Marvel's first film of Phase 3 feels more like an end than a beginning; an end to Marvel's current status quo as we know it.
While Marvel's last team outing Age of Ultron introduced several new heroes to the roster it also saw the team take its first tentative steps towards destruction.
Cracks began to appear between it's members as ideological differences began to drive the team apart and to top it all off the Hulk went on yet another public rampage and Iron Man helped birth an artificial intelligence that leveled an entire city.
While it's safe to say that Marvel's heroes have amassed significantly less collateral damage than let's say a certain DC 'superhero' it seems that people have begun grow tired of the mass destruction superheroes leave in their wake and after an Avengers mission in Lagos results in the destruction of a building and the death of several Wakandan relief workers the international community decides that the team has operated without oversight for far too long and plans to pass a bill to create an international governing body specifically to police and monitor Superheroes.
This divides the team as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) harboring guilt from his role in creating Ultron supports the act while Captain America (Chris Evans) still distrustful of government interference following Hydra's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D and believing that the the safest hands are still his own opposes it, matters are further complicated when The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) seemingly resurfaces and Cap and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) go rogue to bring him in.
What Is It Good For? (The Story.)
The Russo Brothers return to the director's chair following their highly acclaimed previous Captain America outing Captain America: The Winter Soldier and while this is the third installment of the Captain America trilogy it is also the Thirteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe overall and it seems to be a tradition to have the standalone Captain America films move the MCU's overarcing story forward (The First Avenger introduced the Tesseract, The Winter Soldier destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D) and in a strange sense Civil War is more of an Avengers film than Age of Ultron was (which is not to dismiss AOU in anyway as Age of Ultron laid the foundation for the events of Civil War) as multiple characters continue down character arcs established in the last crossover installkejt: Iron Man copes with his guilt over Ultron, Vision tries to understand what it means to be human, Scarlett Witch struggles with both her powers and feelings of isolation after the loss of her brother,
all the while the movie is still in truth a Captain America sequel, picking up the threads of where The Winter Soldier left off as Cap hunts for his former friend in an arc leading back to his debut in the Captain America: The First Avenger.
Anyone expecting a 100% pure adaptation of Mark Miller's 2006 - 2007 graphic novel is going to find themselves disappointed, The MCU just doesn't have the number of heroes that the comics utilized for such a large crossover event and even if they did the inclusion of all these characters would only result in a hundred sided battle for screen time, this combined with the fact that many of the elements that make up the Superhero Registration Act/Sokovia Accords are different in the comic to what they are in the film as there are far fewer powered individuals currently in the world (as the exclusion of Mutants means that fewer people are simply born with powers) and almost all the MCU's superheroes operate out in the open without a secret identity (another major element of the comic argument), and yet the film adapts the source material admirably and is able to combine the central argument (should Superheroes operate freely?) of the comics with the continuing narative of the Cap central movies to make the best version of the story it possibly could, paying homage to its source with many lines of dialogue or shots being taken straight from the page.
of all these little homages the one I was most happy to see delivered on the big screen in all it's impactful glory was my favorite Cap monologue (the 'No, you move.' speech), Even the decision to have the line come from someone other than Cap himself was extremely thought through as it helped solidify Cap's resolve at a critical juncture in the story, and no matter who the line is delivered by it is such an impactful piece of dialogue that it would have been a shame if it hadn't found it's way into the film.
Whose Side Are You On? (The Characters.)
The fact that the acting is phenomenal should not really come as a surprise at this point with many of the lead cast having appeared as their characters in numerous previous Marvel installments each performer appears perfectly at ease in their roles even as the emotional stakes have never been higher.
At its core Civil War is about two relationships namely Cap's friendship with Bucky and how his (perhaps misplaced) loyalty for his former brother-in-arms impacts upon his relationship with Iron Man as their ideologies come to head to head over the direction of The Avenger's future.
For the story to work each hero's stance on the argument needs to feel genuine to the character (Talking of who holds responsibility for damage caused by Superheroes: Does Thor inflicted damage fall under 'acts of god'?) and the film acknowledges that both side of the argument are flawed and can lead to wither big brother government control or unregulated powered individuals imposing their will on the world) and ultimately each hero's decision to side one way or the other is driven by a personal agenda and this creates a strain on the group that is only further pressured by conflicts outside of the argument and as the film reaches it's apex the actual registration argument falls to the side and is no longer the driving conflict between the two leaders of the Avengers as their conflict births and reveals secrets and deeply personal grievances that further shatter their fractured friendship.
I find it hard to support the pro-registration side when their argument is founded on the Avengers being responsible for the destruction of New York, Sokovia and Washington DC despite the fact that these are all situations where the damage would have been infinitely worse if the heroes hadn’t been present, and when certain Avengers break rank to assist Cap they are thrown into a specially built underwater prison, unfit treatment for men and women whom have saved millions of lives whose only crime is to disagree with the government’s plan for them,
Back in The Winter Soldier Cap fought the law. And Cap won. but this time around the government institution he's battling isn't a corrupt front for Hydra but rather the highly un-corrupt United Nations, so Cap's struggle ultimately comes down to how he see's his place in the world vs. how the rest of the world see's his place in the world.
Steve Rogers has always been the Avenger to best embodied the struggle between doing what he believes to be right and what the government tells him is right and Chris Evans brings real weight to both the conflict and resolve of the character as his morals are put to the test.
