I had an awful thought when heading to the cinema to see Captain America: Civil War – “This is it!”, I thought to myself, “This is the film it’s all been leading up to!”. That thought made me stop in my tracks. Where the sceptics true? Have we reached a point now where every MCU film is nothing more than an advert for a future MCU film? Are we destined to look back on Avengers: Age of Ultron, that most hyped of sequels, as the longest post-credits scene for Civil War ever?
The truth is… sort of. Maybe. But probably not. The fact that the internet (i.e., ‘we’) collectively broke Joss Whedon, causing him to to quite Twitter and take a break from movies, because of how we consumed Age of Ultron suggests the man did his utmost with the restrictions presented to him, and the end result was a solid, popcorn-guzzling CGI-tastic cape-fest with a Saturday morning cartoon sense of reckless abandon to it.
However, Captain America: Civil War is a far stranger beast. Better? Worse? Well, let’s wait a while for the dust to settle, but Civil War‘s emotional depth is striking. Much of that depth only hits you if you’re familiar with the previous decade’s worth of MCU shenanigans, but Civil War stands as a resonant affair for all. It has real danger, drama and fallout to it. I’ve often thought one of the reasons we love the Avengers movies, particularly Age of Ultron, is the fact that they present adventure without threat. Civil War is constant threat that manages to find room for adventure in order to make it a satisfying movie experience.
Speaking of decades, let’s dive a little deeper. Captain America: Civil War sees our heroes divided by… Aw fuggit, you know the story by now – real world consequences catch up with these swashbuckling do-gooders. Half of them think they should come under supervision, the other half don’t Quite literally, it’s half and half, amount-wise. Super convenient plot point, isn’t it? The guys at CinemaSins should have fun with that. Fights are fought, friends become enemies, enemies become friends, and a deeper evil lurks somewhere beneath the two-and-a-half-hour running time. A simple enough set-up for an oddly mixed bag that promises emotional punches, electrifying action, and a new Spider-Man, and mostly delivers, but not without losing its footing along the way.
The real question folks surely want answering is how much of Civil War is Captain America, and how much of Civil War is Avengers 2.5. Fortunately, Civil War execute’s Cap’s story rather well, and we should be scolded for doubting the Russo Brothers. Civil War finds Steve and Bucky reunited, Bucky still partially in control of the remnants of HYDRA still stuck in his head, and Steve on the run from the government-siding Tony and his own team of Avengers. Part of the reason I love Captain America: The Winter Solider is the Russo Brother‘s decision to make us fall in love with Cap without drastically altering his character. They simply placed him in a situation that made him the ultimate good guy, one who we couldn’t help but side with.
That tactic is repeated here to full effect. Sure, we see Tony’s reasoning plain and simple, but we’re desperate to see Steve and Bucky become friends again that, once again, we swoon for the star-spangled hero. However, Tony is given equal emotional depth to play with. Charged by an uncharacteristically dark performance from Robert, Tony arguably bears more brunt for his rock star superhero antics than Steve. His accidental killing of a young technological genius-in-the-making during the Sikovia events and the revelation that his parents met their gruesome demise at the hands of Bucky packs as powerful a punch as Iron Man’s whopping of Captain America and The Winter Solider in the film’s climactic battle.
That’s another tactic that works in Civil War‘s favour – a lack of the generic, CGI-diseased final battle involving some generic, down-town metropolis, all caused by some generic super-villain. Even Deadpool couldn’t quite escape that. The Russo Brothers never lose sight of the emotional weight Civil War carries, even when they’re following the strict Marvel guidelines that Whedon collapsed under.