As the explosion of comic-book to big screen adaptations continues, it’s becoming harder and harder to be original. When the first Captain America film was released in 2011 (followed by the first The Avengers film a year later), it introduced one of the most iconic superhero figures from the 1940s to a new audience, hungry for immersion in a new world without having prior knowledge of the graphic novels. But the more films are made featuring the same heroes (three Captain America films, two Avengers movies, three Iron Man films), the more difficult it becomes to avoid being tedious at a time when so many lesser-known (to those who aren’t familiar with comic book source material) and exciting heroes are entering the Marvel blockbuster universe, like the Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman and Deadpool movies, and on the small screen, Daredevil and Jessica Jones.
In Captain America: Civil War, the Avengers are pitted against each other when world governments decide the group can no longer act on its own due to all the death and destruction that follow every heroic act. There needs to be regulation and oversight. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Lt James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), agree. The rest, led by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), don’t. But when the Captain’s war-time friend, the Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), surfaces during the assassination of the King of Wakanda, T’Chaka, while the United Nations is about to sign the accord, the team is torn in half. The king’s son T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) vows to take revenge.
But, Steve doesn’t believe Bucky is responsible, even though CCTV footage shows the Winter Soldier planting a bomb. The opening scenes of the film show how Bucky becomes a cold-blooded killing machine after being brainwashed and reprogrammed. Yet Steve helps him elude capture, hoping to prove that even though his friend is like a robo-killer, he’s not guilty of this crime. Cue ‘civil war’, where loyalties and friendships are put to a violent test. Team Iron Man, joined by Black Panther and (the new) Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland) go up against Team Captain America: Bucky, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
The action scenes, particularly the big fight between the two teams, as well as a one-on-one between Iron Man and Captain America are spectacular. But the dialogue at times descend into laughable clichés and one-liners about besties that reminded me of high school, like the Black Widow to Hawkeye before the major showdown: “Are we still friends?” “It depends on how hard you hit me.” Or, Steve to Tony before they start pummelling each other: “You know I wouldn’t do this if I had any other choice, but he’s my friend.” Tony: “So was I.” The witticisms of Tony in particular, have become stale.
However, even with a focus on flying fists, the film asks some interesting questions, like whether intervention in global affairs and conflicts can outweigh the ensuing collateral damage, and, whether loyalty to friends should trumps ‘morality’.
The biggest flaw of the film is that it shows little character development. By now, moviegoers know the back stories of Captain America and Iron Man ad nauseum (well, for me at least), and because of this Civil War lacks freshness. The most intriguing parts are the cursory introduction of the newly-cast Spiderman and Chadwick Boseman’s dark, magnetic Black Panther, who finally gets a bit more screen time. Yes, yes the film is not about them, but still, it’s a long wait for the new Spiderman film – set for release next year – and the Black Panther standalone, which is only due out in 2018.
Obviously, Captain America: Civil War has performed superbly at the box office since its release. But, there is little that motivates for another film that focuses on Steve Rogers (and also Iron Man). This blockbuster is aimed more at fans of the comic books rather than those who, like me, are fans of the genre on the big screen, and know little about the source material. Unless you’re particularly fond of watching action films in a cinema, this could wait until DVD release.
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Wilson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl
Rating: 3 out of 5