Film review: Captain America – Civil War

Marvel’s latest exciting Avengers flick confronts the collateral damage of the explosive destruction that has kept cinema audiences returning year after year, and asks: are superheroes just dangerous vigilantes?

Apr 29, 2016, updated Apr 29, 2016

When billionaire rogue Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) is confronted by an innocent victim of his world-saving adventures, he becomes the latest incarnation of comic-book cinema’s new “guilty superhero” type, set against the “not-so-guilty superhero”, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans).

As in DC’s poorly received but relatively original Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, released last month, Civil War sees the good guys pitted against each other, while the people of Earth question the merit of superheroes who so often attract intergalactic enemies for battle over densely populated cities.

Meanwhile, Rogers is also on a mission to save his friend James “Bucky” Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) from his brainwashed self.

Marvel has taken a gamble with Civil War.

The studio is hoping movie-goers will be invested enough in the integrity of the ever-expanding Avengers team – comprising former S.H.I.E.L.D spy Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), James Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), among others – that the relatively small stakes don’t reduce the film’s impact.

And the screenplay, by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, successfully hangs the complex network of superhero subplots together as a comprehensible narrative, though the script is not particularly witty.

Indeed, the mediocrity of the dialogue and the necessities of the plot take some of the spark out Downey Jr’s Stark, and from the film more broadly.

Although he features plenty as Iron Man in the usual impressive fight scenes, this hitherto roguish, hilarious, genius playboy billionaire is tired and playing by the rules in Civil War.

Some of the film’s best performances are from newcomers to the franchise: Tom Holland (who found fame in the title role of Billy Elliot) is excellent comic relief as an endearingly awkward, teenage Peter Parker / Spiderman. Chadwick Boseman builds tension as the diplomatic African prince T’Challa and deadly Black Panther.

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Daniel Brühl puts on a menacing performance as Helmut Zeno, the orchestrator of the Avengers’ internal feud, though the character has none of the heft of the comic book super-villain.

Bettany’s Vision – whose superior powers constitute a plot hole analogous to Tolkien’s eagles – is unfortunately sidelined.

It’s no memorable Marvel great – like Guardians of the Galaxy, the first Iron Man, or the original Avengers – but as in all of the recent films from the Marvel Universe, Civil War is easily watchable, great fun and worth the price of entry.

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