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Captain America: Civil War is not only the best superhero movie of 2016, but easily one of the best of all time, which, considering how crowded that genre is (especially in recent memory), is quite the achievement. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, ‘Civil War’ debuted in cinemas worldwide in late April and early May this year and is now set for a home entertainment release, bundled with a wide range of special features and bonus material.
The third installment in the Captain America franchise received glowing reviews across the board (including two from our very own Kim Perry and Kieran Freemantle) and is the current highest-grossing film of the year – so I imagine most people are familiar with it at least in some capacity.
Still, a brief plot synopsis is in order – after a disastrous mission in Lagos, the accountability of the Avengers is put into question. The governments of the world demand that the members of the team sign the so-called Sokovia Accords, placing them under the jurisdiction and oversight of a designated United Nations panel. The superhero community is split on the issue, with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) arguing that the Avengers should remain independent, while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) backs the signing of the Accords. The situation is confounded by a growing global conspiracy surrounding Steve’s best friend Bucky Barnes, AKA The Winter Soldier.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier proved that the Russo brothers can take superhero characters and ground them in a realistic setting, what with taking the Star-Spangled Man with a plan and throwing him into a tense, masterfully executed political thriller. ‘Civil War’ was a much more complicated affair – not just because the number of superpowered people had grown considerably, but also because of the nature of their powers. It’s the core struggle that The Avengers have as ensemble movies – taking all of these disparate characters with powers and backstories that range from the believable to the absurd and trying to maintain a consistent tone. One member of your team is that is an expert in hand-to-hand combat and espionage, while another turns into a giant green rage monster – and let’s not even get into the android brought to life through the combined efforts of two scientists, an insane AI, the god of thunder and a cosmic gem.
‘Civil War’ makes it all come together brilliantly. The various inter-relationships between the characters flow organically and build on what previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have established about them. The movie embraces the inherent silliness of its world, but doesn’t dumb it down – as light and fun, and full of banter as it is, ‘Civil War’ tackles some pretty serious moral and political questions and doesn’t give away easy answers. You can see where both sides in this conversation are coming from, which gives the growing conflict between our heroes a lot of depth. This is a tightly-knit group of family and friends that are being torn apart from the inside. There’s a great deal of mature, layered storytelling going on here that balances all the various characters effectively.
New characters like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a young Spider-Man (Tom Holland) are excellent additions to an already pretty packed roster. They bring a fresh perspective to the central conflict and build excitement for their upcoming solo movies.
The action is outstanding – whether it’s the gigantic superhero brawl at the airport, the staircase-turned-street-chase fight that introduces Black Panther or the devastatingly personal three-way final fight between Captain America, Bucky and Iron Man, every action sequence sets itself apart from the last and goes for broke.
The only minor criticism I have of the movie is the occasional bit of questionable CGI. It’s not so much a case of bad special effects, as much as an inconsistent quality to some shots that’s a little jarring – I expect that’s a result of different companies working on different effects.
As for the bonus material, Captain America: Civil War offers the complete package – audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel, plus an exclusive preview of Doctor Strange and a short mockumentary directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok), which is about what Thor was up to during the events of Civil War.
The special features are extensive and a more-than-welcome addition to an already excellent movie, making the home entertainment release of Captain America: Civil War a must-buy for fans.