I‘LL be honest, I’m bored of Marvel films. I was bored before Civil War, and I’m still bored. Way back in 2008 I was excited for each release that followed the brilliant Iron Man, which kicked things off. I also really enjoyed Thor and The Avengers, as Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe came together neatly. But with Phase Two came the stagnancy; Iron Man 2 and 3 were poor, Thor: The Dark World was terrible, and I hated The Avengers: Age of Ultron for not doing anything new at all.
Marvel films seem to have developed a formula: big fight, internal conflict, big fight internally, even bigger fight to beat the bad person and save the world. With such rich and varied source material, you would have thought Marvel would change this up a bit (which Guardians of the Galaxy did to some extent, bar internal conflict and big fight at the end), but the third Captain America film, Civil War, unfortunately doesn’t provide much variation on this standard pattern.
“[THE RUSSO BROTHERS] capture the action effectively, but without any sort of flare.”
Civil War follows on from where Captain America: The Winter Solider and Avengers: Age of Ultron left off. With heroes causing huge damage all around the globe, and civilian casualties rising, the United Nations wants to impose a treaty designed to block the Avengers from using their powers without the UN’s agreement. This leaves the team divided over its merits. Tony Stark, who conveniently has a profound turn in conscience after the mother of a victim of Sokovia (the place destroyed in Age of Ultron) berates him for ‘murdering’ her son, pushing the Avengers to sign the treaty and be regulated. Steve Rogers, Captain America with the good arms, believes that the Avengers should remain as they are, able to pick their own battles as they see fit. The film quickly rattles through who is on whose side, and an internal conflict soon turns into a big fight between the two sides, with the likes of War Machine, Black Widow, and Vision siding with Stark, while Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and Hawkeye align with Captain Big Arms.
The film’s opening is unremarkable, as the team try to stop Brock Rumlow (a HYDRA operative from The Winter Solider) from stealing a biological weapon from a lab in Lagos. The CGI is ropey, with bodies flying around like a PlayStation 2 game, and our heroes jumping around like Halle Berry in 2004’s Catwoman. (The CGI does improve throughout the film, obviously saving their budget for the biggest fight between the heroes themselves.) Directed with confidence by the Russo brothers, they capture the action effectively, but without any sort of flare. It seems to me that visual originality is not a priority for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the visuals seem to have been standardised as they go on (this is maybe why Edgar Wright was axed from Ant-Man?). The big fight between the heroes is impressive in a sort of ‘who will beat who up’ kind of way, and takes place in an airport; think of a mash-up between Call of Duty and Marvel. During this fight, in which the heroes are supposedly against each other, they crack wince-worthy lines like “We’re still friends thought right?”
“I wish it had done more.”
There are redeeming qualities, however. It is uplifted by the inclusion of Tom Holland’s young Spiderman, who is integrated quickly into the Universe without the need for a tired origin story. Chadwick Boseman’s introduction as Black Panther is slightly more ambiguous, but provides plenty of scope for his own individual outing in 2018. Daniel Bruhl is good as the villain of the piece, not playing an over-the-top and out-of-this-world type that we’re all so used to in the MCU, but rather a restrained bad guy who simply wants to avenge his family killed in Age of Ultron’s Sokovia battle. The final act, in which you expect the Avengers to fight against six Winter Soldier types, is cleverly turned on its head through a revelation by Bruhl’s character, which adds a more interesting weight to the fight between Cap and Iron Man.
The film is perfectly serviceable as a big and punchy superhero film, but I wish it had done more. After a bit of shouting and play fighting, the superheroes are mates again, looking forward to the next film. I can’t help but feel that every film in the MCU is now just another big advert for the next, standardised Hollywood fare – but when are we going to stop getting big, expensive ads and start getting decent films again? It is better than Batman V Superman though.