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Marvel’s Civil War storyline is one of the biggest recent comic storylines, a storyline that sees some of the biggest Marvel characters coming to blows. It is now the loose basis for the third Captain America movie where the hostilities between Captain America and Iron Man that have been present in the previous movie finally erupts.
After a mission in Lagos results in the death of a number of aid workers the international community demand that the Avengers are made accountable. A new UN body is formed and the Avengers are split into two factions – one lead by Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) who agree that the Sokovia Accords are necessary to allow the Avengers to stay active, the other by Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) who see the Accords as affront to their liberty. The split turns into a complete break after a terrorist bombing in Vienna and James “Bucky” Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is named the main suspect. Captain America does not believe that his old friend is guilty, while Iron Man works with the American Government to bring Bucky to justice.
The problem Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice both suffered was they introduced too many new characters and were trying to set up future storylines for upcoming movies. It was a lot of weight to bare, particularly for the Warner Brothers movie who are trying to fast-track their own cinematic universe. Captain America: Civil War could have ended up being like last year’s Avengers movie, bloated because of the amount of characters in it and trying to set-up Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok and The Avengers: Infinity Wars while also telling its own story – and this is coming from someone who enjoyed the second Avengers outing. Fortunately, Captain America: Civil War only had to focus on its own story and did not have the baggage of trying to tie itself to future MCU flicks. It also only had to introduce two new characters, the rest of the cast already been introduced in other movies.
Captain America: Civil War works as a standalone movie – it’s a self-contained story that even causal viewers can follow. The movie has a focused story that has few subplots. There are no out of place romances like in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the most of the sub-plots that do appear serve a purpose to the wider story, particularly Black Panther’s (Chadwick Boseman) quest for vengeance. Audience members who are fans of the MCU are the ones who will get the most out of Captain America: Civil War. There are lots of references to the previous movies in the series as well as wider comic book references like a budding relationship between two characters who have romance in the comics.
The Civil War storyline was written in July 2006 to 2007 and the movie adaptation has a similar set-up to the comic book, a superhero bout leads to civilian deaths and causes a public backlash. But the movie does take a lot of liberties with the source material, partly because changes were needed to make the storyline fit into the MCU, the other is because the storyline was very divisive with fans. The original intention of the storyline was to be a commentary on the Patriot Act and the age-old debate of what is more important, liberty or security – the storyline was written by Mark Millar, someone who is not known for subtlety.
In Captain America: Civil War the ideological split between the factions felt earned and both sets of arguments are equally valid. For Iron Man it’s about making The Avengers accountable to the world, while Captain America fears The Avengers could be forced to act in situations that need them or not-act in situations that do. For Iron Man there is a personal side, suffering guilt over the events in Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron, having a realization that he cannot act as the world’s policeman. He has come a long way from being the man saying “I’ve successfully privatized world peace”. The split between Iron Man and Captain America has changed from Captain America questioning Iron Man acting unitary to seeing Iron Man being a puppet of questionable forces. Tony Stark is also suffering guilt from events in his personal life.
The other characters are motivated for different reasons. Some are driven by personal loyalty to the leaders, motivation for others is a pragmatism, while some join a faction because of the reputation of a faction leader and for characters like Black Panther, it is an alliance of convenience. The character dynamics that have been established in the previous movies do play a major part in this crossover as friendships break and characters like Black Widow become conflicted. The ideologies and character conflicts are more deserved than in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The mention of the rise of enhanced humans in Civil War since the reveal of Iron Man in the first MCU movie and their implication on the world was more merited than in the DCEU, at least at this point.
One of the big side-tasks of Captain America: Civil War is introducing Black Panther and the MCU’s version of Spider-man. The focus was on Black Panther, he was given more characterization, a character arc and even his own theme with African drums. Black Panther needs the exposure, he is not that well known with non-comic book fans and Civil War does a quick and tight version of his origin story, so his solo movie can go straight into the action. The new version of Spider-man gives audiences a clear break from the previous iterations. Tom Holland shows promise, he is the most babyfaced actor to take on the role and jokes around a lot when in the suit. It is great to see our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swinging about with some of Marvel’s biggest heroes. It’s a taster for things to come.
The story and set-up of Civil War can be interpreted as a counter-argument to movies like Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness and the Transformers series where they want the audience to revel in the destruction porn and countless civilian deaths. In Captain America: Civil War there is an impact on the characters regarding the tragedy and the events of the previous movies have lead to questions on how superheroes should act and manage.
The Captain America: Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return for here. They’ve already proven they could handle superhero material, Winter Soldier was the Marvel version of a spy-thriller and with Civil War they show they could handle the vast mass of characters in the MCU. One of the major selling points is the superhero throw-down and when it happens it doesn’t disappoint. There is 10 minutes of superhero-on-superhero action as some of Marvel’s biggest heroes fight against each other. It’s an experience to geek out on, as well as the final fight between three big Marvel players. The Russo Brothers at times are too reliant on using handheld, shaky cam for some of the action sequences, but this is front loaded to the beginning of the movie and are still well staged fights, they were choreographed by the guys who made John Wick.
Captain America: Civil War has won near universal acclaim and it is deserved. The movie combines the fun action and characters of the first Avengers movie and the more complex plotting of Captain America: Winter Soldier. It is pure superhero goodness and with the Russo Brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely set to work on The Avengers: Infinity War the future of the MCU seems to be in safe hands.