I just returned from the midnight screening of Civil War, for the Australian cinema release. This is how it made me feel. I've tried to be as spoiler free as possible.
I had been spending the best part of the evening playing a video game, something of rarity for me, considering how busy I am with work these days. Video game playing was exclusively a weekend activity! But as the sun set on a very cool Autumn evening, a Wednesday in late April, suddenly felt like a Saturday. Midnight tonight, the anticipated release of Marvel's biggest cinematic entry yet.
I readily kept an eye on the time as it passed, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm. Facebook friends began posting their own countdowns. 8pm, 9pm, 10pm. I sent a text message to my friend who was joining me at the screening to plan where we were going to meet. Now 10.30pm. I realised I hadn't eaten dinner yet. I double checked I had my tickets, twice, three times. A mixture of nerves and excitement. Should just a movie make you feel like this?
"Perhaps it should," I decided.
The anticipation was a bit of deja vu to just five months ago for another Disney property. The Force Awakens was a pure cinema experience. To think I was reliving those similar emotions over another movie, made the feeling all that more important. My expectations were high.
Yet in the back of mind their was a niggling feeling. A sense of doubt. A worry. I had already played my hand. I completely and utterly destroyed Batman V Superman just a month or so ago in an article that encouraged vicious personal attacks, as well as plenty of arguments on Facebook. I argued that Synder had forgot to in stow a levity and heart to his story, leaving his ultimate conflict between Vigilante and God, feeling contrived and lacking depth. I said that likely Civil War will get it right.
But what if Civil War, executed it's conflict just as clumsy? It's definitely a potential possibility. Age of Ultron had its clumsy mistakes, in pacing and story. Could this be another step down from Ultron?
I feared that despite my excitement, I was going to be disappointed, even just a little. I worked hard to lower my expectations, as I walked into the cinema. I took several breaths and took my seat back row.
The next two hours and twenty seven minutes were, to put simply, an absolute pleasure of a ride. My expectations lowered just slightly, were very quickly raised back where they should have been.
Captain America: Civil War is the best Marvel film so far. But for one strong and specific reason; before Civil War, there are 12 films, 4 TV series and 5 short films.
It may be the opening film of the third phase in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. But it ties together so much history, character development and story. It closes off a chapter in this shared universe and opens up another, leading obviously to something bigger in the Infinity War double header beginning in two years time.
And I hate to make this praise be a reflection of my disappointment in BvS, but this film does everything right that Zak Snyder did completely wrong. The film's directors, The Russo Brothers, take conflict, and give it purpose. They take emotion, and give it context. The Russo Brothers may have had two phases of movie history to work with, which stream lined their story telling, but they still took the time to sit down the two battling superheroes and talk about it first, like any normal person would.
It did make the first act of the film a lot slower paced. But that reasoning and debate is what makes the remainder of the film a pleasure to watch. We earn the ending, including the coveted Airport battle, seen heavily in the film's promotional material. We are given both sides of the argument with convincing strands. Enough for me to know where I stood. It would have been awesome if Marvel had let us vote during the movie with an mobile app, which side we choose once the arguments had been laid out. (Disney better send me royalty cheques for that marketing idea). Despite Team Rogers having a strong reasoning, I am Team Stark.
The villain, Baron Zemo, (Daniel Brühl) plays the perfect counter part to BvS's Lex Luthor and does a much better job of involving himself in the film's storyline. And Tony Stark is at his best once again, playing the antagonist to Steve Rogers.
In parts, we are given the Iron Man 4 we've been waiting for, and also reminded how important Downey Jnr's casting has been to the franchise. And despite this, Civil War is not Avengers 2.5 either. This is Captain America's film, through and through and is the rightful third act of his story that began in The First Avenger.
If I was to be critical of anything, the assembling of Team Stark and Team Rogers was undeservedly rushed - it's saving grace, once again is the preceding film entries, with us knowing enough from the previous films to fill in the gaps. As a result, the introduction of two new heroes are given a little more unexpected screen time to make up for no previous back story. But with the sacrifice of others we've come to know already. I think, when it comes down to it, it was a fair call by the Russo Brothers to make.
I almost wanted to write just that, and let it be, because no other words can describe how amazing and awesome Spiderman's move from Sony to a Sony/Marvel collaboration really is. There was danger of Spiderman's inclusion in Civil War to be a gimmicked cameo. Yet, that wasn't to be. His inclusion was gauged with just the right amount of Spidey, to make an true comic book fan to shout at the screen and say "We want the solo film now!" A perfect 'what if' would have been, if Spiderman: Homecoming had popped up in Phase 2 next to Antman. But I guess we couldn't have everything we wanted.
Civil War is a strong super hero film in its own right.
It is a better versus film that Batman V Superman, but I think many expected that already. Phase 3 is going to be an incredible journey. Doctor Strange later this year. Guardians 2 and Homecoming and Thor 3 next year. Perhaps there is a small crime in making everyone wait until 2018 to see Black Panther on the screen again, but anything I mention of him and his role in Civil War is too spoiler-ly to discuss here.
So well done Marvel. Well done.
And to make a final statement. DC shouldn't panic yet. The recent Suicide Squad trailer played in pre-show. The cinema had been full of loud, anticipated chatter, even talking over the new X-Men: Apocalypse trailer. But the 350+ people immediately silenced and watched DC's own cinematic universe film trailer all the way through before starting up the chatter once again. This is a cinema of die-hard Marvel fans staying up all night to watch a movie.
I think that says something, doesn't it?