IT'S HERE!!! FInally after years of waiting, the epic Marvel tale of Civil War is on our screens and I saw the midnight showing... a 3am finish, followed by running a Marathon event today and doing 6 miles myself was probably not the best prep... but I can say hand on heart... it was worth it.
Ahead lie spoilers and frankly, I blame Marvel for their douche-bag release schedules. Everyone should have seen this together as we will no doubt have our own fan Civil War now over spoilers in the weeks ahead.
Bottom line, don't want to know... leave now!
The first thing that is apparent in Civil War is that this is perhaps the first movie to really use multiple timelines as a plot device. Action that is taking place, that has taken place all collide to devastating effect. Cap and Iron Man have both toyed with this in their respective movies so far, but the past is as relevant as the present and the future here.
The movie begins with the Avengers doing a different kind of mission to the opening of Age Of Ultron. They're being covert, smart and focused on preventing catastrophe. Of course they never can succeed in this and quickly another serious blot on their copybook occurs. This is not Stamford levels but WHO is killed is more important than the numbers. While we don't have a Penance/Speedball, we do have an Avenger who is inexperienced and blamed by the world for a tragedy that wasn't really their fault. Meanwhile another is blamed, far more confrontational style for another death and it's one too many.
This is enough for The United Nations to act and "The Sokovia Accords", the MCU version of the Superhero Registration Act comes into fruition. The Russo Brothers are great at the ethical stuff, as shown in The Winter Soldier and in lesser hands the debates and arguments would drag the film down, but they're genuinely exciting to watch. Vision (who now wears a Cosby sweater...I kid you not) comes into his own here, while Tony and Cap's fragile friendship begins to falter. A sucker punch right at that moment splits the team and the die is cast for the rest of the film.
We are introduced to the Wakandan Royal Family and T'Challa, and immediately best laid plans go to hell. A suspect is named and we have our conflict.
The MCU so far has often had a "standout" amongst the newer or supporting characters, Clark Gregg as Coulson was that guy in the early days, it then became Tom Hiddleston and later Anthony Mackie. Chadwick Boseman is now that guy. He is T'Challa ripped from the page of the comics, the gravitas his James Brown role had is evident here too. He looks, acts and sounds not only like a king, but a warrior king and his arc is among the most exciting.
Of course what people want to know about is Spiderman, and yes, Tom Holland and Marisa Tomei are great choices. I can't help but feel however that one political move between Sony and Marvel was a waste. You get Spidey, you get Peter but you know there was stuff they were told not to use this time so Sony can and it brings it down a notch or two. That being said, whenever Spidey is on the screen, the movie is not only fun but has a sense of higher stakes. Same can be said for Paul Rudd, who as Scott Lang/Ant-Man doesn't have as much to do as the others, but what he does shows why Ant-Man was a surprise hit and why the character has a big part to play going forward in the MCU.
I've heard some criticism of Zemo and yes, I can see but with so many established characters or at least in Spidey's case an overfamiliarity with the origin, there needed to be some origin in there and Zemo is that... he isn't Baron Zemo yet of the Masters Of Evil, but he could easily be that when the time comes. His arc is interesting to say the least but Daniel Bruhl was cast for a reason - he can do benign or unhinged so while not as fun as Loki, there is a lot of potential.
The conflict escalates and the big centerpiece is the well trailer-ed airport scene. It's important to note this is not the Civil War of the comics, far fewer are involved but that is not a bad thing. Each "pair off" makes sense, has real stakes and very real consequences for all involved.
There is one last card up the Russo's sleeve however that finally helps Zemo's plan succeed. It's heavily foreshadowed and has pretty much already been confirmed in earlier films but there has always been a timebomb ticking in The Avenger's camp that finally explodes, splintering the team permanently (or at least until the next movie) there is a "winner", there are losers and there is one of those endings that Marvel do so well that offer as Tony says in the film, "perspective". It is true that everything in the MCU built to this, and we know that Thanos is coming... we know that the world is going to need this team together sooner rather than later, but they don't...and their world doesn't.
