem but your mileage may vary, as after dragging this quasi-romance over three pictures I’m sorry to say I just didn’t care, so when the central story arc isn’t provoking much in the empathy zone the film suffers the equivalent of an ultimate nullifier detonation. Other critics have wept actual tears at the film’s childhood dream fulfilling conquests, I wasn’t remotely that invested but in places Civil War did muster a mental fist-bump. After an tempo setting opening prologue the Avengers team clumsily decimate downtown Lagos when attempting to retrieve a hastily misplaced bio-weapon. Coming under intense global scrutiny the team are visited by the venerable Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) who instructs them to sign-up to a United Nations mandated Memorandum Of Understanding, submitting to the will and directives of the democratic global community. Thus the central fissure in the teams morale is struck, with Captain America fulfilling his namesake by refusing to submit to any moral or legislative authority but his own, warning of being restricted by civilian oversight in quite frankly a ill-judged and philosophical immature ideology. Stark, riven by the consequences of his arms dealing and destructive perversion of his technology hanging from previous films stands in the opposite corner, arguing that they should submit to those pencil necked dildos down at City Hall, fostering strength and defence through a mediated community. Potentially, that’s a nourishing thread to follow in the modern superhero film, here is something to be said about exploring issues of responsibility, of accountability and the consequences of collateral damage like Batman Versus Superman completely failed to do, but likes that film Civil War’s premise gradually fades away as the fisticuffs start frantically flailing, and on that front I’m happy to say the film delivers like an adamantium enhanced gut-punch.
The narrative is tensile twisted travelogue, bouncing around the globe like an unruly and boisterous child, skipping from Lagos to Vienna, Berlin to um, Cleveland. The actors are fairly well enshrined in their parts through the franchise, and the schlocky nature of the material doesn’t particularly provoke room for manoeuvre in terms of character development, but everyone commits the necessary gravitas to the material, although quite why they cast Martin Freeman in an identikit counter-terrorism official is beyond me. The film also takes some risks considering the financial fortune at stake, although the main villain is pulled from the rich decades of the multiverse they have modernised him within the contemporary context of the plot, adequately angered by Daniel Brühl whom is quietly becoming one of the finest actors of his generation. Ultimately though these films cruise on the simple, unalloyed nostalgic reflection from characters we embraced in our youth, and the wonder induced witnessing of them finally interacting and knocked each other through urban conurbations and planets in all their pixelated glory, with the sly odd quip and reference speckled across the film like the Superskrull’s alien barnacled cerebellum.
As we’ve come to expect the film ignites an entire new tranche of product stretching well into the next decade, with numerous new characters to explore throughout a variety of media delivery systems. Crucially, and most welcomingly the film realigns the beloved Spidey after his fall from cinematic grace over his last few digitised appearance, with newcomer Tom Holland balancing the perfect blend of wisecracking affability with dazzling arachnoid acrobatics. A fairly significant time is proportion to the enigmatic king of Wakanda, with the prospect of the worlds first African leading man in a major Hollywood blockbuster surrounding by predominantly African cast destined to break boundaries in 2018 – he is pretty darn badass cool in that motorway chase scene. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man gets all the big laughs, especially during the films airport helmed carnage which is unquestionably the films highpoint, a terrifically orchestrated combat sequence which is among the best blockbuster brain buggering bruising’s of the entire franchise.
So while it yields its fun fanboy moments I can’t guzzle the kool-aid on this one, and I exiting the cinema with a resigned shrug rather than a blazing smile. After that highpoint Civil War dragged on to its fairly lacklustre conclusion, answering a question I never cared to be asked – who’s harder, Captain America or Iron Man? It’s an initially nourishing but thin gruel that the films offers in terms of character affection, interaction, and not even Stark got any of his trademark quips to land with a virbranium quivering bull’s-eye. It seems I’m alone on this one as most other critics have praised these dimensions but I just can’t see it, any my attention and affection started to wane as the film weaved into third hour of its bloated 147 minute run-time. Maybe I’ve been spoiled this weekend by finally biting the bullet on a Netflix account and mainlining all 26 episodes of Daredevil, possibly the greatest achievement of the entire MCU as far as I’m concerned, but that was inevitable as someone who loves gritty urban noir, crime films and is a huge, huge fan of Millers Daredevil which I coincidently retrieved from storage last week. To be fair the Russo brothers are proficiently paving the way to the Infinity War which is where things could get really interesting, and it was refreshing to a superhero film which didn’t climax with some alien extinction threatening monstrosity pulverising a major capital city before the tesseract is combined with the soul gem to plug the intra-dimensional wormhole. Or something. In summary though Civil War is more of a courteous disagreement than epoch shattering genocide which should keep the franchise fiscally frisky throughout this third phase of multiplex mastery, but for my money the Nietzschian novelty of the year is still Deadpool;