Posted May 04 2016
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Captain America Civil War - This. Movie. ROCKS.

Dir: Anthony & Joe Russo

Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Paul Bettany, Elisabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, William Hurt, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, John Slattery, Alfre Woodard

Note to Zack Snyder and all at the DC/Warner Bros universe building team – Guys, seriously – this is how you do it!

Two films within two months that tackle the remarkably similar terrain of iconic superhero on iconic superhero smackdown, and the notion of said heroes facing up to the reality of collateral damage in the real world both studios are trying to inhabit. We’ve all seen the CGI buildings tumble – now it’s time to recognise the effect on the lives of the people inside. And in the context of all of the above, Marvel win here by the proverbial country mile.

But this is not as simple as a matter of compare and contrast. What Marvel prove here (as they have time and again) is they have a grand vision, one that interconnects, one that develops and grows. What DC and Zack proved with Bats V Supes – and yes, its failings are inevitably highlighted by the artistic success of this movie – is that, post-Nolan, the DC cinematic universe is really struggling to find its feet. Fair play to them for trying – and we’d be more than happy to see them get there. But on the strength of Civil War, if this was actually a prize-fight, DC should just lie down in the ring with their eyes closed and wait for the ten count.

But enough about the comparisons – back to the film in hand. With Civil War, Marvel, the Russos, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who have been doing really good work on Agent Carter in their down time), and everyone in this top notch cast, simply up the level of what is currently modern cinema’s most dominant genre.

This is an Avengers movie on one level, but is also a Captain America story (with Downey Jr offering brilliant, scene-dominating support.) It’s a tale of male friendships born and lost, it is a gripping thriller, a balls out action movie, and a character piece all at once. Indeed, if anything, the film’s greatest achievement is making everyone count. Every single member of what is a rapidly expanding roll call genuinely contributes here. Not only that, in their own way, they all get to develop from how we’ve seen them before. This film very seriously understands the value of both character and characters.  On the part of the Russos, it’s an almost ridiculous balancing act. But one they pull off with an incredible level of aplomb.

And then there are the new kids on the block. Having finally done their deal with Sony (and with Sony realising that Marvel Studios are the dominant species in this particular jungle) Tom Holland’s debut as the first real teen Peter Parker is a thing of infinite beauty, and he knocks this shit out of the park as in-cossie Spider-Man. He’s in it more than we originally expected, and just owns it.

And as for the Ant-Man reveal – for anyone who knows their comics – this is just fucking glorious! (And for anyone who doesn’t know their comics – it’s still pretty damn good.)

If this film was only the Berlin airport big fight number (really inventively choreographed) – it would be enough. But it insists on being so much more than that. It’s both smart and reflective, it uses what has come before to set up what will happen next (thank you Peggy Carter), it knows that story telling is all and that this storytelling has the potential to just get bigger, but at the same time more intimate and immediate. We live in an age in which mainstream modern cinema is dominated by the superhero and the franchise movie. We should be grateful for people that try to raise the bar in that context.

And Civil War has really just raised that bar. (Sorry, don’t want to go back to the whole comparison thing, but Zach, DC, WB – it’s time to shit or get off the pot!)

Oh, and stick around till the very end of the credits – “Spider Man Will Return” – which, on the strength of Holland’s turn here, is suddenly a damn fine thing.

And while we’re at it – bring on Infinity War!

 

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