I'm not going to confirm or deny any deaths, but I will say that the first post-credit sequence shows us something very new and beautiful in the MCU or rather, somewhere. The second is fun and no doubt a nod to Sony.
Chadwick Boseman is F***ing good as T'Challa/Black Panther, he has the right blend of aggression, intelligence and sheer badassery... he looks like the smartest guy in the room and the one most likely to be able to kick your ass.
Falcon & Redwing - Brought up to date for the drone era, Redwing is a welcome addition to the team and the film. Indeed, Falcon has not only upgraded his tech but also his place in the Avengers. While Rhodey might "outrank him" in the military, Falcon is very much the vice captain to Cap and Widow's leader roles and it's a great role for Anthony Mackie - a big part of me would rather see him than Sebastian Stan don the Cap costume if we ever need to see that.
Vision & Scarlett Witch - Their dynamic is part cutesy couple to be, part surrogate brother/sister and part "fellow freak". Neither feel fully accepted or understood, while Vision is unusually protective of her for an android. We know where it goes in the comics but here it could simply be that he knows she lost her brother, or it could be more. Either way Paul Bettany & Elizabeth Olsen deserve to explore this further in a movie.
Spiderman - It's F***ing Spiderman in the MCU, if you're not impressed you are not a fan...or part of the reason no Spidey movie has worked since Raimi's second. He's a kid, he knows he's a kid, he acts like a kid and the others are "is this a kid?" for a cross studio/franchise debut it's great. The only downside is that it's somewhat akin to Quicksilver in Days Of Futures Past.
Chris Evans and RDJ - Both guys do their best work in this and it shows. You really do feel as torn as the other characters do and at different times want to support both in their view. Downey edges it on the acting side as he is given some great material to work with towards the end, but this IS a Captain America movie, not the Avengers.
What's Not So Good
As with Age Of Ultron, it still feels like this should have been the full 3 hours. Some of the arcs don't quite flesh out enough while the actual plot of Zemo seems somewhat anti-climactic.
Black Widow - ScarJo is now an "elder stateswoman" of the franchise and it shows a bit, she gets meaty lines and action but Natasha is now somewhat of a dull character. In a movie where Sharon Carter and Scarlet Witch really progress as characters, Widow somewhat regresses. She's back to the double agent she always was... maybe that's the point, but I found her the least effective and interesting character in this film, even being on the opposite side to her best friend seemed "meh" to her.
Hawkeye - Jeremy Renner is great in this, but he has perhaps the least to do out of anyone. He has one scene that really knocks it out of the park acting wise but for the main part he's just along for the ride or fulfilling contracts. It's a real shame because he also got shafted on The Avengers.
There is a cop-out - some will predict it and I won't spoil it, but there is a real "really" moment late in the film that in some ways belittles the conflict we just witnessed. It's a Marvel thing putting it in rather than a Russo's thing but it bugged the hell out of me.
The movie justifies the hype. It is comic storytelling done VERY well indeed. Making the move to The Russo's from Joss Whedon seems a very smart move. There are annoyances and things you would rather have stayed truer to the comic but all told this is the closest Marvel or DC have yet managed to a truly EPIC superhero tale.
Yes it's far better than Batman V Superman, yes it beats Watchmen just but it's all about what happens with Doctor Strange now. If that is another home run, then the "war" is already over. DC won't, whatever they do be able to get it back.
Like it or not, Marvel have built a rich movie universe, they can make you care as much for a character you'd just seen for the first time as one from 6 movies ago. They can make you want to see more of a small role like Martin Freeman's Everett Ross, who while never related to Thunderbolt Ross in the comics, could easily be on this performance... It's Martin Freeman as you've NEVER seen him, short, but interesting. Sharon Carter gets proper development and is again a really promising character.
So I give this a well earned 9 out of 10. It is almost a 10, but some lazy plotting at the end and the sense that Marvel are still holding out on giving us "the full goods" in favour of run-times stop it being that perfect movie.