Captain America: Civil War (3D / first-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 147 mins / Dir. Joe Russo & Anthony Russo / Trailer
Okay folks, first-pass rules apply. I'll be keeping this brief because a) it's late (actually early) and I have to be up in the morning but still want to commit my thoughts to the aether before grabbing not-enough-sleep, and b) as is so often the case with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this movie is far too much to take in on the first go; not least because Civil War is two and a half hours of superhero goodness with basically no downtime. Although this review is free of spoilers, it does assume you've watched the trailers and know at least who is going to be in the movie.
So, with Joe and Anthony Russo back on directing duty, it's safe to say that this is a spiritual successor to The Winter Soldier as well as a chronological one. Furrowed brows and earnest exhortations are the order of the day once more, and the occasional quips that surface through the script might ease the tension, but they certainly don't break it. The larger thread about the Infinity Stones takes a back seat as the world's governments become increasingly nervous as to the accountability of the Avengers. This film manages to be a direct sequel to both TWS and Age of Ultron at the same time. Steve Rogers' ongoing quest to redeem Bucky continues, but characters introduced in the last movie(s) also come into play. And there are also the new faces, of course.
Young Mr Parker makes his MCU debut here, and while his introduction feels a little offbeat, he soon fits in like a natural once things heat up. Of course the character is in very safe hands, and I'm feeling a lot more assured about his Homecoming standalone. We also meet T'Challa for the first time in Civil War, in a more subtle callback to Age of Ultron's Vibranium subplot. As his super-alter-ego isn't quite as mainstream as Parker's, T'Challa's backstory feels a little more crammed. He pans out well, and if the intention is to pique the audience's interest (rather than just not having enough time to get to know him), then it succeeds admirably.
On more familiar territory, it's great to see War Machine back in the thick of it, and Ant-Man is a welcome (if seriously under-used) inclusion. William Hurt's (ex-general, now Secretary of State) Thaddeus Ross makes a relatively low-key return, and a couple of 'slightly-more-incidental' players from Winter Soldier are given a bit more fleshing out. But if Civil War has a major stumbling block, it's just too many characters. In its defence, at least all those characters are pulling in the same direction, but this really feels like a cinematic geek soap-opera. Any viewers new to the franchise (and statistically, there will be some) will have no idea what's going on, such is the narrative price of entry.
One for the fans? Absolutely. But Civil War is a fantastic ongoing installment in its own right, rather than just an extended trailer for the next movie. The actions in this film have consequences which will be felt throughout the MCU, which is precisely how it should be...
• Is there a Wilhelm Scream? See below.
• Is there a Stan Lee cameo? Yes.
• Is there a mid-credits scene? Yes.
• Is there a post-credits scene? Yes.
…previous Captain America films?
For maximum effect, absolutely.
The Russo brothers can be proud, as can the expansive cast.
No, because I know that this won't be the carefree movie a lot of audiences want.
…I didn't hear one. Although sleep-deprivation could have been kicking in by that point. If you caught one in there, let me know.
Level 2: …I think this is the first MCU movie to not have a member of the Star Wars cast on-screen, somewhere. Plenty of behind-the-scenes folks, but let's level-2 it by going for Don Cheadle, reprising his role as War Machine here, and he turned up very recently in Miles Ahead alongside Ewan 'Kenobi' McGregor.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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