Captain America: Civil War (2016)
The Phase 3 of Marvel Studios’ shared universe is off to a rousing start as the thirteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an expertly balanced, inherently focused & emotionally dense example of blockbuster filmmaking that, despite being stuffed with too many characters, manages to provide each one of them their fair share of screen time but what’s even more impressive is that it is able to accomplish all that without ever taking the centerstage away from its titular character, thus succeeding as a Captain America sequel rather than coming off as Avengers 2.5, which is what many expected it to be.
Set one year after the events that transpired in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War follows Steve Rogers whose latest mission to prevent a few mercenaries from stealing a biological weapon results in the inadvertent destruction of public property & deaths of few civilians, after which the United Nations decides to introduce the Sokovia Accords, a measure to keep the Avengers in check. With some in favour of the Accords while others against it, the group is split into two opposing factions, one led by Rogers & the other headed by Tony Stark. Meanwhile, a new villain emerges and attempts to exploit the weak spot within the Avengers.
Co-directed by Anthony & Joe Russo, Civil War finds the duo filmmakers in splendid form as they successfully juggle with the arcs of reprising & new characters without deviating too far from the main premise. By capitalising on the plus points of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russos make sure that the focus remains on Steve Rogers & his journey while other characters weave in-and-out of his story. The swift pacing & uniform flow is effectively maintained as all the subplots it has in store end up contributing to the bigger picture, which is evident in the final showdown, for all the heavy emotions that come into play in that segment feel genuinely earned.
The screenplay is no slouch either, for the writers move the plot forward by betting on the emotions at play here instead of letting its big-budget spectacle steer it to the finish line. Unlike previous entries, the collateral damage incurred in the presence of the Avengers is continuously questioned and there is valid reasoning behind all the choices that these characters make. The disagreement between Rogers & Stark over international oversight stems from their own experiences in the past as the former’s faith in the government is shattered after witnessing the corruption in The Winter Soldier while the latter is willing to submit because he doesn’t trust his actions anymore after what happened in Age of Ultron.
Captain America: Civil War doesn’t really sway away from the established Marvel formula. Instead it distills out the impurities by stepping back from the reckless destruction of buildings & cities, and chooses to introspect its characters & their actions on a deeper level while addressing a few serious themes simultaneously. But its effervescent wit is never lost in the process and is consistent in both delivery & timing. However, apart from its top-tier editing, the technical aspects don’t improve by much and retain the iconography of its predecessors. Set design impress only in bits n pieces. Cinematography employs the frenzy handheld camerawork at first for its action sequences before correcting itself yet it remains ordinary for the most part. And as far as Henry Jackman’s score goes, it’s just forgettable.
Coming to the performances, Civil War features a marvellous ensemble in Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), William Hurt & Daniel Brühl, with further assistance coming from Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Don Cheadle (War Machine) & Tom Holland (Spider-Man). Evans remains the lead despite sharing space with so many people and his performance is very measured. With welcome depth provided to Tony Stark’s arc, Downey Jr. chips in with an emotionally hefty work without ever discarding his innate charm & magnetic screen presence. And with her allegiance torn between the two factions, Johansson’s character finds herself in an interesting spot, which the sultry actress explores quite ably.
Black Panther’s solo-feature is already in the works but his arc still comes full circle in this movie plus Boseman truly nails his part, managing to steal the limelight from the big players on more occasions than one. Stan gets more screen time as well and does a brilliant job in maintaining the dual nature of his character’s persona. Olsen plays her part sincerely. Brühl’s character silently develops in the background and the rationale behind his sinister plan is equally believable, relatable & fitting. Rudd definitely made full use of the window that was available to him yet the most memorable character of them all turned out to be the web-slinging, friendly neighbourhood known as Spider-Man. Appearing in costume in just one sequence, Holland leaves a lasting impression with an energetic performance that brims with vibrancy, excitement & just the right amount of cockiness. The remaining cast members contribute as per the requirement and play their part convincingly.
On an overall scale, Captain America: Civil War is definitely one of the strongest films to come out from Marvel Studios’ canon and is the summer blockbuster to beat this year (for now). The airport fight scene that was so heavily promoted in the trailers fell a bit short on my expectation scale but the film more than made up for it with an intensely fought-out, masterly choreographed & emotionally involving battle between the two team leaders during its climax. By neatly balancing more than a dozen characters in its 2½ hours runtime, the confident direction by the Russos comes with a respite as well as an assurance that the fate of Avengers: Infinity War is in good hands. The latest offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no game-changer but it is quite possibly the finest implementation of the steps the studio follows to create its recipes, and it benefits greatly from its deftly written script. A thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining & satisfying extravaganza for the masses, Captain America: Civil War is absolutely worth your time & money. Delightfully recommended.