There is no arguing that much of the appeal of Superhero crossovers comes from the just how the character interact both off and on the battlefield, Scarlett Witch and Vision get some nice sideline development continue to build towards their comic book romance (or as I call it: No Good Can Come Of This!!!) and having two heroes fighting side by side in the same movie can lead to some pretty phenomenal action set pieces (who didn't love the sequence in The Avengers where Captain America used his shield to deflect Iron Man's Uni-Beam into the Chitauri?) And thank Odin it actually happened! the combo attack I was most desperate to see made it from ink to the big screen:
Hawkeye fired an Ant-Man tipped arrow and it was glorious! it's such an iconic team up attack that I don't think I could bare having both characters in their first movie together and not have them perform it.
Because when Ant-man and Hawkeye join forces somebody's gonna get it!
And speaking of Ant-Man he gets a brand new trick which we won't go into due to spoiler territory but It leads to the film's 'largest' action spectacle and am honestly surprised at how early after his introduction into the MCU that his abilities are so drastically enhanced, but even disregarding his enhanced abilities his unique fighting style is still the source of many of the film's funniest sequences (with a special shoutout going to him getting into Stark's Iron Man outfit and claiming to be his conscious).
I am seriously looking forward to Ant-Man and The Wasp hitting theaters in 2018 now that his origin story has been squared away there is so much room for the character to 'grow' (The Puns.The Puns!).
Civil War also sees the return of William Hurt’s General Ross for the first time since his debut in 2005’s The Incredible Hulk.
His return serves to better tie The Incredible Hulk to the rest of The Marvel Cinematic Universe and he is the perfect outside voice against unregistered heroes being a military man he is already heavily tied into the government and due to his vendetta against the Green Goliath he is more aware than anyone the damage that Superheroes can inflict.
So what of the new additions? Civil War introduce two of Marvel's biggest heroes to the MCU ahead of their standalone films and both Spider-Man and Black Panther are utterly fantastic, with Spider-Man seemingly being the greatest version put to film yet as Tom Holland nails the chatty web-swinger in terms of both his acrobatic fighting style and quippy nature (will be interesting to see how well Tom Holland does once he is the lead role in a Spider-Man movie) and the film is able to introduce both Spidey and Peter Parker to the fray without tripping over reintroducing his backstory and while this is the youngest version of the character seen to date his youth it gives the character a more clear eyed optimism that contrasts to his older peers.
As for Black Panther he is arguably given the most rounded character arc of the film (which actually leaves me wondering just what Marvel has planned for his solo film in 2018) and T'Challa's quieter, more reserved approach makes him a great foil for the other chattier heroes who are throwing out endless one-liners, in a Captain America centered storyline already juggling numerous other MCU characters it's incredible that their introduction seems to go as smoothly as it did.
I may have said previously that the Russo Brother brought a whole new standard of action to the MCU with Captain America:The Winter Soldier (if I didn't say I really should have) and that quality only increases here, with Civil War's action potentially being some of the best seen in a superhero movie ever.
The Avenger on Avenger airport battle is utterly incredible, over fifteen minutes of pure nerdgazzuming 'who would win in a fight?' action, with certain new heroes debuting their fighting abilities for the first time, recurring heroes revealing entirely new abilities altogether,
(I also love the fact that an actual line is drawn between the two sides pre-fight)
the fight is helped by the fact that there's such a variety of characters with different skill sets at play that every fight is engaging and when it's not the brawling that is keeping you on the edge of your seat it's the character interactions with both certain Marvel characters interacting with one another for the very first time and longtime friends punching one another in the face.
Civil War gives several recurring heroes some of the best fights they have had to date with The Falcon and Scarlett Witch both being given a massive overhaul in regards to their fighting abilities. Falcon's wings now serve for a great deal more than flying, he can deploy Redwing (a drone rather than an actual falcon as in the comics) and his fighting style seems more acrobatic than just drop kicking out the sky. Scarlett Witch on the other hand is simply given more to do with her abilities be it pulling cars from a multi story car park to flatten enemies, providing support to other team members or driving a foe down deep into the very earth itself.
The final fight is INTENSE and while it doesn't hold the spectacle of the airport showdown it is a far more emotional confrontation where the stakes feel pretty high and it's almost impossible to entirely root for or against either combatant, I can't speak for others but I watched the final battle with a building sense of dread.
Avengers Disassembled. (The Future Of The MCU.)
It will be interesting to see just how the MCU moves forward following the events of Civil War as the Avengers as the team is seemingly broken beyond repair, meaning that a debate target to adress the accountability of the Avengers ultimately lead to there being no Avengers at all.
It's hard to say when we will next see the ramifications of the events here, Iron Man is slated to next appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming and it is entirely feasible that Bucky and Cap could possibly return in Black Panther but with much of Phase 3 being tasked with introducing new characters to the MCU (Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel) and those films that are sequels to established characters are taking place away from earth (Guardian's of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 & Thor Ragnarok) it won't be until Avengers: Infinity War that we see just how the team will move forward, it will be especially interesting to see Iron Man and Cap try to find their ways back to where they were, Civil War offers no easy (Save MARTHA) solutions because life doesn't work that way, the scars inflict herein will take time to heal, if they completely heal at all.
I Can Do This All Day. (Conclusions.)
Civil War may be the best entry into the MCU yet as our heroes are applied with extraordinary pressure from both within and without the team until something has to give, and when it does the team unravels brutally.
Are there problems? Sure. The films villain is more of a 'means to an end' than a major threat in of himself, allowing for a more character focused story leaves Civil War feeling as a safer chapter setting up the state of play for future events
But we have come to know the characters well enough that it's a little heartbreaking to watch them fight, they are developed well enough that their reasons to fight (and occasionally not to fight) feel genuinely human and while it's sad to see your favorite icons come to blows it's fantastically entertaining watching them do so.
Civil war is a wonderful movie with some complex moral ideas, fantastic action and a lot of heart and I for one cannot wait for what comes next for the MCU....