After the events in Sokovia, a new group of Avengers are scouring the world for their latest target. But when something goes tragically wrong, a new proposal to bring the increasingly-distrusted vigilantes to order threatens to cause an irreparable divide in the group.
Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, Frank Grillo
Run Time: 147 Minutes
Release Date: May 6 (US)/Out Now (Europe)
Okay, let’s get the cliché out of the way. This is the best Marvel Studios movie yet. There you are, I’ve said it.
Now I’m not going to spend an age writing about the history or backstory of this one, for there is no need. It’s loosely based on the comic book series of the same title, with some necessary (and copyright-enforced) amendments made along the way, furthering on story threads delicately sewn in previous outings. The US government want to regulate the superheroes, Messrs Rogers and Stark disagree and thus the sides are drawn. It is truly a mammoth task taken on by Anthony and Joe Russo, the newly-anointed head chiefs of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Joss Whedon ably oversaw things heading into The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but now it is the Russo brothers who have been tasked with continuing existing stories and starting new ones, with all roads designed to lead – eventually – to their next big challenge; the two-part Avengers: Infinity War spectacular. One of the main existing stories that they had to continue here is the Steve Rogers-Bucky Barnes tale. Alas we should remember, despite the supporting Avengers cast, this is a Captain America film.
It’s a common thread that runs throughout the movie. Although each character gets their own time to further their individual tale and add new facets and emotions to their personalities, in the end it always comes back to the buddies from Brooklyn. Chris Evans gets better and better in the role with every passing film, this being the fifth outing for his Cap. Once again he shows that when the time does indeed come for the shield to be passed over (and it feels like that time could be getting closer) it’s going to be extremely hard for someone to step into those shoes. Alongside him, Sebastian Stan largely plays Bucky as frosty and cold as the snow he fell down to way back in The First Avenger. This is a very similar Barnes to what we saw in The Winter Soldier, with the occasional glimpse of the Bucky that Rogers knew in the 1940s.
Similar to the much-maligned Batman v Superman, one of the main elements of the story is the growing emergence of the ‘enhanced’ and the public’s reluctance to accept and trust them. But whereas Dawn of Justice kept it serious and gritty (ah, those DC buzzwords), Marvel handle it with a little more of the humour we have come to expect. The sides are soon drawn, and it is then that the Russos let loose with their main weapon; letting the characters breathe and getting to show us their stories. The extended run time helps, and it is encouraging that Marvel pushed to the 2 1/2 hour mark to allow the multitude of characters their own time to shine. After previous ensemble movies focused on the main attractions, to the detriment of the ‘supporting cast’, things are put right here.
Aside from the headline hostilities between Cap, Bucky and Stark, Black Widow gets to be torn when the battle lines are drawn, and Scarlet Witch is still coming to terms with her enhanced abilities and the struggles that they bring. Meanwhile, a dapper-looking Vision has to come to grips with what it is to be ‘human’, while Hawkeye initially appears to embrace retirement from the superhero game…with predictable results. Even Ant-Man, surely only drafted into this film after the success of the solo outing, gets his few moments in the sun. And they are some very memorable moments indeed.
And then there’s the new recruits. Brought into the conflict following events in Lagos, newly-crowned Wakandan king T’Challa enters the fray as Black Panther, immediately giving off an air of grace and style, suitably setting the stage for his own personal big-screen outing. He is given a prominent position here, with the writing and performance of Boseman himself really emphasising that this is someone to take seriously, and more importantly someone that is going to be around for some time yet. It is the other new face, however, that comes close to stealing the whole show.
When the agreement was finally made and Spider-Man’s inclusion was confirmed, it brought a whole new level to the story and film. For so long on the outside of the MCU looking in, Marvel’s web-slinging hero was finally going to lock horns with the franchise’s best. And my word, he does that. Performed superbly by 19-year-old Tom Holland, this Peter Parker is a breath of fresh air to the character. It is an absolute joy to watch the youngster clearly have the time of his life bringing his interpretation of Spidey to the big-screen, and he already feels like a part of team. His early scene-sharing with Downey Jr. feels natural, and when Spidey finally arrives, it brings an element that has been missing from every Marvel film so far. Genuinely, I think I had a permanent smile on my face for every Spider-Man scene, knowing that – even with this being his debut in the MCU – Homecoming is already looking very promising indeed.
With the story being presented as it is, it puts Marvel in the slightly strange position of not having a traditional ‘bad guy’. With arguments from both Rogers and Stark having merit and leaving the audience with the question of who to support, the Russos ignore the urge to present a by-the-book big bad and instead present a tale of revenge and, dare I say it, a somewhat-understandable sympathy.
The different approach taken to the movie’s villain also means that when we get the big – and we do mean, big – action set-piece, it is left completely up to you which side you want to take. Alternatively, you can just sit back and enjoy watching what unfolds on screen. The entire showdown that takes place at a helpfully-deserted airport is astonishing, quite simply one of the great comic book sequences ever committed to film. And not to harp back to Dawn of Justice too much, but Marvel manage to pull off such a lengthy and intricate series with plenty of humour intertwined with a startling amount of action that appears to be have taken directly from the comic pages.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t the odd misstep along the way – though it is more an inevitable by-product of how successful the whole thing is. With such a detailed story to tell, there has to be sufficient time spent telling it. And while that does mean a lot of talking in the early going, and it takes a good 20 minutes for things to really start picking up, the exposition and groundwork-laying verbal scenes are never boring and almost-always engaging.
No matter the director, Marvel have always seemed most comfortable when it comes to Captain America and his story, they seem to have a better handle when it comes to telling the right tale for him. Here is no exception. If this does indeed signal the end of Cap’s individual story – it appears to be widely accepted that the trilogy is the end – then this has to be considered the final piece of what may well be the greatest superhero trilogy of them all.
It is refreshing to see a Marvel Studios film presented in the way this is, departing from the usual fare that we have become used to over the last several years. As well as deliver something as rewarding as Civil War, it also amplifies that the future of the series – namely, Infinity War – is in good hands with the Russo brothers.