Don't let the tsunami of gush fool you, every new Marvel movie is not automatically your new favourite Marvel movie evvaaahhhh argh!!! Captain America: Civil War has been touted as the emotional crescendo of the conflict brewing between Capt. and Iron Man since the beginning of the Avengers and their factions within the wider Avengers team. While Marvel are better than ever with comic book movie making; there's a sense of emotional detachment caused by the peaks and troughs Civil War.
New Avengers line-up, Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are in an African township trying to trap Crossbones (Frank Grillo) in the wake of another chaotic explosive robbery. During their attempted takedown an explosion causes some unexpected deaths of innocent people and the resulting media witch hunts, with Wakandan King T'Chaka (John Kani) at the centre, force the United Nations to act. An accord is written; operate under the supervision of the UN; or disband. On one side is Tony Stark/Iron Man, willing to be directed by the government to appease the loss in Sokovia; on the other is Steve Rogers/Captain America, stained by Hydra's infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D and filled with distrust of the individual agendas behind the political control.
Directing duo behind The Winter Soldier, Anthony and Joe Russo are back and their movement aesthetic is much more immersive this time around; especially in the early stages of the film without as many costumed heroes going toe to toe. When the new Avengers team is on their opening mission, the camera is frantic, streaming after the characters and battering through and swirling around the action. As the chase is on, you follow Black Widow like director Paul Greengrass followed Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. As the hand to hand combat heats up, the camera shakes with the energy of the fracas, but from such a distance that you're able to appraise the brutal grace. The superhero smack down though is another thing entirely with each frame feeling like the filmmaker's playing snap with splash page after splash page of torn straight from the most iconic scenes in Marvel comic history.
Like the bone white inter-titles pronouncing times past and new cities as we're bouncing across the globe, Civil War feels like an aesthetically boring experience. There seems to be little use of texture, lighting, colour. While the extreme is Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and clarity certainly has its advantages, it would be great to see someone like a Roger Deakins handed the cinematographer mantle like the hammer of Thor. There's also a void in the score department. If there was a score, it did absolutely nothing to change the atmosphere of the film. The one incidental song erupts from the speakers and has you clamouring to get it in your iPhone thereafter but, for the most part it feels empty.
Second half of Marvel's current awesome foursome, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are tasked with the huge task of writing an event film, within the continuation of the Captain America franchise. Chris Evans almost gets enveloped by the scope of his own film. It's really just a flyover of the character in the opening sequences of the film. In one way it's so integral to the make-up of the character that his film is the landing zone for this collection of characters facing moral and philosophical dilemmas; but on the other hand it's in this collision of noise that he gets drowned out. In the rush toward the finish, that is so spoiler laden that I'll dance right past it, there's a tsunami of character stuff that expands what we know about Captain America; but you flick through it as if you're fanning through the pages of novel and claiming that you've read it.
It's so weird that Civil War is the film that legitimises Iron Man 2. In the opening scenes you see some of Tony's technology gives him access to review and revise memories of the past. Seeing RDJ get the digitised fountain of youth as Michael Douglas did in Ant Man was impressive and kind of uncanny, while disturbing all at the same time. Civil War finds Tony stripped of his confidence and addressing the fact that the aspirational ending of Iron Man Three and the gesture to destroy what had consumed him for Pepper had faded. This Tony isn't hiding the grey flecks in his hair, instead, despite his arrested development, he's taking a level of responsibility and seniority with the team now that it's teasing out a whole new side to the character that we've come to know and love. RDJ feels like he's relishing the evolution of the character.
Chadwick Boseman drops into Civil War and just electrifies every scene that he's in as both T'Challa and Black Panther. From the voice, the posture, the physicality, theres an aura that radiates from everything Boseman does as the character that leaves you completely awestruck. In Ryan Coogler (Creed) and Boseman we trust; for his solo film.
'Spider-man is a jerk.' 'Spider-man is a jerk..say it with me' That was a frequent catch cry in the wake of Spiderman 3 and The Amazing Spider Man (man it's all about where you put the space and hyphen with this little web-slinger). While I was one of three people who really enjoyed The Amazing Spider Man 2, Sony had clearly squandered Marvel's greatest superhero. Civil War is Marvel behind the wheel. His cheek, his look, his energy; Tom Holland's Spider-Man is an absolute breath of fresh air in the MCU and the best possible way (no I will not be giving you details, you'll thank me later) to bring the character into the mix quickly and ditch any potential origin story baggage that isn't needed for Spider-man: Homecoming.
Ant Man, the film, was a lost opportunity when Edgar Wright and Marvel divorced due to irreconcilable differences. Ant Man the character had a tremendous amount of potential but until those final moments of a prospective partnership with the Wasp (or any scene involving Michael Peña) it was all but unrealised. Add Paul Rudd into an ensemble where he gets to demonstrate his incredible timing and chemistry reacting to the performers around him and Ant Man - ties the ensemble together. A totally memorable and unexpected highlight.
Captain America: Civil War is very good, but the connective tissue between the powerful scenes, felt like chewy gristle in a great cut of steak.
Blake Howard- follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (based on the comic book by Mark Millar)
Chris Evans ... Steve Rogers / Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. ... Tony Stark / Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson ... Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Sebastian Stan ... Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie ... Sam Wilson / Falcon
Don Cheadle ... Lieutenant James Rhodes / War Machine
Jeremy Renner ... Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Chadwick Boseman ... T'Challa / Black Panther
Paul Bettany ... Vision
Elizabeth Olsen ... Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Paul Rudd ... Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Emily VanCamp ... Sharon Carter
Tom Holland ... Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Daniel Brühl ... Zemo
Frank Grillo ... Brock Rumlow / Crossbones
William Hurt ... Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross
Martin Freeman ... Everett K. Ross
Marisa Tomei ... May Parker
John Kani ... King T'Chaka
John Slattery ... Howard Stark
Alfre Woodard … Miriam
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.