In the game of superhero movie top trumps, how much is overkill? And will the Marvel train ever hit the buffers? Not yet, based on the thrilling and witty Captain America: Civil War.
As a stand-alone actioner, Civil War is a fun ride, moving along like whippet, as the story chicanes back and forth in time, as well as to Vienna, Berlin, London and Siberia at a pace that belies its 147 minute run time.
The story, that sets a group of Avengers, led by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) against another faction led by Captain America (Chris Evans), is a massive payoff to earlier movies.
Fans who have paid attention to the MCU, as well as TV series like Agent Carter, will get the full benefit of the saga, which has its roots in Captain America: Winter Soldier, and the complete history of Tony Stark’s thorny bromance with the straight-laced Steve Rogers.
Away from spoilers, what we can say is the kick-off point is similar to a theme we saw in the vastly inferior slug-fest Batman versus Superman, namely: collateral damage. With all their heroic rescues and giant aerial battles with various villains, The Avengers tend to leave human casualties in their wake. So after an incident too far, the authorities decide they want all the Avengers to be registered and subject to political control. Tony Stark agrees with this, while the Captain feels less inclined to be shackled (possibly because he remembers the League of Nations). Hence, Civil War.
You have to hand it to directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, what they deliver is a superhero flick that for much of its runtime feels like a genuine action thriller, with real drama and real character motivation (Hello, Zack Snyder!). It’s a thriller so stuffed with supernatural beings and superhumans, it even manages to introduce two new spandex-wearers in Spider-Man and Blank Panther – both terrific new top trumps.
While we need another Spider-Man reboot like the Labour party needs another anti-Semitism row, Tom Holland’s debut here is really well played. He’s a cheeky scamp from Queens that catches the eye of Tony Stark. He has some great quips, and a significant role to play in the film’s biggest ramadama-ding-dong battle. Blank Panther, an African prince called T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman is also a compelling, and seriously cool new figure (the comic book name pre-dating the political movement the US). His stand-alone movie out next year will be worth a look.
We haven’t mentioned 95% of the cast and about the same percentage of the story, deliberately. Civil War delivers almost everything you could expect that a franchise this far in, and a movie this expensive; as well as stuffed with characters and plot. It also solves an issue Marvel have been having, whereby every film has to be end with a giant battle in the air, where everyone hits each other and things blow up.
Things are about to take a turn to the supernatural for the Marvel guys and guys, with Doctor Strange and Infinity Wars, but before all that: Civil War keeps it all earthbound and thrillingly so.